Hong-kong learners

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Journal of English for Academic Purposes 6 (2007) 3–17


Why EAP is necessary: A survey of Hong Kong tertiary students
Stephen EvansÃ, Christopher Green
English Department, Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hung Hom, Kowloon, Hong Kong

Abstract This article revisits a question posed by Hyland[(1997). Is EAP necessary? A survey of Hong Kong undergraduates. Asian Journal of English Language Teaching, 7, 77–99] in the Hong Kong higher education context: Is EAP necessary? The article presents the overall findings of a large-scale, multifaceted investigation into the language problems experienced by Cantonese-speaking students at Hong Kong’s largest English-medium university. Baseline datafor the study were derived from a questionnaire survey of almost 5000 undergraduates from all 26 departments in the university. In terms of the number of student participants, the investigation is one of the largest ever undertaken in the field of EAP research. The findings from the student survey are illuminated by data from interviews with students and discussions with and surveys of departmentalprogramme leaders. The findings indicate that a significant percentage of the subjects experience difficulties when studying content subjects through the medium of English. The evidence suggests that students’ problems centre on academic writing (particularly style, grammar and cohesion) and academic speaking (particularly grammar, fluency and pronunciation). The findings also indicate that students’receptive and productive vocabularies are generally inadequate. Academic listening appears to present students with fewer difficulties than writing, speaking and reading. The article concludes by discussing the implications of the findings for EAP course and materials design in light of the changing tertiary-education landscape in Hong Kong. r 2006 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Keywords:English for academic purposes; Academic literacy; Needs analysis; Course design; Hong Kong

ÃCorresponding author. Tel.: +852 2766 7564; fax: +852 2334 6569.

E-mail addresses: egsevans@polyu.edu.hk (S. Evans), egchrisg@polyu.edu.hk (C. Green). 1475-1585/$ - see front matter r 2006 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved. doi:10.1016/j.jeap.2006.11.005

4 S. Evans, C. Green / Journalof English for Academic Purposes 6 (2007) 3–17

1. Introduction In the past two decades, tertiary education in Hong Kong has undergone a period of remarkable change and growth. Driven by substantial increases in public funding, particularly during the 1990s, the percentage of school leavers able to gain places on degree or sub-degree programmes has risen from 2% to 18%, while the number ofgovernmentfunded universities has risen from two to seven. This period has also witnessed an expansion of post-secondary education generally, with an ever-growing number of colleges and institutes offering various kinds of vocational, technical and professional courses at certificate and diploma levels. As in other post-colonial contexts, the main medium of instruction and assessment in Hong Kong’sinstitutions of higher education is English. The rapid development of tertiary education since the mid-1980s has inevitably been accompanied by increasing concern among academics and administrators about the problems experienced by many Cantonese-speaking undergraduates when studying academic subjects through the medium of a second language (Gow, Kember, & Chow, 1991; Li, Leung, & Kember, 2001; Lucaset al., 1997). One consequence of this has been the increasing use of Cantonese by university teachers to present and discuss English-language instructional materials in lectures, seminars and tutorials (Balla & Pennington, 1996; Harris, 1989; Pennington & Balla, 1996; Walters & Balla, 1998), thus mirroring classroom language practices in the unreformed English-medium secondary stream before the...
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