English for learning other subjects in English
English for Academic Purposes (EAP) for low
The Medium of instruction in schools and at Universities is
gradually turning to the English medium. One major problem is the lack
of competent English teachers in Universities. However, Colleges of
Education over the past couple of years have been producing teachers who
can teach subjects in English
have now turned slowly and gradually to English medium instruction in
schools and in the Faculties of Arts that do not have English medium in
certain universities. Some universities, due to two major practical
problems, are still pondering over the issue: one, potential problems of
students with low proficiency levels in having to study in English
medium and two, predicaments of teachers who are not competent enough to
teach their subjects in English.
In the school system, measures have been taken to overcome the second
problem, i.e. the issue of teachers. Therein, Colleges of Education have
been producing teachers who can teach subjects in English over the past
couple of years. But in the case of the university system, in certain
universities, the measures that have been taken to empower teachers to
teach in English have failed due to various reasons: one major reason is
teachers not willing to learn from peers who have been chosen to conduct
This led to high absenteeism that eventually resulted in total
collapse of the program. However, the issue we intend to discuss here is
pertinent to student problems. How to teach English to our students to
learn other subjects in English? How to teach English for academic
English for Academic Purposes (EAP) does not mean that it is confined
to tertiary or higher education only. It is related to Grade six social
studies, science, etc as well. It is a branch of English for Specific
Purposes (ESP). EAP enables students to learn other subjects in English
as English is taught not as an end in itself but as a means to an end.
In other words, the focus is not to teach English but to use English as
a tool to learn other subjects in English.
The structure of the suggested model
Step 1 - Speech-fronted program to build confidence
The model I propose here has many steps into it. The first is the
Speech-fronted program to develop student confidence.
English learning should be an interesting experience.
This has been discussed previously at length through a number of
And the other steps are devoted for teaching basic sentence
structures in English i.e. Active Voice and Passive Voice.
I have selected Active and Passive Voice structures as I consider
them as the spinal cord of written language from which changes stem and
additions and other derivations are carried out.
Teaching the S+V (+O) is necessary and done in many programs but one
of the differences here is that we propose not to teach the structures
overtly but in an indirect way. The time frame given in the diagram is
what I initially designed for the undergraduates with the lowest and
intermediate proficiency levels in the Faculty of Arts, University of
Colombo but is flexible for other student groups of different English
There are 12 Active Voice sentence patterns with four basic
categories: they are Simple, Continuous, Perfect and Perfect Continuous
with each category having present, past and future sentence patterns.
Passive Voice has eight sentence patterns as Simple, Continuous and
Perfect with Continuous form having only present and past and others
with present, past and future three patterns.
The model proposed here has five steps in it. In the steps discussed
below, what are planned to teach at each step are these sentence
Course planners can decide the number of sentence patterns to be
taught in one step, so that the number of steps can be extended as per
But the number of steps for the model must not be curtailed as it
might give unnecessary burden to students when trying out to teach many
sentence patterns at a time in one step.
Step 2 - Teaching Active Voice with Reading and Writing via group
The second step focuses on teaching academic English through reading
and writing only. And the major feature is using group work to carry out
the tasks. No individual work is demanded from students as they are used
to group activities throughout the first step.
They have confidence built in the first step to speak in English
which is extended to the second step as well, yet the focus is on
reading and writing only.
Herein, small paragraphs related to their subjects are chosen with
simple activities such as underlining the verb and making sentences
using the underlined verbs as exercises at the initial level.
The difficulty level of the activities is increased slowly and
gradually with reinforcement as the main objective.
In each step, vocabulary support is given below the passage when
students feel the need to know the meaning of words that appear in the
paragraph they just read. Therein, only 3 -4 vocabulary items are
explained in relation to the context.
Step 3 - Teaching Active Voice with Reading and Writing through
activities that require individual performance
The main feature of step three is the arrangement of activities to be
carried out at individual level.
Herein, the students who have been familiarized to work in groups are
slowly trained to work individually. Unlike in the first step
(Speech-fronted program) and the second step where cooperation is
promoted and not competition by means of group activities, here students
are rewarded for individual performance.
Still the focus is on teaching Active Voice sentence structures via
reading and writing activities only.
Herein again, there must be reinforcement of what has been taught in
the form of repetition of the same grammar item in a variety of
activities. Comparatively advanced paragraphs in terms of vocabulary and
sentence length are given to students. At the same time, paragraph
length can be increased or two, three short paragraphs can be given.
Step 4 - Teaching Active Voice involving all four skills via both
individual and group activities
Through this step, students are given activities related to all four
skills-listening, speaking, reading and writing, yet the main aim is to
teach Active Voice sentence structures. By this time, the third and/or
the last category of Active Voice sentence patterns (Perfect and Perfect
Continuous) may be left to teach.
Herein, the activities need to be designed to involve both group and
Step 5 - Teaching Passive Voice
This is the first step to teach Passive Voice sentences. By now, it
is expected that students have a fairly good understanding of the
occurrence of the main verb in a sentence with a suitable noun/noun
phrase/noun clause. They may not be able to recognize objects,
adjectives and adverbs/adverbials, yet will be with an understanding
that there are other ‘elements’ that appear in a sentence.
This step can be used to teach all eight Passive Voice sentence
patterns or some more steps can be evolved to cover some of the Passive
Voice sentence patterns.
This depends on the students’ ‘absorption’ level which should be
observed through the previous steps.
Important features of this model to teach EAP
The concept of building, developing and sustaining confidence runs
through all the steps of the entire model as an overarching theme.
1. Teaching only one grammatical item (sentence pattern) at a time.
2. Exposing students to different uses of the same grammatical item
for a considerable period through a variety of activities.
3. This would give sufficient time for reinforcement.
4. The taught/used grammar item is not explained when carrying out
the activities as a simultaneous process in terms of labels and names
given to it (No deductive grammar teaching).
The writer is lecturer in English Language, ELTU, University of