[ut.chinese] U. of. T. Mainland Chinese students

sun@me.utoronto.ca (Andy Sun Anu-guest) (12/13/89)

In article <8912130320.AA02504@alchemy.chem.utoronto.ca> xgu@alchemy.chem.utoronto.ca (Xijia Gu) writes:
>Dear Netters:
>    Do you know how professors at Univ. of Toronto comment on us? Good,
>fair, or poor?

I came from Hong Kong instead of mainland China, but nonetheless I
consider myself being a Chinese. I've observed some of the things discussed
in this article I am referring to for quite a while and I would like
to comment on some of them. I hope I am not offencing anybody by any
means in my comments.

>    The following is a letter from Li Xiaoping to NEWS UTC. Please spend
>some time reading it. It carries to us a strong warning signal.
>Dec. 12, 1989
>    Recently, University of Toronto held a meeting to discuss the trouble-
>some problems about Chinese students from mainland China. In the meeting, many
>professors complained that most Chinese students have difficulty to adapt 
>the environment in Canada. Some departments have decided not take any more
>students from P.R.C.. Others will be cautiously consider the applications
>from Chinese students.
>    In this meeting, the Chinese students were put into a stereotype of that:
>(1) After spending several years in Canada, still many of them can not speak
>and write well in English.

I think this is the consequence of point (3). I see nothing wrong with 
"sticking together", but one has to admit that by limiting oneself within 
a particular group all the time, one has lesser chance to interact with
other people. In my own opinion, communication (both verbal and written)
skills can be improved only if you communicate more. No matter how many
English courses that you've taken, how many essays you've written, it's
the application of these knowledge in real life that gives you the feedback
and allows you to improve upon.

>(2) Many of them can not get along with their supervisers very well because
>they act the way they did before. They persist to do the work they prefer
>instead of following the superviser's direction.

I am not sure what "the way they did before" refers to, but I do not observe
any of this around me (or I didn't notice). Again, I see nothing wrong in
this, not sure why the professors will even complain about it. Most of the
students I know from Mainland are either visiting scholars or graduate
students. To be able to perform independent research is a good sign. I don't
think professors/supervisors will like to see cases in which a student will
only do what he/she has been told to do. A scholar is different from a 
servant, and I think each one of you belongs to the former. If anybody
who thinks a person from PRC must be an obedient person, saying yes to 
everything that is being told and blindly follow orders, he/she/it is 
got an attitude problem.

The problem, I think, lies again in the communication side. From what I
observed, supervisors think you don't understand what he/she is
talking about and simply ignore instructions without asking for further
explanation and clarification. This, I observed, is true to a certain
extent. And this goes back to the communication skills. Most people are
probably afraid to ask questions since they think their English is not
good enough. If you don't communicate your thoughts and doubts, others
will never know them and this is going around in circles.

>(3) They always stick together.

This phenomenon seems to occur whenever there are Chinese, not just people
from Mainland, not just in U. of T. I found this most interesting. As I 
said before, I see nothing wrong with this save the fact that it limits
your scope of social life, which is a personal preference. To look at 
this from a different point of view, however, this tends to create a
social problem, consider that you are not the only people around and there
are others around you too. Try put yourself in other peoples' shoes and
imagine how you would feel if groups of people sitting besides you are
talking loudly in a weird language that you have no idea whatsoever. You
don't even know if they are arguing or simply dicussing matters. Again
I am not referring just to people from Mainland (which means I will 
probably get more flames from various groups :-)). Go to Sandford Flemming
cafe around noon and you will see what I mean. I did this myself too,
subconsciously sometimes, but when I think about it afterwards, it's
really a inconsiderate thing to do. 

>(4) Many of them are not qualified TAs. So many complains from undergraduates
>about their Chinese graduate TAs. 

Qualified, I think, is communication-wise instead of knowledge-wise. Knowing
the stuff is one thing, being able to explain it to others is a different
thing. Being a teaching assistant, selfishly speaking (not considering the
students will suffer), is an excellent source of improving communication
skills. In this case, you are "forced" to communicate with others. You
can't 'stick together' during tutorials, you can't talk Mandarin during
tutorials. I think departments should give Chinese graduate T.A.s this
chance to improve their "qualification" through experience, but should
have a "qualified" T.A. around also instead of having the former running 
the show all by him/herself.

