Effects of English medium instruction on students' learning experiences and quality of education in content courses in a public college in Oman
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
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This study critically explores the perceptions of students on the implementation of the English as a medium of instruction (EMI) policy at a public higher education institution in Oman and its effect on the quality of their learning experiences and academic performance. Although the Gulf has recently witnessed an increase in research on EMI, such research is rather scarce in Oman in particular from a critical approach. Through the focus on students’ perspectives, the study gives a voice to otherwise voiceless students whose insights have been largely ignored by language policy planners. For the study, a critical exploratory methodology was adopted where in-depth qualitative data were collected through a two-phase sequential mixed methods approach that consisted of a questionnaire distributed among 328 students studying in seven different faculties, 14 classroom observations and 14 students’ interviews. The findings suggest that the majority of participants either supported or accepted the EMI policy for pragmatic reasons based on the utilitarian function of English as a lingua franca in Oman and its requirement for future jobs. However, the participants acknowledged that they faced great difficulties in their study which was mainly caused by their insufficient language competence. It was also acknowledged that Arabic as a medium of instruction (AMI) would lead to a more comprehensive understanding of the subject matter and would most probably lead to better academic performance. Few participants found that the endorsement of EMI negatively influenced their ability to use Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) and marginalised the role of Arabic in their society. Overall, the implementation of EMI had a disempowering effect on students with low English language proficiency and had a negative psychological impact on them. Based on the findings, the EMI policy has been contested since it does not provide students with equal opportunities to study at tertiary level. In addition, the quality of education has been compromised in response to assumed market forces. Also, a strict EMI policy does not allow students to enhance their Arabic competence which is relevant for future employment. The pedagogic competence of teachers has also been questioned and gaps in the support system for students with language deficiencies have been identified. The study makes several recommendations that are expected to improve the learning conditions of students studying at tertiary level through EMI. The recommendations include the enhancement of English language teaching (ELT) in schools to better prepare students for their academic study in English. In addition, AMI courses should be offered in all faculties due to its support in gaining profound comprehension of the subject matter and its relevance for students’ future jobs. Teachers should be given the opportunity to develop their pedagogic competence that would allow them to use a student-centred approach in teaching through EMI or AMI. Finally, the college should increase students’ support in their study especially in EMI through creating support centres where they could resort to in case they face any difficulties in their study.
EdD in TESOL