Jan 292007

Research by Monash University academic Bob Birrell has found a third of foreign students are graduating without a competent level of English.

But ( Federal Education Minister ) Ms (Julie) Bishop says Australian universities only enrol foreign students once they have achieved international standards of language proficiency.

ABC News .

So, who’s right and who’s telling porkies? I dare say both are 100% correct. Birrell has the facts in black and white, and Bishop – as pollies will do – avoids the issue like the Black Death by stating known and accepted entry standards.

Of course, we all know that Australian tertiary education spending – a sole Federal influence sphere – is in a bad way. The OECD even tells us that we’re twentieth on a list of countries who spend on pre-school education. Education, spin-doctoring completely aside, has suffered terribly under the Howardians. From a jaundiced position, Bannerman wonders if this isn’t a longer term plot to have dumber adults voting in years to come, electing successively repressive Howardian-style regimes. Menzies wept.

So when Julie Bishop declares that Aussie Unis only accept students once they’ve achieved international english language standards, she’s being more than a little disingenuous in not addressing the issue raised by professor Birrell’s research. In addition, Bannerman is of the opinion that, given the research findings, it’s obviously become quite acceptable to lower the benchmark on what is claimed to be ‘international english language standards’. Bannerman notes Ms Bishop as claiming that she’s seen no evidence that foreign students are exiting Australian universities with poor english skills. He wonders if she’s actually looked?

Let’s be frank, reader. If funding cuts are going to reduce you ability to attract the usual high calibre of foreign student, you’re going to lower your standards, are you not? At any rate, the research is in. It’s up to Ms Bishop to look at it and take note. If she chooses not to, who has she got to blame, other than herself? 

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