I am really in need of some good advise for a situation I am in now. This post is quite long. I will not name the school nor the trainer and students. I will give them fictitious names instead. This is a true story nevertheless!
Here is the situation:
I am currently taking a course in fashion merchandising and marketing in a private school where the Work Development Agency (government agency) provides 90% funding for course participants. In this case I had to pay 10% of the school fee which is quite affordable. I was pleased to pay and attend. This school markets itself as a training centre for garment industry people and those who want to join the industry. In other words, it is an adult learning environment. My class consists of 11 chinese and 2 indian students. 12 of us are Singaporeans and 1 is from mainland China but is a permanent resident of Singapore for the past 10 years. The main language of Singapore is English.
Pre-requisites for the class is that applicants must read, write and speak English. The teaching medium is English.
The first few modules were good and some of the trainers did a very good job in terms of content and delivery. However, unfortunately there were two trainers in particular who were not very impressive and frankly unprofessional. I will explain why I feel so.
Trainer A has more than 30 years experience in the fashion industry thus it seems natural that he/she should have loads of experience in terms of people management and tactful deliverance of her thoughts (or so that is what I thought!). Nevertheless, during one of the lectures, the trainer said ' Negroes are unsuitable for sewing operation because of their chubby fingers'. Can you believe this! I was so shocked and upset that the trainer said that to the whole class. Why this came about was because she was talking about garment factories in Asia and around the world.
Now that the trainer used this word 'Negro' some of the students in class were using it to make references and in a way make fun. How childish and ignorant! I pointed it out to them that it was not right and it was racist to use call Africans 'Negro'. It was clear to me that some of these student and the trainer does not know the history behind the word 'Negro'. Guess what, I was frowned upon when I told them that what they did was wrong! I was upset but I left it to rest.
Moreover, both the trainer and the students spoke in Chinese many times during the lecture. I was unable to follow and understand what was asked and discussed as I do not understand Chinese. It seemed like it became a habit for the students to pose questions in Chinese and the trainer responded in Chinese too. I thought the teaching medium was supposed to be English!
One of the modules was on social responsibility, which covers code of conduct in the industry. For example, child labour, racism, sexual harassment, labour laws, etc. Now keep in mind that all this was taught to educate future merchandisers like us when we work in the industry, with social responsibility in mind.
During one of our class activities, we were split into groups and one of us had to play the part of an auditor and the other that of a factory sewing worker. The role play scenario involved an over-worked sewing girl who have no idea that the factory has been violating her rights as an employee. The auditor had no idea of the situation thus it was their job to talk to this sewing girl and find out more about it. As soon as the role play begun, some of the students who were playing the sewing girl started to speak with an Indian accent and many of the other students thought it was funny and started laughing. The other Indian girl and myself were not laughing, obviously. It was no where written in the role play scenario that the factory was in India or Sri Lanka, so why is it that these students assumed so? It could have been a factory in China, Myanmar, Cambodia or any where in the world. I felt that they were so inconsiderate and socially ungraceful.
The trainer for this module happened to be Indian and he did not find this funny, however, he did not do anything to stop these ignorant students from doing it.
That really upset me. I can also understand that he might have been upset about it too.
Trainer B has 20 years experience in the industry in the quality control sector. He has been a head of department too. With so many credentials, one would think that he should be competent in deliverance of the module which covers quality management. Sadly, he sucked at teaching but I can understand that quality management is something that cannot be taught easily. Moreover, during most of the lectures he was talking about his achievements when he was in the industry. My impression was that he was little full of himself.
While teaching about quality assurance, we were talking about some quality issues and he said 'Curry stains are not acceptable' referring to Indian factory problems. Yet again some of the students found it funny and started laughing. I mean, there are many issues everywhere in the world, right? Why choose India/Sri Lanka when you obviously can see that there are two Indians in class. I mean, is that statement even funny?
In another instance, he said that 'teaching Bangladesh workers made his blood boil and he thinks it's the way they speak'. Now, how nice is that to say that in a lecture environment. I think personal opinions about a particular type of people is not to be shared, this can be interpreted as being racist.
In many instances, he switched to Chinese and then back to English. This encouraged the Chinese speaking students to ask him basically everything in English.
Again, wasn't the teaching medium supposed to be English?
Actions taken based on the above events
He wrote to the school CEO/senior trainer and their training manager, asking why such incidents had occurred and gave his input on the unprofessionalism of the trainers. Apparently the email worked. Both the CEO/senior trainer and training manager clarified with me and told me that I should tell her if such an incident should ever happen again. I was also assured by the CEO/senior trainer that she would inform all her trainers to speak in English and paraphrase in Chinese when needed.
Again, didn’t the prerequisites of the course indicate that the applicant must speak, read and write English? Moreover, the Chinese speaking students are given an advantage in learning compared to the non-Chinese speaking. I paid as much in school fee as they (the chinese speaking students) did, right? So why this unfair treatment?
Anyway, with all said I left the matter to rest because I wanted to learn and felt that maybe the situation would improve.
It did this for one week. The problem was back again with the language used in class. In fact, it even got worse.
Trainer C who happens to have been in the industry for more than 20 years was teaching sewing and garment grading. During the demonstration of drafting and calculations, she started switching to Chinese and the students starting discussing in Chinese too. I was lost and upset that my efforts had been in vain.
I went to the training manager and told her about what was going on in class. Guess what she told me `Ask the teacher to translate to English’. Hmm ok, I thought you told me to come to you if I had a problem right? Clearly she pushed the problem back to me. Why should I have to be asking the teacher to translate when it was clearly written in the application that the lessons would be taught in English? I was so upset and in fact very angry. I was being short changed. I paid for this course because it said it would be taught in English and here I have to fight to make sure they teach in English!?
Mentally, I was drained and felt that I was wasting my time in this school when I could be investing my time in other things. Things were clearly not going to change and I was not going to be the hero to make changes happen either.
I wrote to the school again and said that I wanted a withdrawal and a refund as I felt I was being short changed. It was frustrating to know that I was not able to learn as much as the other students because of the language barrier. I was giving my best and expected that the school understood that. Unfortunately this was not the case.
The CEO called me up and apologized for whatever had happened and asked for another chance to eradicate the problem as the teaching medium was supposed to be English. She said she would talk to all the trainers and students about this. So I gave it one more day.
Next the CEO called the other Indian girl and me out in front of the whole class. We went to another room and spoke about what had happened. I voiced my opinion about the whole situation and about how I felt. The other girl agreed and acknowledged that learning was not consistent as the trainers always switched to Chinese. The CEO said she would talk to the class about it. So we marched back to class and obviously everyone knew something was wrong.
She addressed the class saying that we have two Indian students and all the students must make an effort to speak in English even during group discussions. So basically, what she did was to tell the whole class that one of us complained about the Chinese speaking situation. After her address to the class, the atmosphere was filled with anger and uneasiness. Trainer A happened to be in class and instantaneously said ‘don’t worry if you do not understand the lesson in English, I will translate to Chinese’. So will you translate to Tamil if I don’t understand? Clearly not!
My thoughts and why I need you advise
I think it was a very poor excuse by the school as it was clear that they made a boo boo and tried to cover it up.
Now, my dear fellow bloggers, I need you advise on whether I should continue with this course, as there is another 4 weeks left of it, or if I should stand by what I believe in and withdraw and concentrate on something else?
I need you advise. I want to know what you think.
Thank you so much for reading this post. In a way, I feel better after writing it.