Teaching strategy changes, but more needed with Chinese student influx

By Jingmin Feng



Seven years ago when Cathy Waters started teaching in Emerson College, there was only one Chinese student in her class. But now, one fourth of the students in her class are from China.

“Chinese students are applying in a huge, huge number everywhere.” said Waters, the associate chair of Marketing Communication Department. “It’s not just an Emerson situation, it’s all over the United States and it’s all over the world, especially in the business area.”

According to a report conducted by the Institute of International Education, in the 2011-2012 academic year, there were nearly 55,686 Chinese students, accounting for 33.4 percent of the whole foreign students who are studying in the business field in the US. As a result, this growing influx of Chinese students is pushing change in how some schools operate.

“In my class, in order to let my Chinese students better participate in the discussion, the first case we discussed would always be a Chinese case at the beginning of each semester.” Waters said.

In addition to the adjustments in content, the professors also noticed the difference in educational methods between Chinese colleges and American colleges. For example, Bill Anderson, who has been teaching at Emerson College for 12 years, said that Chinese students have different learning habits from the American students in participating in classes.

Except Francine Rodriguerz (left first) who are from Puerto Rico, all of the rest of the class are from the Great China (including Taiwan).
In the capstone class of Integrated Marketing Communication of Emerson College, except Francine Rodriguerz (left first) who are from Puerto Rico, all of the rest of the class are from the Great China (including Taiwan).

“Most Chinese students came from a much more traditional background.” said Anderson. “”I’ll tell you what it is, you write it down and you remember it.’  It’s more passive. If you have many Chinese students in your class, you must remember that as best as you can to adjust that factor.”

Unsurprisingly, Emerson is not the only college adjusting to this fast-growing group. Brandeis University also saw a “significant increase” of Chinese students and this new emerging group has affected a lot to the school, said David Elwell, the director of the International Students and Scholars Office at Brandeis University. “10 years ago, we just had 80 [Chinese] graduates studying in Brandeis,” said Elwell. “But now, the number is 230.”

Elwell said that the largest help for the Chinese students would be the English language support services. He said that there has been an increase in the number of tutorials in the writing center and additional English writing courses have been created. They also started the new Gateway Scholarship  program to help first-year international undergraduates to learn both the English language and American colleges’ teaching styles.

“The majority who participate right now are from China,” Elwell said,  taking advantage of this opportunity to the utmost.

Richard Doherty, president of Association of Independent Colleges and Universities in Massachusetts (AICUM), believes that the great demand of master’s in business administration (MBAs) in China is the main reason for this huge number of Chinese business graduate students now in the US.

“It’s not that US universities are seeking the Chinese students,” said Doherty. “It’s the Chinese students are seeking them out.”

Besides, a US credential would make the Chinese students more appealing than domestic business school students, he added.

Although schools are making adjustments to serve the ever-growing Chinese students, some Chinese students themselves are concerned about the high percentage of Chinese students now in US schools.

Ran Duan is a second year Chinese graduate student in the IMC program at Emerson and will graduate in this May. Duan said that in her capstone class, it is almost made up with students from the Greater China (Mainland China and Taiwan), except one from Puerto Rico .She said felt a little disappointed with this. “I’m not saying that the Chinese students are not good.” said Duan. “Still, the reason why I studied here is to learn how to work with the American people and how do they think. With so many Chinese students, I would learn less.”

Mingsheng Kang is also facing the same problem. Kang is a Chinese graduate student at Northeastern University, majoring in economics. Kong said that in his class, 20 of the  30 students are from China, only five are Americans.b“We came here not just for knowledge but also for the culture,” said Kang. “With so many Chinese students in the class, you can learn very little from the American students.”

Another concern among some Chinese business students is that enrolling a lot of students who have no experience in the business area would affect the teaching effectiveness.

Duan thinks that graduate education in marketing communication is based on the assumption that all the students have related intern or working experience. However, while she has one year of public relations working experience, many Chinese students don’t have enough experience to handle those cases.

“I think our college should let those who don’t have experience have entry classes first and then join in with experienced students,” said Duan. “Otherwise, to some extent, team work would be hard for everyone.”




About Jingmin Feng 4 Articles
Jingmin Feng is a print and multimedia journalism graduate student in Emerson College. She enjoys being a journalist as she can share people's stories with her readers. She came from China, working very hard to get involved both in and outside of the class. She's not afraid of challenge, because she thinks challenge is the way to success.