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English language and IT learning challenges in Australian offshore campuses

Beena Giridharan and Judith Guevarra Enriquez
Curtin University of Technology, Sarawak Campus
Australian universities have long enjoyed the patronage of students from East Asia, especially from Singapore, Hong Kong and Malaysia. They have established themselves in being able to cater to the educational needs of the students. In recent years, Australian universities have shifted their focus to internationalisation, which in turn has seen the establishment of offshore campuses within Malaysia. One such university is the Curtin University of Technology in Miri, Sarawak. Such 'transfer' of education is not without its challenges, given the variation in educational background and learning context of the Malaysian students, in comparison to their Australian counterparts.

Specific challenges in an offshore campus like Curtin's relate to competency in the English language and limited IT exposure of the students. In general, Malaysian students have acquired a low level of English proficiency, due to the fact that Bahasa Melayu (BM) is the medium of instruction used in the school system, both at primary and secondary levels. English language is taught only as a second language and IT, which is not a compulsory subject, is imparted either in BM or English.

This paper presents the challenges facing lecturers in the offshore classroom scene, in both the teaching of English and IT skills. The offshore curriculum assumes that students have attained the required English proficiency. This overlooks the known educational context of learning of the students, which finds them unable to cope, adapt and perform within a 'foreign' curriculum. The challenge of the English language has its negative consequences, specifically with regards to students' ability to think with the computer, which undeniably 'speaks' largely in English. Thus, the computer fails as a tool in fully assisting the students in their learning.

Authors: Beena Giridharan, Lecturer, English Language Faculty, Curtin University of Technology
Judith Guevarra Enriquez, Lecturer, Engineering, Curtin University of Technology, Sarawak, Malaysia

Presentation format: Dilemmas in teaching or teaching/learning research

Please cite as: Giridharan, B. and Enriquez, J. G. (2002). English language and IT learning challenges in Australian offshore campuses. In Focusing on the Student. Proceedings of the 11th Annual Teaching Learning Forum, 5-6 February 2002. Perth: Edith Cowan University. http://lsn.curtin.edu.au/tlf/tlf2002/abstracts/giridharan-abs.html

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Created 3 Dec 2001. Last revision: 1 Feb 2002. HTML: Roger Atkinson [ rjatkinson@bigpond.com ]