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Wednesday, October 9th, 2002

Issue 2.29 October 9, 2002






Ireland, a nation of only 3.6 million and just 7 universities is becoming a major player in international student recruitment. Eighteen Irish institutions (universities and colleges) are currently touring three cities in India. In only its third year of intense promotion, Ireland has targeted 1,300 new Indian students for this year (Canada attracted approximately 1,600 last year). Irish success is a product of close collaboration between its education institutions and the Irish government. “This is primarily a revenue generating exercise,” Ms. Shikha Mohanty told Higher-Edge last Sunday. Ms. Mohanty’s title at the Irish Embassy – Education and Trade Manager – says volumes about Ireland’s approach to the promotion of its institutions under the “Enterprise Ireland” trade umbrella.

Irish Embassy Visa Officer Sarah Mangan reinforces the recognition of education as trade when she told Higher-Edge COO Mel Broitman that “we view universities and colleges as companies.” Ireland’s success is presented new challenges. Last year it attracted 650 Indian students with visa refusal rate of 28%. However as word spreads of Ireland’s aggressive marketing, and Irish institutions rely on education recruitment agencies in India, abuse and fraud is rapidly growing. According to Ms. Mangan this year’s visa refusal rate has shot up to 60%.


In the recent New York Times article “Furor in Britain Over Grading of College Entrance Exams” (September 29, 2002), Alan Cowell reports that this past August, thousands of Britons discovered that their grades in their A level, crucial for university entrance, had been arbitrarily lowered. In Britain, the tension revolves around whether the actions reflected pressure on state examination boards to avoid a surge of passes that might have been perceived as a reflection of lower standards, i.e., that A levels were getting systematically easier.

Ostensibly, the lowering of grades was intended to avert accusations that with the introduction this year of a new testing system the A levels were getting systematically easier. Critics of the system say academic standards have steadily fallen to accommodate increasing numbers of poorly qualified students. Others argue that higher education is still elitist. After an official inquiry, Michael Tomlinson, the previous Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Schools, promised that some papers would be regraded, none of them downward.

Can Canada learn from this experience? Do we have to worry about grade inflation by individual teachers or schools in the absence of state-centred testing? Should we pursue standardized admission test- ing in pursuit of fairness, at the expense, perhaps, of over-valuing the medium of testing itself, and the content of such testing over other content. Are we overlooking a lowering of standards, and if so, is standardized testing the only prescriptive correction?


Education Testing Services (ETS), the largest private educational testing and measurement organization that administers TOEFL, GRE, and GMAT, among others, announced last week that it has canceled the GRE Computer Science Subject Test scheduled for November.

“The exam will be offered around the world in December, but students in China, including Hong Kong, and India will not be able to participate”. This decision came after ETS determined web sites in Asia had provided students in those places with a study guide comprised of questions and answers from previous tests.

“From what I can understand they [the students] are not doing this for profit. They felt culturally that this is the way of assisting their fellow students. Many students, particularly in Asian countries, feel working together is a very commendable and acceptable practice”, said John Yopp, vice president for graduate and professional education at ETS.

The invocation of “culture” by way of explanation is an issue that Higher-Edge is called upon to comment repeatedly by higher education institutions. The reference is a heavily loaded one. On the one hand, particular in the testing milieu, the literature is replete with concerns over cultural biases favouring one or more groups over others. On the other hand, in the event customs and practices by some groups amount to “cheating” as measured against a different cultural or other standard, should any culture-based accommodation be made? We invite the readership to comment or refer to experiences where “culture”, howsoever defined, has been at the centre of lively debate in the testing setting.

Source: The New York Times, October 2 2002


October and November are full of excitement in India. Two major Hindu festivals, Dusherra and Diwali, are celebrated through- out the country in various ways – with plenty of music, dance, food and lights livening up most major cities. With pleasant weather in most parts of India at this time of year, it can be an ideal time to visit.

Business travellers beware though – with numerous holidays in these months it can mean all play and no work! School closures are common during the holiday period. Be sure to check for national and regional holidays before you depart for your trip.

Please direct all questions and comments to Isabelle Faucher:
Overseas, Overwhelmed© is a publication of Higher-Edge


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