>    There was no solution given in that meeting yet. However, their conclusion
>of restricting the Chinese students from P.R.C. is really shame. We must
>respond to this situation. I think LYH should contact the UT administration
>as soon as possible and pass the message of U of T to all members quickly.
>                                                              Li Xiaoping
>    We have checked with an executive professor, Prof. R, at the University of
>Toronto. The main points of Xiaoping's letter are accurate.  
>    Professor R pointed out that this problem has long been there. 
>Many professors, either directing Chinese students' graduate work or
>having Chinese students as teaching assistants, are quite upset
>about the behaviors of those students. One professor was quoted as
>saying that:" The Chinese students came to UT for one thing, but the
>university expected another."  It is frustrating.

This is frustrating on both sides. I would like to know what the university
'expects' though.

>     Remarks from many professors in different departments can be
>summarized as follows:
>    (1) In general, Chinese students have POOR skills of communications. They
>are just as happy staying at a very basic language level. Only few tried hard 
>to improve it. Most of them will never pay money to learn even they can afford.
>They believe that it is not worthwhile investing time and money on language.

I personally do not think it is worthwhile to invest time and money on
language too. Okay, so I should be shot. Any language, to me, is a just
a means of communication. As long as you can communicate with others, being
able to understand what other's are talking about and convey your ideas
to them, the goal has been reached. I don't want to be able to write like 
Shakespeare or talk like a news broadcastor, I just want to make sure
that when I said 'thanks' to someone, he/she won't look around to see
where the 'tanks' are. And you learn this by communicating and interacting
with people, not by reciting dictionary at home.

>Others think that their degree thesis will be AUTOMATICALLY corrected by
>their supervisers. 
>    (2) Many Chinese students and scholars DO NOT know how to get along
>with their supervisors and colleagues. They even do not know the names
>of the people in the same office or lab. They often are reluctant to 
>discuss with other professors or students.

Is that a sin that we do not know the names of the people in the same office
or lab? Is there a law on it? I would say it will be nice to know each
others' names, but I am better with faces than with names. The fact that
you know them does not always imply that you have to know their names. 
And I've observed that people from mainland are often friendlier (sometimes
even TOO polite) compared to some other people that I've known. It's the 
mutual understanding that counts, not the name-memorizing contest.

>    (3) Chinese students are INACTIVE at all levels except the political
>protest against June 4 event. They are unwilling to merge into other communities.
>They rarely participate in either Faculty or Campus activities. 

This is a consequence of 'sticking together'. This (being inactive) is a bad 
thing but it's also a personal preference. One should at least be given
the right to pick ones way of life, he/she is going to pay for the
consequence at the end anyway. You certainly miss a lot of fun by not 
participating in Faculty or Campus activities.
>    (4) They have a BAD reputation in teaching jobs. Many of them do not
>realize that it is their responsibility or obligation to provide a quality
>teaching service to students. Some of them just do not take it seriously.

I know a lot of people who did the above, not just people from mainland China.
So don't feel bad about it although we all should make an effort to improve.

>    (5) Some of them are good or excellent in their research. But a large
>number of them are just fair or poor. It is generally never true that Chinese
>students are of high quality.

I thought people who came from Mainland are either EXTREMELY rich (consider
the expenses in studying and living) or EXTREMELY smart (consider the overall
population in China from which these people are being picked from). I can't
see how a PRC can be extremely rich (theoretically anyways), so logically
they had to be smart to get here in the first place. I don't understand
how a poor quality student will get accepted into U. of T. in the first place.

>    The direct consequency of these is that many departments have posted ban 
>on taking new Chinese students. Although many professors are happy with  
>their Chinese students, but as is pointed out by an executive at SGS 
>(School of Graduate Studies), the image of the Chinese students is eroding
>away by more and more such complaints.
>     What is the solution? We hope all of us can think about these problems,
>and express our points of views.
>                                                  Editorial Board, NEWS UTC

I have no doubt that I will probably get flames from a lot of sources. I
hope I get an equal amount from PRC people and non-PRC people who happen
to read this also. This is at least a proof that students from mainland China
are willing to voice their opinions, a good step towards improving communication
skills within the Canadian society. I am not lecturing anybody by any means,
I guess almost all the aspects that were mentioned were once applied to 
me also, some of them still are. I am trying to improve upon them all the time.



Andy Sun                        | Internet: sun@me.utoronto.ca
University of Toronto, Canada   | UUCP    : csri.toronto.edu!me.utoronto.ca!sun
Dept. of Mechanical Engineering | BITNET  : sun@me.utoronto.BITNET