UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Economizing education : fee-paying ESL students in a public high school Deschambault, Ryan


The reliance upon international students in Canadian education has resulted in a growth in research investigating students’ and institutions’ academic, social, cultural, pastoral, and (English) language learning experiences from a range of research perspectives and methodological approaches. Cumulatively these studies have resulted in more informed, better designed, and more reflexive programs and services. However, the majority of research has been conducted in tertiary settings, and thus overlooks the increasingly salient role of international students in K-12 public education in Canada, particularly in secondary schools. This year-long, ethnographic multiple case study examined the category of fee-paying international students (FIS) at the pre-tertiary level as it was realized across multiple actors, sites, and dimensions of the public education system. Broadly situated in a language socialization paradigm, the study first identifies how residency, funding, and English language function as key discursive resources in portrayals of FIS as they occur in K-12 education policy texts and in stakeholder accounts of FIS-related practices. The focus on policy and practices is followed by an analysis of four focal students’ experiences as FIS, which begins with a consideration of students’ homestay, socioeconomic, and (English) language circumstances outside of school. The analysis then concentrates on the most significant cultural process for FIS students’ school-based socialization: ‘getting out of ESL’. It highlights the situated, contingent nature of the process as it was constructed across school- and classroom-specific practices and interactions, but more consequentially, it describes how students’ economizing of the process of ‘getting out of ESL’ was central to their learning, to their varied trajectories, and thus was inextricably linked to the category of FIS. Through the multi-level account of the significance and impact of the category of FIS in a Canadian K-12 public educational setting, and the complexity that characterizes FIS socialization in that setting, the findings of the study underscore the fundamental, though often unacknowledged, relationship between the internationalization of K-12 public education and ESL services, teaching, and learning. In demonstrating how this relationship between FIS and ESL is relevant for students, teachers, and schools, the study identifies an important area for future research in applied linguistics.

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