Educational Practices Abroad
The key issues that emerge from this research are:
- The HE system in India has been undergoing massive expansion in recent years, with affiliated colleges attached to the existing 13 universities growing rapidly in number. 90% of undergraduate teaching takes place in the affiliated colleges.
- There is a participation rate estimated at around 7 – 10% of the age cohort
- Curriculum tends to be centrally controlled and relatively static
- Teaching is oriented towards coaching to pass exams
- Students are unlikely to have access to books or journals for wider reading and focus on prescribed textbooks. Textbooks are likely to be old: from the 50s, 60s and 70s
- The student-teacher relationship tends to be closer and more personal than in the UK
- The system is highly achievement-oriented
- Teachers in universities and colleges are likely to have limited qualifications, not to be research-active and to have had no professional development for their teaching role
- Teaching is likely to be information-transfer/teacher-focussed
This is a picture of the results of a particular piece of research in selected parts of a large country. However, it suggests important implications for how we teach international postgraduate students. The limited time available on masters programmes particularly to help international students develop appropriate academic abilities and attitudes suggests that programmes need to be carefully designed with the needs of these students in mind.
What follows is a list of questions which can act as a checklist for auditing existing programmes or in planning new provision:
- What assumptions about academic skills are built into this programme?
- Students are used to gaining information from reading from textbooks, journals, academic texts, professional journalism
- Students have the skills to evaluate the quality of arguments and evidence in the materials they read
- At a conceptual level students understand the conventions of academic debate and argument, and how their own essays and dissertations need to conform to those conventions
- At a practical level, students understand how to read academic writing, using contents pages, indexes, and discrimination in selection of text
- Students are clear about what they can expect and not expect from the academics who teach them
- Are opportunities to develop the above skills and knowledge built incrementally into the design of the overall programme and/or of courses within it?
- Are resources and facilities (eg a student study support centre) available to assist students in developing these areas?
- Are there opportunities for students from different cultures to contribute their knowledge and experience to the programme, rather than being viewed only as problematic and exceptional?