Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Legislation and the organisation – a case study example

This was provided by a student in the PIER Diploma of International Education Services, in response to a hypothetical situation involving a younger international student. The question asked what the institution, in this case a school, should do to respond to the student and comply with relevant legislation.

The case of Stefan

Stefan, an under-17 international student, informed the education provider that there are not enough seats for students in his class; that other classmates are engaging in distracting behaviours which prevent his learning; that the teacher is too difficult to understand; that he is having difficulty in class; and that he is not as happy in Australia as his agent led him to believe. After six months, Stefan failed 50% of his requirements, has not complied with attendance requirements, and has changed his accommodation without informing the provider. He has been seen drunk. It is likely that Stefan’s student visa will be cancelled due to his failure to comply with visa conditions. This is an unfortunate result that might have been avoided with timely assistance early in his schooling here. Looking at Part D of the National Code, there are relevant directions within Standards 2, 3, 5, 6, 8,10, 11, and 14. There are requirements within Occupational Health and Safety legislation that should have been followed, and there are explicit conditions for student visas within the Immigration Act (Schedule 8 of the Migration Regulations and Public Interest Criterion 4012A in Schedule 4 of the Migration Regulations states that visa condition 8352 requires provider-approved accommodation for under-18 students). Finally, the Child Protection Act discusses reporting of students at risk of harm (which may well be an issue if he is now living in unsuitable lodgings with inappropriate companions.) Stefan’s disappointing failure could have been avoided if both the provider and Stefan acknowledged and adhered to these directions, requirements and conditions.

Recommendations:

I make the following recommendations to deal with this and future similar situations.
  • I recommend that we revisit the requirements for registration on CRICOS in order to ensure that we comply with the ESOS Act and the National Code. Part C of the Code (Registration on CRICOS) 6.1b requires that providers include information about the proposed maximum number of students in regard to resources and facilities. There is a danger that we have increased our student numbers without a corresponding adjustment to facilities and resources. When we are confident that we have met requirements, we should ensure that we provide accurate information on facilities, etc., to prospective students, as per Standard 2.1. Our numbers (international and domestic students combined) have increased and it is likely that we need to look at resources: we traditionally ensure that our international students are provided adequate resources, but we will not be able to continue in this way.

  • I recommend that we identify and record occasions and means by which students are notified of important obligations, such as their obligation to notify the provider of any change of address. In this way, both the provider and the students have confidence that Standard 3.1e is met. We are careful to notify students of their obligations, and there should be a specific record to refer to in the event of disputes.

  • I recommend we delve into Stefan’s perceptions and expectations for the Australian education experience to find out if his agent has engaged in false advertising and recruitment promises. It is likely that Stefan is experiencing culture shock, but if the agent was indeed negligent, then Standard 4.5 requires that we take action against the agent.

  • I recommend a review of current practices to check the support and general welfare arrangements for underage students, as well as the system used to make reports to DIAC. I am especially concerned that Stefan has been seen drunk and dishevelled and am aware that he may be in danger of harm. Standard 5 requires that arrangements to in place “to protect the personal safety and social well-being” of students. The provider is also expected to inform DIAC of changes to living arrangements and advise DIAC if the change is provider-approved. There are a number of support personnel available to students, and support services could benefit by making some decisions about the involvement and coordination of nurses, youth workers, chaplains, and volunteers.

  • I recommend that we review our student support services: Standards 6.1, 6.2, 6.3, and 6.7 requires us to assist students to adjust to study and life in Australia, including giving them information about the complaints and appeals process, visa conditions relating to achievement and attendance requirements, providing them with welfare-related services to course progress and accommodation issues, etc. I recommend that we look at our complaints and appeals process, providing in-service to relevant personnel and updating documents, systems, orientations and lessons. Expectations and requirements of Standard 8 must be successfully integrated into our practices: if Stefan’s complaints had been handled appropriately earlier, his later poor showing might have been avoided.

  • I recommend that we develop proactive procedures for assisting at-risk students, and produce and deliver a documented intervention strategy, as required as per Standard 10.3, 10.4 and 10.5. This will be a major undertaking because of the inevitable call for whole-school involvement in working parties and committees dealing with support for the entire school population.

  • I recommend that we check how we implement attendance policies and procedures, as per Standard 11.3, 11.4, 11.5 and 11.6. In particular, we need to identify strategies by which we can assess attendance, identify at-risk students, and deliver appropriate counselling in a timely fashion.

  • I recommend we acknowledge our responsibilities to provide the best possible teaching staff. We must be willing to investigate and deal with complaints relating to teaching staff. Standard 14.1 requires that resourcing is adequate. Further, teachers are required to be appropriately recruited, inducted, assessed and engage in ongoing development. Currently teachers are sourced from the state education department without specific regard to the unique skills and abilities needed for teaching international students. Given that the school needs to accept these teachers, we could improve our staffing by at least looking at who we have and assigning them to classes more mindfully.

  • I recommend that we ask our OHS officer to go through the institution to identify potential hazards. These may include trips and falls due to students sitting in pathways or aisles, physical injury such as neck sprain due to strains and stresses in viewing whiteboards or computer monitors, back pain from inappropriate seating, and physical symptoms relating to noise levels and stress. With the increase in computer facilities, it is timely for us to look at ergonomics within classes and offices.

  • I recommend that we consider developing a policy and procedures to deal with reporting child protection concerns to the Department of Children’s Services. The Child Protection Act specifies mandatory reporting of suspected harm for students 15 and under. However, for students over the age of 15, DoCS suggests involving the student in the reporting process, or notifying the department of the student’s wishes about any report.
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