The Columbian home page

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

ESOL courses: assistance for international students

By Sangmin Lee

English as a Second or Other Language (ESOL) courses have been provided since 1980 at Columbia College. Columbia College is currently providing six ESOL courses. Three are intermediate courses, and the others are advanced-level courses.

Lizbeth Metscher, instructor and coordinator of ESOL courses, said, “The purpose of this program is to get international students prepared to be college students with American students and to pursue a degree at Columbia College successfully.”

The majority of students who are taking ESOL are Korean students from Kongju National University, which has an exchange agreement with Columbia College. Besides them, many students from several different countries also take the courses, such as Brazil, China, Japan, Mexico, Taiwan and Vietnam. Part-time students who take under 12 credits are also taking ESOL courses.

How do students find out about the Columbia College’s ESOL program? International students may find the information about the ESOL program of Columbia College through the internet. Timothy Tesar, coordinator of international and graduate admissions, gives the information to students when he travels, particularly in Asia. Kongju National University has a special relationship with Columbia College; therefore, a regular number of Korean students from Kongju attend Columbia College every semester.

There are some reasons Columbia College’s ESOL courses attract international students. Britta Wright, the director of International Programs, discussed the reasons. First of all, the class sizes are small. The college doesn’t allow more than 15 students in each ESOL class. This means that instructors give students the attention and assistance that they need. In addition, Columbia College offers the ESOL courses as college credits. The credits can be counted toward the international student’s degree program, so the students can finish their degree programs more quickly with the ESOL course credits.

Currently, students who apply to take ESOL courses should take the ESOL placement test. As long as part-time ESOL students have an English proficiency exam score, such as TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language), that proves the English level of the student, they don’t have to take the ESOL placement test. However, the rules will be changed next semester. According to Wright, all students who want to take ESOL courses will be required to have an English proficiency exam score in the Fall 2010 semester. Students from Kongju are exceptions because of the exchange agreement with Columbia College.

The college decided to change the requirements because the beginning level of the ESOL course is not offered at Columbia College. Wright said they have seen students who really needed the beginning level of the ESOL program. By requiring a standardized English proficiency exam score, they know that students have the basic knowledge of English. Then, students will be assigned to intermediate or advanced-level courses according to their English proficiency exam scores. Therefore, students can be successful in Columbia College’s program. “Otherwise, if they came here as a beginning-level student, the students were not performing very well academically, and they were having a really difficult time,” Wright said.

As the number of international students increases, demand for ESOL courses also increases every semester. Some international students who wanted to take ESOL courses struggled because there were no seats for them. Sunmi Jin, an international student who is taking the ESOL courses, said, “There are just two levels of ESOL courses. However, some students want to take a beginning level course, and others want to take higher-level course than advanced courses.” Jin said she hopes more ESOL courses will be opened. “Besides the current English grammar or listening classes, if conversation classes are made, that will be great,” Jin also said.

The ESOL courses have an external program review every five years. The Humanities Department is considering developing the beginning-level course. “It has been suggested for a long time that we have a beginning level,” Metscher said. However, until the beginning-level course is created, students will be required to have some type of standardized English score.

Photo by Sangmin Lee
ESOL course: Speaking and Listening II

No comments: