Poor English skills has foreign students in a fix

HYDERABAD Dec. 7. The absence of a screening test for foreign students in English proficiency in Osmania University is creating problems not only for the students but also lecturers as well what with the former unable to grasp the subject knowledge at the required pace.

More than 400 students are presently pursuing various courses in the university. However, lecturers say a majority of them are finding the courses tough given their poor proficiency in English language. The problem is worse in humanities and arts streams where stress is more on understanding the essence of the subject than logic or equations as in the case of science and mathematics.

"We always thought only rural students coming from Telugu medium are experiencing the problem but foreign students are also into that group. At least, Telugu medium students pick up the essence whereas it has been extremely difficult for foreign students," says a lecturer in Arts College. Similar is the problem faced by teachers in some other colleges. The problem is more among students coming from the Gulf countries and Central Asian countries whereas those from Africa are slightly better. Though teachers are able to converse with them in English, the problem arises when it comes to teaching. As a lecturer explains, "Speaking in a language is different from studying a course in that language."

Teachers suggest that the university should have a mandatory screening test in English proficiency lest it creates an impression that the university was compromising on its standard for the sake of money. "Ultimately, their performance will reflect on the university's image," says another lecturer.

The University Foreign Relations Office (UFRO), which oversees foreign students' admission, acknowledges certain shortcomings, which need to be rectified. The UFRO Director, K. Veera Reddy, says students are made to take a test in English proficiency and those scoring less than 50 per cent are advised to join a part-time certificate course in English for Foreign Students (CCFS). However, it is not mandatory.

Prof. Reddy attributes the problem to the sudden increase in students coming from `non-English medium countries'. With students coming for the first time the university is unable to judge their English skills properly.

"We will try and make the screening test mandatory after studying the problem," he says. Prof. Reddy says the university has decided to start a full-time CCFS course from this month for foreign students and there has been an encouraging response from foreign students with nearly 20 of them having already joined the course.

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