Judy Kraidy lost her job teaching foreign students because she refused to pass those who didn't learn anything.

The experienced South African-born teacher was replaced when she failed 20 out of the 24 Chinese students in her accountancy class at the now-defunct New Zealand Institute of Commerce in central Auckland.

The school put another teacher in charge of the class and told Mrs Kraidy she needed to show a more "caring approach" to vulnerable, homesick Asian youngsters.

But the Disputes Tribunal sided with Mrs Kraidy, saying her teaching ability was not in question. It said the school made a commercial decision to hold on to the students and could not expect her to take a pay cut as a result.

Mrs Kraidy said her experiences matched those of several other teachers, who have told the Weekend Herald that many diploma schools for foreign students bend or break the rules to make sure everyone passes.

She said students were given the answer for one of her exams and the replacement exam was dumbed down after she was moved aside.

"The whole thing was a can of worms because they had promised these students, 'Pay your money and we'll get you a good qualification', and I wasn't prepared to play their game."

Mrs Kraidy said she realised when she started teaching the Accountancy 101 paper in 2004 that most of her students spoke little English and knew nothing about the subject, but had passed the introductory paper the previous year.

She then found out three students had been given the solution to her mid-term exam. She complained but no one took any action.

After most of her class failed the course in June, the school got another teacher to take the paper for the second half of the year.

Mrs Kraidy passed a copy of the rewritten mid-term exam to Massey University accountancy professor Jill Hooks, who wrote back saying the two hardest questions had been removed and four out of the five questions left were virtually identical to those in the previous exam.

"This is not appropriate in any circumstances but especially in this case considering that many students ... are repeating the paper."

The school responded with a legal letter to Mrs Kraidy saying the exam was only intended for the tutor to assess students' progress.

"We are hereby instructed on behalf of NZI Com to put you on notice that it is entirely inappropriate for you to indulge in the sort of behaviour that you have been and in particular under no circumstances should you disclose information to NZQA [New Zealand Qualifications Authority] in relation to NZI Com, its students and its courses," it said.

Mrs Kraidy said she continued to teach a handful of students who wanted to learn and who came to her in the second half of the year even after she was taken off the course.

She took the school to the Disputes Tribunal, seeking $14,000 in lost income for breach of contract, and was awarded $7499.

The tribunal said new students responded well to Mrs Kraidy's teaching style but there was a bad reaction from those who were used to a level which NZQA had previously judged to be substandard.

Former NZI Com director Nina Hsu said the school closed the following year because the market was slower and her partner became sick.

She said NZI Com did not give out easy passes, unlike other diploma schools.

"Some schools have no teacher, some students don't go to schools to study. We are not a school like that. We always take care of our students.

Mrs Hsu said teachers needed to have "a loving heart for the students" but Mrs Kraidy did not.

Mrs Kraidy said she made no apology for refusing to pass students who paid about $15,000 to $20,000 for a course but did not learn anything.

"When you're at tertiary level accountancy ... you can't just give them a qualification because you feel sorry for them. They have to meet a standard and even the absolute minimum standard they couldn't come close to."

She said many students treated guaranteed-pass courses as a short cut to permanent residency, which made her angry as an immigrant who had worked hard to get into New Zealand legitimately.

She also worried about what happened to all the non-achieving students the school had passed and the possible knock-on effect on universities.

Massey University lost about 60 overseas students from its bachelor of business studies last year after it found that many were failing and could hardly speak English.

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Uni placement tally tumbles

A diploma school in central Auckland suffered a big drop in university placements when checks on foreign students' English skills began last year.

Oxford International Academy supplied 63 students to the bachelor of business studies degree at Albany last year, said Massey University's communications director James Gardiner.

This year, the number dropped to five after the university's College of Business started checking that students could prove they spoke adequate English.

Massey reviewed its admission procedures at the Albany campus after it discovered large numbers of students were failing; staff complained many could hardly speak a word of English.

The university also took 46 students in 2009 from the API Institute of Education, which was closed in February after an investigation found failing students were given pass marks and diplomas.

It took 27 students from the NZ Academy of Studies, which was caught on TV selling a business diploma for $12,000, and 20 students from the Kingsland Institute, where the manager and an adviser were charged in July with immigration fraud. Both men pleaded not guilty.

The NZ Qualifications Authority's deputy chief of quality assurance, Tim Fowler, said Oxford International Academy had been visited twice in a review of schools providing the New Zealand Diploma of Business.

The school had been asked to address several issues to do with English-language testing, assessment and moderation (external checks on the consistency of marking) and cross-crediting with other institutions.

Mr Fowler said if the school did not reach a suitable standard by 2011, it faced the prospect of action to cancel its accreditation.

Oxford International Academy principal Michel Mason did not respond to repeated phone and email requests from the Weekend Herald for an interview.

Andrew Laxon