Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Higher education shenanigans

From the ABC Online

The University of Sydney has rejected allegations it unreasonably failed hundreds of international students studying post-graduate business programs. About 37 per cent of the more than 1,200 students studying the Critical Thinking in Business (BUSS5000) course at the university's business school were given a fail grade after the first semester. About 12 per cent of students in the Succeeding in Business (BUSS6000) course also failed.  Both courses are core units required to complete a Master of Commerce. The University of Sydney's Business School Deputy Dean (Education), Professor John Shields, said the high number of fail grades came down to a change in the examination process. "This semester, in both of these units we have introduced, for the first time, what's called a mandatory final exam," he said.

"A mandatory final exam means that a student cannot pass the unit unless they pass the exam." Foreign students, many of them Chinese, made up the majority of students who failed. Second-year student Jinyuan Li, who failed the BUSS6000 unit, said the course was too subjective. "In the exam, all the questions were open-ended, but they had very limited marking criteria on their marking guide," he said.  Mr Li said the high failure rate was abnormal, particularly for the BUSS6000 course. He said 42 students failed the course, which was a significant increase on previous semesters. "For the BUSS5000 they say it's because their language skills are considered very poor," he said. "But they cannot apply the same reason to ... BUSS6000 students because we are at our last semester. 

"We never fail other courses, but we failed this one." Professor Shields acknowledged some Chinese students struggled with the course. "We do have a large number of students coming to us from bachelor degrees undertaken elsewhere, including in mainland China, where the dominant mode of learning is what we would describe as passive learning rather than critical thinking and engaged learning," he said. "What we've been seeking to do is transition students coming into our programs from that very different learning system or education values system to ... the critical thinking approach. Professor Shields said that possible appeals could take time because they needed to be conducted "carefully and judiciously".

He said the university was focused on upholding academic integrity and ensuring procedural fairness for students, including those who passed the courses.

 Another reason why we shouldn’t be smashing ourselves up about performing badly in tests which require rote learning only. It is no surprise that students that excel in those style of tests after ‘enduring’ that style of teaching bomb out when critical thinking is needed. We don’t want to be producing drones out of our education system.

And also....

International student colleges are allegedly taking cash kickbacks in return for helping overseas workers and students win Australian visas using fake qualifications. In fact a college that had already been flagged by another government agency as being involved in education rorts was offered the opportunity to apply for the fast-tracked visa process by the Immigration Department.

Immigration offered TK Melbourne Education and Training College to apply for the expedited visa process in March, even though the Australian Skills Quality Authority had weeks earlier found the college to be in "critical non-compliance" with national standards.

It is suspected that the St Stephens Institute (I love the name they chose) was set up as a hub for recruiting and exploiting overseas workers and students who were prepared to pay large sums of money, or to forgo pay and conditions, to get visas.

The revelations raise major questions for the Immigration department, which was recently merged into Australia's new border force agency and which has previously faced fierce criticism for failing to crack down on visa rorting.

They also highlight ongoing concerns about Australia's ability to police unscrupulous education providers, employers and migration agents who sell access to temporary skilled working visas and student visas, while holding out the hope of permanent residency.

The Salvation Army on Wednesday called on the federal government to ramp up measures to prevent the exploitation of migrant workers, while unions said the Abbott government needed to "take action to stamp out these appalling practices".

TK Melbourne Education & Training College has allegedly provided overseas students with back-dated certificates of education in return for large payments.

An audit by the Australian Skills Quality Authority February found TK Melbourne to be in "critical non-compliance" with national Registered Training Organisation standards.I have posted previously about shonky operators in this area. Another reason, if we needed any more to not de-regulate our higher education sector. Also serious questions need to be asked about the Commonwealth Government’s tinkering with immigration, customs and the new ‘Border Force’ agency.

Read more in the Age
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There's more....

A deal to form closer vocational training ties with China could wind up undermining Australian education programs, according to a Brisbane business expert.

Last month the Australian Skills Quality Authority signed a memorandum of understanding with the China Education Association for International Exchange to improve quality assurance and collaborate on vocational education and training (VET).

It came after the signing of the free trade agreement between the two countries in June.

But Griffith Business School lecturer Rakesh Gupta said endemic corruption in the Chinese education system could tarnish the reputation of Australian training programs and result in poor-quality graduating students.

Read more:
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