Friday, January 20, 2006

Say Again?

The Daily Iowan has this article:
The UI graduate student union will present President David Skorton with a petition today arguing that international teaching and research assistants who fail to test out of entrance-language proficiency tests should not have to pay for additional required coursework.

COGS President Patrick Oray said the testing policy has concerned international graduate students since last semester. Five UI graduate assistants filed grievances with the mathematics department last semester after they failed to qualify to teach and their hours of work per week were significantly reduced.

Oray said that although only five students spoke out, the current complaint represents a commonly felt sentiment among international students, who must pass one of two language exams before they can teach in UI classrooms.

If students fail the initial language test, called the Speaking Proficiency English Assessment Kit, they must take a second test given in a classroom setting in whch they make a lecture-type presentation.

Oray said the merits of the program were reasonable but that the UI is running counter to its commitment to educate the newcomers by requiring them to pay $300 for extra classwork.

Perhaps I'm missing something, but I fail to see why it would be unreasonable to require payment unless they were unclear at the time of hiring that a particular level of English proficiency would be required to obtain classroom time. While most employers do pick up the costs of work-related seminars and such, I think I draw the distinction on this one in that while it's a requirement for work, it's not strictly work-related but more of a basic-level skill. 1) If I were thrown into the finance section of my company (god forbid), I'd expect the company to train me and provide seminars on the most recent finance law. But my inability to do math would be something for me to deal with. 2) If I decided to teach school in a foreign country, I'd expect to either have to learn the language beforehand up to a proficiency sufficient to get my ideas across, or I'd be relegated to places where English is spoken as a primary alternate language and teaching in it would be acceptable. If these TAs were recruited with the promise of "come as you are" and then made to pay for a class before they could teach, that would be another matter.

That said . . . as I understand it, the "extra coursework" is to teach a class - the thing the UI has agreed to pay them to do. And UI has tons of classes, ranging from advanced to remedial. They couldn't simply sub for a day on a relatively unimportant topic at really low cost to everyone?

No comments: