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Research highlights mental health in Chinese dismissal cases

A research white paper, released by WholeRen education consultants at NAFSA 2018, revealed the changing picture of Chinese international students’ dismissals from US institutions including mental health problems soaring as a cited reason for stopping studying.

The report notes that cultural issues may stop some students seeking help The PIE News

'Academic dishonesty' jumped over 10% since 2015

Although health issues were seen as sub-category of ‘academic performance issues’, the report shows the number of Chinese students reporting ill-health as a reason for poor performance jumped nearly 6% in a single year.

“Tiger mom and Tiger dad are always demanding and there is a disconnect there”

While only 1.1% of students said their performance was affected by illness in this way in 2016, the following year that number had climbed to 7%. Of this figure, 82.7% of reported cases of ill-health were mental or psychological rather than “physical”.

One reason for the uneven weighting of these figures was hinted at by the report authors, who suggested cultural sensitivities may have been at play.

“Unfortunately, Chinese cultural stigma surrounding mental health issues often leads to students not seeking timely support to manage their developing symptoms,” WholeRen posited.

73% of those with poor academic performance were linked to mental health problems – 45% directly affected and 28% whose attendance issues were symptom of mental health issues. 41% of Chinese students dismissed from US institutions were shown the door due to poor academic performance.

Andrew Chen, WholeRen’s chief learning officer, told The PIE News that a multitude of causes have led to this spike, including immersion difficulties, pressure of cultural differences and education, and so-called ‘Tiger parents’.

“The student is under pressure when they come to the US, it’s a different language, culture, education system, and especially the Asian students tend to stay [together],” Chen said. “They may have a writing centre, learning centre, all those activities, but the student doesn’t connect”.

Chen added that this pressure might not abate after one program, and WholeRen have seen students who dealt with undergraduate pressures then collapse under the different stresses of post-graduate study.

“We have one student who went through the whole undergrad study in a top-15 ranked university. And then she got into the grad program and everything just burst out in the first semester,” Chen told The PIE.

“Cultural stigma surrounding mental health often leads to students not seeking support”

Parents can also be a stress-factor, Chen added. But WholeRen, he said, work with a student, parent and college throughout the process in an attempt to manage expectations.

“Chinese parents, tiger mom and tiger dad, are always demanding and there is a disconnect there. So that’s why we always tell the schools services WholeRen provide, private consulting, the personal trainer, we provide individual plans where we can connect the students, the school and the parents.”

While these services do not stretch to mental health professionals, Chen said counselling and understanding of the issues at play can indeed make a big difference.

“We have advisors, and a lot of the time if you understand more, if you listen more, they [students] won’t ‘burst’ [from stress],” he said.

The research also throws up changes in the headline reasons students have been dismissed, with ‘academic dishonesty’ jumping over 10% since 2015.

Chen told The PIE that ‘contract cheating’ services, such as essay mills were to blame for this increase, adding that the marketers for the products were “like drug dealers. They get students addicted”.

The ‘A-grades’ available for as little as $1,000 per year are “hard to resist,” Chen said. The crackdown by large US colleges, he said, was the reason for the spike in this statistic.

“For the schools with many students, whenever they see collaborative cheating, contract cheating, they have to cut it [at the source]. Otherwise it will spread,” Chen said.

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