EAP, the lack of

I first taught EAP back in 2002 when it was all the rage. We had few books but loads of foundation and pre-MA students who all needed to be prepared for the demands of studying in an English uni.

The books included the basics of writing essays from researching to topic statements and referencing. They also had stuff about seminars and sot things like planning your week, month and year. The latter seemed a bit childish and never went down well, despite the fact that it was really needed.

So, roll forward 10 years and I know don’t teach EAP but do teach courses in English. At one place, I do a speaking-based course and a grammar one. I guess the second is a language support class in a way as it’s for A1/A2 students. the other is for B1+. In the last place I worked we also had English-based classes using a CUP ESP book but, like now, some students just didn’t have the level. Eventually an ELT support class was set up to push low levels up a few grades. It was a typical ELT class with a horseshoe, copies of Inside Out and games.

Now, to me I think an EAP class is needed in both situations but not a EAP course as a course but an extra support course which blends in with current courses. Thus, it helps them prepare for essays coming up soon, works on presentation skills for next month’s presentations etc. This way, it’s relevant.

I’m all for EAP but when so many many schools and unis in France are delivering classes in English, is it needed? The PPT is often created and delivered by locals in a mix of L1 and L2 so they only need very basic English. Perhaps it would be best to just teach the subjects in the L1 and have one ‘Eng for…’ class. Yet, that’s what we did last year and it failed as student’s didn’t have the right level. Or maybe the English route is best of putting  students on a one year foundation courses and only letting them start the degree when they get a 6 on IELTS. After all, what’s the point in them attending classes in English if they are only IELTS 4 or below and busting a gut in their EAP class to try and get them up to a 6.


3 thoughts on “EAP, the lack of

  1. Lots here, Phil. Fundamental questions about what EAP is and how we should teach it. Does it stand alone as ‘study skills preparation’? (I don’t think it should). Can it be tied to and emerge from students’ academic departments? (If logistics allow, it probably should – it thus approaches a CLIL type model, increasingly common on university in-sessional courses). Can EAP be taught to students at IELTS 4.0? (Depends on your view of EAP. Olwyn Alexander says yes – see the BALEAP PIM presentations on low-level EAP – http://www.scoop.it/t/the-eap-practitioner/p/1948558819/eap-how-low-can-we-go). If we see EAP as more than just ‘words and grammar’, then I think it still fulfils an important function, even in the kind of context you write of. EAP teachers can raise awareness of text types and genres, of differences across disciplines, of information structure (e.g. author vs info. prominence) – things that subject teachers may well be implicitly aware of but not explicitly able to explain to students in such a way that will impact their writing. This can all take place in parallel with academic studies, however, (time and resources willing). Cheers.

    • Hi Steve,

      Sounds all wonderful to me but when I taught it to foundation/pre-MA:pre-MBA I have to say that at least 80% just couldn’t be bothered. They’d been sent by rich parents and just weren’t mature enough at 18 to see the point. It used to really annoy me and I failed several people and many failed themselves by not attending or doing terrible presentations. Yet, if they got IELTS 5.5 they probably went to university.

      This was a 9 month intensive programme though consisting of 6 hours of English for… courses. As it turned out though, we were actually teaching them more than some of the uni courses did.

      A few years ago I took an evening course at one uni and got friends with lots of exchange students. All of them were ‘advised’ to go to an English support class but didn’t why? They didn’t have the time but mainly saw it as a waste of time. I don’t think it was but it just din’t fin in with the academic nature of their content classes which they more or less understood or got help understanding. I remember that we natives had one like it too where they taught us to work together and do formal presentations. It was horrible as it was really childish. I think that is a big problem. I might know the class is important, you might too but showing the students it and delivering it in a way that fits in with the style of the uni, well, that’s a tough one. Actually, that was the reason I did my MA topic on uni discussion classes.

  2. hmm original title is what brought me here -t ‘Defence of TOEIC, attack of price of ELF exams’, be interested in that post 🙂

    regarding this post for a lot of the French context i agree that students don’t see the point of a lot of the writing focus in traditional UK based EAP. they see speaking as the pinnacle of English language use. rarely do French students spend more than a semester if they do go to a US/UK/anglophone uni/college.

    certainly at two unis where i work the courses are adapted to getting a good score on TOEFL tests as opposed to EAP writing concerns.


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