English language skills

The Herald reports:

A Chinese nursing student is taking her tutors and university to the Human Rights Commission, accusing them of failing her in her final year of her bachelor of nursing course because of her accent.

“My tutors failed me because they said the way that I speak meant people couldn’t understand me, and they said it meant I will not be able to provide proper care to patients,” said , 42, who last week decided to drop out of her course at Unitec because she believed the tutors were making it impossible for her to pass.

“To say my is not good enough is just an excuse. I feel that what they have done is discriminatory, especially to the Chinese, because we are penalised not for our lack of knowledge or ability, but simply because of how we talk.”

I feel very sorry for Ms Tang who is obviously keen to be a nurse. But the ability to communicate in English is important, and some accents can make it very very difficult for others to understand. No easy answer here as it is very difficult to change an accent, but in a medicla profession, oral communication can be vital.

Ms Tang, who holds a bachelor of english degree and is a former English lecturer at a university in China, said she was confident of her written English ability. Before enrolling at Unitec, Ms Tang said she was a bilingual teacher at Kingsland Institute and taught English to other immigrants.

Which makes it surprising that her oral English was not deemed good enough. One can’t judge withotu hearing, but you would hope she was given feedback early on about the need to improve, rather than just be failed at the end when everything else is okay.

“Maybe I can’t speak English like a Kiwi, but I am bilingual and also speak Mandarin and surely that must be seen as a plus in nursing rather than something negative,” Ms Tang said.

“If Unitec fails Chinese students for not being able to communicate properly in English, Kiwi students should also not pass because they cannot communicate with hospital patients who speak other languages.”

Umm no, English is an official language, and the primary language in NZ.

As I said, a sad case.

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