Sinking or swimming?
Chinese International students and high stakes school exams
In this paper we examine the academic and language learning needs of Chinese international students preparing for high stakes examinations in an independent secondary school in Melbourne, Australia. We argue that the needs of these secondary students and their teachers are different from those of their tertiary counterparts, yet have received almost negligible research attention by comparison. We focus on Commerce/Economics subjects as those which many Chinese students seek to study at university, but which present particular challenges for them at school level. In particular, we analyse the linguistic and academic demands of one examination paper in this subject group in order to identify the linguistic knowledge, the disciplinary background knowledge and the cultural background knowledge students are presumed to have by the teacher. We match this analysis with the interview comments of the Commerce/Economics teacher, who, while concerned about the educational needs of these international students, struggles to learn how to meet these needs in his classroom. We conclude by arguing that more professional support needs to be made available to content area teachers of international students before the rhetoric of government policy regarding the quality of education for international students matches the reality.
Published online: 01 January 2004
Arkoudis, S. & Love, K.
Australian Government International Education Network
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Marton, F. Watkins, D., & Tang, C.
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