OnPoint by Keith Ng

Boys will be boys

The police has finally revealed that Wan Biao was the victim of a (obviously blotched) kidnap plot. I'm not quite sure why they were keeping this back, since a post on Skykiwi.com on the 16th (Sunday) cites Consul Li of the Chinese Consulate-General in Auckland as saying that they received a fax from Chinese police saying that a Chinese student in New Zealand has been kidnapped.

I was going to blog about this yesterday, but I got seriously sidetracked while reading through the rest of posts on Skykiwi. First it was "more Chinese ppl should die! hahahaha!", "fuck you Chinese people" (in Chinese), then the Chinese people lashed back, saying that us Kiwi Chinese are up ourselves and that we're kidding ourselves if we think our skin will turn white, that we're never going to be New Zealanders and that we're not Chinese anymore. *Then* the original poster declared that he was actually Korean, and the thread then went on to call Koreans an inferior race, with a brief pseudo-historical spiel on Sino-Korean relations and imperialism in the nth century. One poster pleaded for people not to stereotype Chinese people as criminals, the next poster agreed, saying that if the Koreans wants to say it to his face he'll fucking kill him. Cellphone numbers were traded in as a modern variation on throwing down the gauntlet, and more obscene threats and macho posturing ensued.

[Update: Moderators have cleaned up the board since the weekend.]

God knows, people who have flame wars on discussion boards are a small, vocal and fucked up minority who represent no one but their online alter-ego selves. It's still pretty depressing to see how immature some of these kids are.

But that's the point - a lot of international students are just pimply teenagers. Just as university hostels around the country are full of first-years from small towns, ill-adjusted to their new-found freedom, looking to drink themselves into a stupor every night, most of our international students are fresh-faced young-uns who are every bit as immature as their Kiwi counterparts.

Most 18-20 year-olds are simply not equipped to deal with moving to a new country and establishing a new social network from scratch with people of an entirely different culture using their very limited language abilities.

Imagine if 30,000 first-years from Palmerston North suddenly got dropped in a Chinese city.

Of course they're going to stick together. Of course it's going to make it more difficult to integrate, to learn the language, which will reinforce their isolation, etc. And it's this isolation that keeps law enforcement at arms-length and makes them vulnerable to crime.


I use to be a tutor in the Commerce department up at Victoria University. I never took commerce, but it was basically a "politics paper for commerce students". (Just, you know, don't want people thinking that I've ever studied commerce or anything.)

Most of the tutors for that paper caught a lot of people plagiarising. On the low-end, it was just failing to reference material, which was understandable. Most international students caught for this claim that they thought they were supposed to use content from the textbook, to prove their knowledge of the course material, and we generally let it slide.

On the high-end of offending, some were pretty stupid. I've had one student hand in an essay from a previous year - forgetting that the topics have changed! The worse one though, was an extremely well-written essay with "Click here to return to top" at the end.

In between, a lot of students tried to plead their way through. It was tough - their parents have spent a lot to get them here. Contrary to stereotypes, many international students come from poor families who have sacrificed a lot to get them here. But the fact remained that their English wasn't enough to get them through Shortland Street, let alone a university paper (even a commerce paper). Though the course was piss easy, they just didn't have the language skills.

And they passed. Not because of their pleading, but because the powers-that-be wanted us to pass them. A high fail rate will scare away students, and those who fail first year courses will probably drop out, losing money for the university.

It felt like a part of a scam, whereby the university passed students with a nudge and a wink, confident that the student will be too scared to tell their parents that they have no idea what's going on. And the longer they stay, the more difficult it will be for students to come out and say it's been a waste of time.


The point where the poor quality of education and social isolation connects is the education industry and the government, which are obsessed with getting the numbers up without thought to what the students are actually getting out of it. They miss the point that they're no longer bringing international students to New Zealand, they're simply bringing international students in to a community of international students that they've created.

And they've created a monster - what do you think happens when you put 30,000 freshers together and leave them to their own device?