This paper compares and contrasts cultural factors that influence the academic performance of LEP (Limited English Proficient) students as compared with the FES (Fluent English Speaker) population. Differences in their impact on multicultural curriculum are also discussed. It is developed with an emphasis on either ESL or BLE students, focusing on the specific needs of either population.
Cultural Factors Influencing Academic Performance
This paper presents a comparison and contrast of the cultural-related factors, which affect the academic performance of Limited English Proficiency (LEP) students in comparison with their counterparts from Fluent English Speaker (FES) population. Furthermore, the paper will explore the variations in their impact or influence on multicultural curriculum. Over the past few years, there has been a remarkable increase in the number of international students who have been seeking admissions in overseas institutions in the U.S., U.K. and Australia. According to the findings of Bista and Foster (2015), the United States has been the most preferred places for pursuing further education for most international students over a long time. However, after, realizing the economic impacts that international students generate, other nations such as the United Kingdom and Australia have started putting structures that attract international students. Pursuing higher education in oversea institutions (English speaking institutions), however, presents a lot of challenges to students who come from countries where English is not used as the primary Language. In most cases, destination institutions require having supportive programs to help international students with such limitations to adjust to the conditions of the new learning institutions. Such programs are designed to improve the level of English proficiency of international students considering that this is marked as the most essential factor that determine their success in English speaking institutions. It is worth noting that students are assigned the category of ‘Limited English Proficiency’ only if they use other languages other than English as their primary languages.
International student population is generally assigned special consideration based on the assumption that they have unique characteristics that make them stand out of the rest of the entire student population. There is a set of culture-relate factors that affect the academic performance of such students as compared to their domestic counterparts who have remarkable English proficiency levels. Many empirical investigations conducted by researchers such as Bista and Foster (2015), highlight English proficiency as the most crucial factor that determines the success of international students in institutions where English is embraced as the medium of communication and exchange. Besides, some of the cross-cultural and culture specific issues that affect the academic performance of international students are lectures, inter-student relationships, lecture style, differences in education system all of which come to such students as culture shock. All these factors have been identified as potentially having influence on the academic performance of international students. On the other hand, it is essential to note that there are four categories of factors that influence the academic performance of both international and domestic population of students. These factors are: demographic, cognitive, psychosocial, and academic. In regard to academic factors, Charlotte (2016) argues that learning approaches and strategies, learning habits and skills, and prior academic achievement have been cited as the most crucial academic related factors that affect the academic performance of students belonging to both Limited English Proficiency (LEP) and Fluent English Proficiency (FEP) populations. In regard to psychosocial dimension, emotional and social support, anxiety, motivation, and social integration into the learning institution have been highlighted as crucial factors influencing academic performance. In regard to cognitive dimension, the factors that have been found to be of crucial significance are individuals’ attribution style and self-efficacy. On the demographic front, factors such as age and gender have been cited as bearing crucial influence on academic performance.
Essential to note, also, is the English proficiency of international students’ psychosocial and socio-cultural adjustment to the new institution, which, in the process, influences their academic performance. In this regard, Limited English Proficiency students’ self-confidence plays a pivotal role in the course of the psychosocial and socio-cultural adjustment to an environment that has English as the primary medium of communication (Marlina, 2014). Besides, poor English skills have been perceived as basis for isolating international students from faculty members and domestic students. The level of impact English proficiency has on factors embodied in psychosocial and socio-cultural dimensions indirectly affects Limited English Proficiency student population’s academic performance. Culture-related issues have been extensively highlighted as being crucial in influencing the academic performance of LEP students. In this regard, culture shock has been outlined as the most significant issue that affects such students as they are required to manage the sharp cultural difference between their home country institution and the new institution. Therefore, contending with cultural change for Limited English Proficiency students is an issue that takes time before familiarizing with the new environment. The whole process entails a distressing experience, which eventually, exposes such students to cultural shock (Carldern & Brown, 2016). This experience is partly influenced by separation from their families, meeting totally different and new people, adjusting and adopting the new culture (language) in the new environment. During some of these experiences, it is possible for students to undergo suffering in silence and be afraid to ask for assistance. This failure to share the new experience is influenced by the confusing notion that some education-related cultures support the spirit of passivity and silence. Besides, most LEP students face various issues that include group work, plagiarism, study skills, and their relationship with their teachers. These issues result from limited comprehension of the cultural requirements or expectations of the new system’s academic requirements.
