Poor German pushing international students to drop out

The number of international students in Germany has increased despite the pandemic, but two recent studies suggest that German language policies may need a dose of realism to reduce damaging dropout rates.

A survey of more than 4,500 international students at 125 universities by the German academic exchange service, Daad, found that many lacked the necessary German language skills, with some students only realizing halfway through that their skills were insufficient to write a thesis.

Dropouts are a major problem among international students in Germany. Data from 2015 reveals that rates are particularly high in undergraduate programs: 49%, compared to 27% for German students.

The results of the Daad survey suggest that poor language could be a major contributor, with international undergraduate students with good everyday language skills reporting lower intentions to quit.

Only around a third of international undergraduate and graduate students taking German courses said they participated in class discussions or asked questions, compared to more than half of those taking English courses at German institutions.

“Overall, there is a better match between language skills and the language of instruction in English-taught programs than in German-taught programs,” said Jan Kercher, who led the Daad survey.

But switching to English lessons was a bad move, according to the results, as only around two-thirds of students taking English lessons said their German was good enough for everyday life. “We have a kind of mirror image to deal with studies and daily life in relation to the language of instruction,” said Dr. Kercher.

The Daad report indicates that clear expectations and more rigorous testing can increase the enjoyment and engagement of international students learning in German.

Course leaders cannot leave language requirements to the international office and must give requirements using the Common European Framework of Reference, Dr Kercher said.

Candidates should also be aware of the variations in quality between language test providers, as generous grading may ease entry, but will see students caught off guard halfway through.

Dr. Kercher also warned admissions teams not to fall back on self-assessed skills, as recent research has shown a tendency for international students to overestimate their abilities.

A study of 340 international undergraduate students at two German universities, led by Katrin Wisniewski of the University of Bamberg, found that while competence and self-assessment were related, they did not match. While 80% of the pupils surveyed thought they had reached the required language level, only around 20% had done so.

The study also took into account the cognitive strategies of the students, their social and academic integration and financial problems, as well as the test of their German proficiency over the three years.

Modeling suggested that proficiency was the strongest predictor of academic achievement, with about 20% of first-grade academic performance explained by it alone, with reading playing a particularly important role.

“It is possible that some universities tend to enroll students with insufficient language skills in order to ‘boost’ their internationalization records,” Professor Wisniewski said.

“When preparing students for their studies in Germany, teachers should focus on the full range of language skills,” she said, adding that the training should match the authentic language challenges of a seminar or seminar. a German-speaking conference room.

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About Bernice D. Brewer

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