Science - September 2, 2004

Few complaints about teachers’ English

According to a survey among students, Wageningen University professors do not lack proficiency in English. Students consider the speaking skills of their teachers to be a problem in less than one percent of the courses.

This information comes from a recently published report that summarises the results of the evaluation questionnaires handed out to students graduating in 2004. In only 3 out of 367 courses did the English spoken receive a ‘deficient’ score.

 

According to Jasmine Osorio, chairwoman of the Progressive Student Faction (PSF) the reality is different. ‘In my experience, of the thirteen teachers I have had courses from, there were about two who I had a difficult time understanding and following. But, as a native speaker, I can make sense of almost all types of English. I suspect there may be even more teachers that students find difficult to follow. However, I am more concerned about the way the enquiry was conducted and the questions that were posed. If a student doesn’t feel completely confident in their ability to speak English, how can they accurately judge the English of someone else? There are also cultural differences that might come into play here. The matter needs to be reviewed further, and we will certainly be examining it in more detail in the Student Council.’

 

Yun Tang, who will represent the student faction VeSte on the Student Council this year, is surprised at the report. ‘Some teachers speak English, but not fluently. Sometimes it is difficult for students for whom English is a second language to understand and follow a course. I have also heard from some students that a teacher suggested that the one foreign student taking a course study at home because the teacher did not want to speak English. Of course this is an exception!’

 

According to Tang, it is not always clear whether a teacher had a problem teaching in English, because they may have skipped parts which are hard to explain in English. ‘We also need to know how many international students completed the ‘Muggen enquiry’, because it is the international students who really reflect what problems there are concerning the level of English of teachers. For Dutch students it’s easy for them to ask a teacher to explain something in Dutch if they don’t understand.’ /GvH

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