CONTEXT Katie, aged 15, is a highly motivated student from a family with a strong educational background, currently living and studying in a British-style International School in Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC), Vietnam, and is a member of the increasing group of globally-mobile students. Katie can be solidly placed into the “entering phrase” of the transition from Taiwanese national to immigrant in a Western society, where she “has decided to become part of the new community, but is still figuring out what that means” (Hayden 2006:53) at the age of thirteen. She is an example of what has recently been identified as a common occurrence for international school students, children going through a “sojourner adjustment” (McKillop-Ostrom 2000), as can be seen through the following aspects of her background: • She does not plan on staying in HCMC and there is no pressure to assimilate the local culture or language, and in fact she cannot speak Vietnamese beyond “thank you” and “hello.” • Her family have the goal that all their children will attend university in a western society, in order of preference: either Canada, United States, Australia, or Singapore. • Since English represents a “foreign” rather than “second” sociolinguistic context in Vietnam, she relies on her schooling for the acculturation process. Further solidifying the transitory nature of her context, Katie has changed schools, all within HCMC, three times in the past two years, as a part of the search to find new meaning. High-stakes external assessments will be conducted starting in March 2010. I am her English teacher, and our school is her “proxy language school” (Deveney 2000:35 quoted in Hayden 2005:61). Her learning context would be best classed as “submersion” (Holderness 2001:64), in so far that she is expected to “English-ize.” For example, she is expected to speak English at home, even with her two siblings (one younger brother and one older sister). In this weak form of bilingualism, the L1 is no longer maintained and specific emphasis is place on learning English, as exemplified in our course called English as a Second Language (IGCSE ESL), and is intended for L2 students with needs like Katie. The advanced bilinguals in Katie’s class enroll in a IGCSE English as a First Language course during the same timetable block, but only Vietnamese students have a timetable allocation for their first language. Katie does use L1 around school at break time and lunch periods, and even, she admits, during lesson with other Taiwanese natives, although she insists the percentage is 70/30 English/Chinese.
Situational Analysis of “Katie” — Adam Morris
Page 2 of 16
In our English class, which meets three times a week for 1 hr 30 mins each, there are two other Taiwanese, two Korean, and five Vietnamese students, at varying degrees of L2 proficiency. This course, like the Science and Humanities courses they also take, is externally assessed and high-stakes in the sense that failing it — receiving lower than C grade — would complicate matriculation into our sixth form program, International Baccalaureate (IB), and so would be an impediment to the goal of integrating into a western society. Katie was chosen in part due to this interesting context, in addition to the following: She was identified at admissions, and during the initial assessment phase during the first week of school, as a student who needed careful monitoring, for two reasons. First, her grades from the previous school were less than the required 5 C-grades (she achieved Cs only in English, Biology, Information and Communication Technologies, and Physical Education), which the school normally uses to accept a child into school, and secondly, because of the unique transitory nature of her recent education. It is important to hone in on Katie’s particular language and educational needs, as, increasingly, teachers of teenagers at international schools are often given similar assignments in which such student...