International students are here to stay. They are a booming business in secondary and post-secondary educational systems, and the US is more intent on opening up expanded visa opportunities for students than ever before. Last year International students brought $27 billion dollars in revenues to the US alone.
How can Christian Schools responsibly educate and effectively minister to International students?
The United States is still viewed as the Land of Opportunity. Most secondary students come from countries such as Mexico and Brazil, Canada, South Korea, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand, Taiwan and Vietnam. By far, the strongest market is Asia, and in particular, China.
Due to an expanding economy and a rapidly growing middle class, more Chinese students are flocking to the US than ever before. Today, agencies have sprung up all over the country which promise as many new Chinese International students as the school can make way for. China is the least westernized of the Asian countries, and students from China present their own challenges.
Today, Christian Schools are uniquely positioned to influence the world in ways that have never existed before. These students – and their agents, their parents, their representatives – are knocking down our doors and begging for entrance. Whether students become Christians, or how their exposure to Christianity changes their world views, these students are returning to their own countries to lead, guide and shape future International relations.
Due to culture shock, it takes about six months for an International student to stabilize in school, regardless of which country that student is from. Some considerations:
Bible classes can be very challenging especially for International students. Most students from China are not familiar with Christianity, and many have not even heard about Jesus or the Bible. Support around understanding Biblical concepts needs to be available so that students don’t get disheartened. Classroom support can take the form of individual or group tutoring, Bible orientation before school starts, and/or ongoing mentoring throughout the school year.
Language testing is of paramount importance to any international admissions program, and strict adherence to the stated requirement is the key to success. Falsification of test scores is common, so test modalities need to be investigated for the best possible tool. Common language tests include: TOEFL, TOEFL Junior, iTEP slate, IELTS. The SLEP has been discontinued in the US; it is outdated and answers are on the internet.
In the English classroom, teachers must be prepared to address issues of plagiarism, the use of which is condoned in many overseas educational systems. Teachers should support students need to spend double the time on homework since many are reading assignments in their first language, before attempting the assignment in English. International students also need additional vocabulary training.
International students must be encouraged to take part in extra-curricular activities. Since homework often takes double the amount of time for an International student than for a domestic student, many families feel that International students should spend all their time focusing on their studies. However, we know that involvement in the life of the school helps improve English skills, cultural adjustment, and lessens the period of culture shock. Helping families understand these important concepts is critical during the first few months the students arrive in the US.
These are just a few considerations regarding implementing a fully supportive International student program. Services around social and emotional adjustment, as well as family and home stay issues also need careful thought and planning. These precious students need our guidance and help as they navigate a strange and wonderful land called America. Our actions, the ways we love them, guide them and care for them is what speaks Jesus into their lives.