Students' Attitudes towards the English Proficiency Enhancement Programme

By Atek, Engku Suhaimi Engku; Jusoh, Zailani et al. | International Journal of Education, July 1, 2012 | Go to article overview

Students' Attitudes towards the English Proficiency Enhancement Programme


Atek, Engku Suhaimi Engku, Jusoh, Zailani, Alias, Alia Nabila, Wahid, Wahidah Abdul, Tahir, Izah Mohd, International Journal of Education


Abstract

This article examines students' attitudes towards the English Proficiency Enhancement Programme (EPEP) carried out in one of the public universities in Malaysia. It draws on a study of 167 participants of the inaugural programme in 2010. A questionnaire was administered to evaluate their attitudes towards four categories of the programme: facilitators, schedule, activities and benefits. Analysis of data was done quantitatively. A main finding is that the EPEP impacted positively on the participants. Other findings show no significant differences in attitudes between gender but attitudes between diploma and undergraduate participants were significantly different. Resultant suggestions include continuing with this programme but with some modifications.

Keywords: English proficiency enhancement programme, attitudes, public universities, Malaysia

1. Introduction

English is an important language in the academia. A student's mastery of the English language may not only help them excel in their studies but also secure them better jobs after graduation as employers prioritise hiring graduates who are competent in English. A Study on the Academic Achievements and Employability of Graduates in Institutions of Higher Learning (Morshidi et al. 2004) revealed that English language skills have significant effects on employability. Therefore, the mastery of English is important to a graduate to satisfy the needs of employment, especially in the private sector. In Malaysia, many students are found to have a poor command of the English language even as they embark on university education. Malay, as the national and official language of Malaysia, has been the medium of instruction in school since 1971. English though remains as the second language. Notwithstanding the 2003 Malaysian government's policy of introducing the teaching of Mathematics and Science subjects in English, its use in the educational sphere is largely restricted to being a compulsory subject at the school-level. In higher education, the democratization of universities has allowed English to play a more prominent role in teaching and learning. More undergraduate programmes are taught in English. However students that enter universities are the product of an education system that emphasizes the Malay language in its curriculum. Therefore, students are finding it difficult to grasp the English language as they attend lectures and tutorials.

Aware of the importance of English in the academia and also for better job prospects, the management of University Sultan Zainal Abidin (UniSZA) has moved in to help raise the standard of English among its students to better prepare them for university education and for employment by introducing a programme called the English Proficiency Enhancement programme (EPEP).

1.1 The English Proficiency Enhancement Programme

The EPEP has the twin objectives of making the students feel more confident using English and ensuring students are able to adapt themselves when working as a group in pursuit of a common goal. The participants of the programme comprised approximately 290 fresh diploma and undergraduate students who were adjudged to have low English proficiency through a special test given. They were then placed into groups for the whole duration of the programme. Each group was assigned a specific number of facilitators to assist them.

To ensure the success of the programme, students deemed proficient in English were enrolled as facilitators, consisting mostly of senior students from the Bachelor of English and Diploma in TESL programmes. The choice of students as facilitators was based on a number of factors. Firstly, the programme would be run outside of class hours. Secondly, the programme involved a fairly large number of participants. Thirdly, student used as facilitators would help minimise the barrier between participants and facilitators, thus enhancing interaction between them. The roles of the facilitators were to supervise, guide and assist the participants in their activities. …

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