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A completely different scenario is portrayed when these experiences are considered in the context of Fluent English Speaker (FES) population. For instance the FES population do not experience any issues with language barriers, which adversely affects populations with Limited English Proficiency. For FES students, language barrier is not a contributing factor their poor academic performance. Since English is a native and primary language to Fluent English Speaker population, they do not require time for acculturation, which, therefore, gives them no stress in the academic environment. Because of their fluent English proficiency, the domestic or native English populations will exhibit desirable student-to-student and student-to-teacher relationships. Compared to students from other parts of the world such as Asia, Middle East, Africa, and Mexico English is not considered as an issue that influences the academic performance of Fluent English Speaker students. Furthermore, Fluent English Speaker populations do not have to undergo any adjustment issues as they are already in their ‘home environment’, which gives them an advantage as compared to Limited English Proficiency student populations (Marlina, 2014). The fact that they have to progress with the same academic system facilitates their transition to higher education without any difficulties. Furthermore, Fluent English Speaker students do not experience any academic issues that are associated with Limited English Proficiency students. In regard to these issues, FES students do not need any adjustment to teaching approaches, academic preparation, and they do not experience issues related to academic performance expectation pressures.
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It is, also, essential to note that LEP students have more impact on multicultural curriculum than Fluent English Speaker student populations. This is based on the consideration that respect and representation of diverse cultures should be treated as integral component of an inclusive curriculum that can help realize effective multicultural education. Admitting international students to U.S. and U.K. – based institutions prompts the need to change the curriculum in order to accommodate the interests of international students. The curriculum should be developed to include multiracial and multiethnic campus staff (supportive staff, counselors, instructors and administrators) (Marlina, 2014). English as Second Language (ESL) student involvement will prompt the admitting institutions to develop curriculums that have supportive programs for incorporating multicultural content and selection of multiethnic instructional materials. Under the multicultural curriculum, the admitting institutions should ensure that resource centers and campus libraries include a variety of materials on the experiences, cultures and histories to represent the diverse ethnic and racial groups.
International learning institutions are considered multicultural in the sense that they provide interaction opportunities for people from diverse ethnic, religious and racial backgrounds. This multiculturalism has more influence on multicultural curriculum as compared to students whose English is their first language. In this regard, the multicultural curriculum should have support programs for ESL students for preparing them during their acculturalization process. The curriculum will include courses that will help ESL students improve their math, English as well other academic skills. The program will also include introductory courses for helping students familiarize with the new teaching approaches and academic systems. LEP students will influence multicultural curriculum in the sense that they prompt inclusion of programs that help in addressing individual needs (Carldern & Brown, 2016). For instance, individual assistance should be provided in the language that international students understand best; for instance, introductory programs in Spanish should be made available to Spanish speakers. Introductory courses such these ones will play a great role in concept and vocabulary building. It should, also, be clear that ESL students will influence various aspects of a multicultural curriculum that fluent English speakers cannot. For instance, the delivery aspect will require addressing and acknowledging the diversity of the styles of learning while challenging the privilege and power dynamics in the learning environment. ESL students, also, influence the aspect of content, which requires being accurate and complete in a manner that acknowledges the perspectives and contributions of all the diverse groups. Teaching as well as learning materials comprise another aspect that ESL students will affect within a multicultural curriculum. The curriculum will be required to contain learning and teaching materials that are diverse and intensively examined to prevent any form of bias.
In conclusion, this paper considered a comparison and contrast of the cultural-related factors, which affect the academic performance of Limited English Proficiency (LEP) students in comparison with their counterparts from Fluent English Speaker (FES) population. Pursuing higher education in oversea institutions (English speaking institutions), however, presents a lot of challenges to students who come from countries where English is not used as the primary Language. Some of the cross-cultural and culture specific issues that affect the academic performance of international students are lectures, inter-student relationships, lecture style, differences in education system all of which come to such students as culture shock. International learning institutions are considered multicultural in the sense that they provide interaction opportunities for people from diverse ethnic, religious and racial backgrounds. This multiculturalism has more influence on multicultural curriculum as compared to students whose English is their first language.
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