Cant understand your teacher?
Jan. 26, 2005
Students could get tuition back under N.D. bill
BISMARCK, N.D. - Students should
get their money back if they can't understand lectures delivered with thick
accents and quirky pronunciations, says a North Dakota state lawmaker who wants
to outlaw unclear English in the classroom.
"The Number 1 priority of higher education is instructing the student, the
paying customer," said Rep. Bette Grande, R-Fargo.
Grande is sponsoring legislation that would bar teachers from undergraduate
courses if they cannot speak English clearly. Students who complain in writing
about a teacher's diction would be refunded their tuition and fee payments for
Higher-education officials said the
measure is intrusive and would spur a flood of questionable refund requests.
"Our students are very bright and will soon learn to use this law as an excuse
to drop any class with a bad grade to receive a complete refund," said Michel
Hillman, a North Dakota university system vice chancellor.
Grande's legislation requires instructors to prove their command of English in
an interview before they're allowed to teach.
The measure also says a teacher must be pulled from the classroom if 10 percent
of students in a class complain about the teacher's speaking ability.
Sarah Beck, a lobbyist for North Dakota State University students, said she got
dozens of responses to an e-mailed request for students' experiences with
teachers who are not native English speakers. But NDSU gives students plenty of
opportunity to complain, she said.
Students must learn to work with people who speak in different ways, and
colleges shouldn't be expected to hire teachers "that only speak with a
Midwestern accent," she said.
Hillman said the university system already has policies to ensure
English-speaking skills and procedures for lodging complaints, but Grande said
the system is not working.
She said constituents have complained about teachers from other countries who
have difficulty communicating ideas or understanding questions posed in English.
"The current process may be accomplishing the goals of research and diversity,
but the question needs to be asked whether these need to be a priority over
educating students," Grande told members of the House Education Committee.