Posts Tagged 'language'

Exporting American Universities – Lessons From the Japanese Experience

A recent article in the Chronicle of Higher Education gives some background on the failure of American Universities in Japan during the 1980s.  Of the forty American Universities which opened in Japan during that period, only one university, Temple University, has managed to survive to the present as a full university.  Generally, these branch universities were meant to serve as sort of a portal to the central University back in the United States in the first years, allowing Japanese students to earn university credits back home before transferring to the central University in the U.S.  However, the hope was that many of these branch universities would establish themselves as full-service universities eventually.  Those hopes were clearly overoptimistic.

The failure of American universities in Japan has not stopped American universities from attempting to export higher education, although it does seem to have taught university administrators a few lessons.  An increasingly popular model now is for American universities to partner with local universities in China, South Korea, and Vietnam, for example.  Thus, schools have found a way to reduce the risk of opening a campus abroad, but will this partnership approach diminish the quality of the university education being exported?

Low TOEFL exam results spur French reforms

The TOEFL English Proficiency Exam, a challenge for many international students, has proven to be quite a challenge for many French students.  Although 60% of the entire English vocabulary is derived from the French language, French performance on the TOEFL has ranked 69th out of 109th.

Thankfully, the problem for French students is not the writing portion, but the speaking portion of the exam.  The president of France, Nicolas Sarkozy, has called on TOEFL teachers to focus more on speaking skills, suggesting that written grammar and vocabulary skills are not enough.  Sarkozy considers it important for France’s national interest that French students study abroad and receive international exposure.

The emphasis on speaking skills over mere reading and writing skills is well-founded, as speaking is the TOEFL-tested skill that is hardest to acquire through a short test prep or cram course.  With the proliferation of video chat programs and international discussion forums, it is also a skill that is increasingly easy to acquire, free of charge.  Also, as a practical matter, an international student will get much more out of his/her schooling abroad if he/she can speak English proficiently.