All eyes on employability

International Classroom II

The International Classroom: English as the language of instruction

An international classroom is most commonly characterised by the various nationalities of the students. Others would associate international classrooms or programmes with the course; where the subject of the course is related to or is studied with an international perspective. For non-English speaking countries, an international classroom is a course thought using English, as the language of instruction. An article by Gill and Kirkpatrick mentioned countries such as Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia as making their way into the international higher education arena by either providing courses in English, cooperating with top universities in the US or UK and opening classes locally under the brand name of those world-renowned universities.

Similarly, European countries are currently offering more and more international programmes in English. Many European students joining Erasmus exchange programme choose to study a programme in English for their one semester abroad. Of course discussions may arise regarding the decision to use English, especially since being multilingual is a proud factor for many Europeans. Learning a third language in school, most often another European language, is very common in Europe. Moreover, most programmes, including international ones, which are offered in Germany and France, are still taught using their local language. Regardless of that, both countries are still in the top 5 destination countries to study abroad.

On the other hand, it can be argued that to be able to keep up with globalisation, Europe should look beyond its borders. As mentioned in the European Commission report 2013 on European higher education in the world, the use of English language is part of a strategy to attract students outside of Europe, who would otherwise not come to the EU. It cannot be denied that many Asian countries are growing both in their financial and higher education sectors. For example, it can be seen as common knowledge that China is known for actively sending their students abroad. Furthermore, for the last couple of years, China has also become a destination for students from all around the world to study .

The main goal of using English as a means of instruction in an international classroom is to integrate the international dimension. It is used as a Lingua Franca for people who do not share English as their first language. Thus it attracts not only domestic students, but also internationals. The English language proficiency is one of the most common criteria when applying for international study programmes. In addition, those who are interested to contribute their knowledge to the international field of research and science, using English in the classroom will prepare them for it. Hence it can be said that an International classroom in English will smooth the way into the global science and professional work experience.

However, there are always two sides of a coin. What if the local labour market is less keen on graduates without an understanding of the national language? Should Higher Education Institutions rethink their policy of providing an education to international students only in English? Is it enough for an international classroom in non-English speaking countries to just translate the course to the English language? This will be the big debate for the next decade, and we are curious to hear your opinion.

Selene Siregar and Nannette Ripmeester

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