International students frustrated by LEAP program

Students say that the University of Calgary’s Learning English for Academic Purposes program is not worth the money.

The LEAP program is offered by the faculty of education to prepare students for the English language entry requirement at the University of Calgary. However, students are complaining that the program has its problems.

“[Students] write [placement] tests and they’re paying for this education that they’re getting, but when they ask why they didn’t pass, they’re told they don’t have access to that information,” said Rona MacEachern, a student’s guardian. “Not even a number.”

Before the start of classes, students in LEAP take a placement test to determine which of the program’s four levels they should be placed in. After passing level four, a student achieves the level of proficiency in English to be admitted into a degree program at the Uof C. However, they are not allowed to recieve feedback on the placement test.

“[We don’t give feedback] because it’s not a device for teaching,” said LEAP program director Dr. Bruce Clark. “All they get is the number. The reason you can’t learn from it is because it’s based on the notion of what correlates with what. The end score doesn’t matter [whether] you got this wrong or you got something else wrong.”

Most of the participants in the LEAP program are international students who pay about $4,168 in tuition for each three-month session. One of these students, who did not want to be named, argued that the program has been a waste of both her time and money. The student believes she was placed in the wrong level as she was learning concepts she was already familiar with.

Clark said that students who think they are improperly placed are given the option to discuss this issue with their instructors.

However, despite her meetings with instructors, the student says that little or no action was taken.

“I have groups of students [who have] filled out the universal student ratings of instruction and have said that their experience has been wonderful,” said Clark. “Then they come to me to complain about it, but the official record is the USRI. I keep saying to them: ‘tell me in [the] form what you’re honestly experiencing, then I can honestly do something about it.'”

Another issue with the LEAP program is that many international students believe the program is mandatory to apply to university.

“When originally they applied to the U of C they didn’t know they were applying to the LEAP program,” said MacEachern. “They thought they were applying for university and then they just get here and they get put into the LEAP program. It just infuriates me that somebody could take advantage of people like that. It’s just appalling.”

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