Becoming a Doctor in Syria: Learning and Identity in English for Specific Purposes at a Syrian University
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
Reason for embargo
To allow future publication of the research
This thesis explores the teaching and learning of English for Medical Purposes (EMP) in a Syrian Arab university (Tishreen University). It investigates the inherent contradictions in the position of EMP in an Arab-medium university by drawing on the socio-political and economic factors shaping English language education policy in Syria. It also critiques “mainstream” ESP through examining the “purpose” in English for Medical Purposes. Rather than viewing learning as an end product, this study suggests that learning English is part of a dynamic process of learning to become a doctor in Syria and as part of constructing the 21st Century Syrian “doctor” identity. I draw on aspects of poststructuralism and complexity theory to take the analysis of English for Specific Purposes beyond issues of needs analysis, content, and materials development. ESP, from its outset, has been proposed for decades as a commodity that meets students’ linguistic and communicative needs. However important these concerns are for the development of the discipline, as I argue in this thesis, ESP seems to adopt a “mechanistic” approach by predetermining “needs” and “purposes” which fails to account for the complexity of human beings’ behaviours and responses in educational contexts. The deterministic conceptualisation of ESP places rigid boundaries between ESP and the reality of the medicine profession, therefore, fails to meet students’ needs which transcend boundaries of classroom in aspiration for recognition by the medical community worldwide. English for Medical Purposes, in this study, goes beyond “specific purposes” to account for the role of English as a foreign language in constructing doctor identity and in the process of becoming a doctor. Data in this qualitative research were collected through focus groups with students of medicine in Tishreen University, semi-structured interviews with medical tutors and management officials in the Faculty of Medicine and the Higher Institute of Languages, as well as ESP teachers. Policy documents were analysed, and field notes were taken in classroom and hospital observations. Based on the analysis of these sources, a deeper understanding of EMP at Tishreen University is reached through the lens of poststructuralism and complexity theory. Finally, this thesis ends by drawing an ESP/Applied Linguistics relationship among the implications the findings have for policy makers, teachers and medical students, alongside recommendations for future ESP research directions.
PhD in Education