EAP Controversy Still Unresolved

OCA Chinese Section Editor Flora Ziyun Lu reports on the controversy regarding the EAP requirement.

On Oct. 18th, seventeen FOS students from the Class of 2020 at NYU Shanghai submitted a petition to remove the English for Academic Purposes (EAP) course as a language requirement for all EAP students.

The EAP course is a part of NYU Shanghai’s core curriculum, as a language requirement for students who do not take Chinese language classes. “The EAP course is designed to help [students] develop the high-level language, communication, and critical thinking skills [they] need to be successful in an English-speaking university. While the primary emphasis is on speaking and listening, [students] will also practice reading and writing,” is the the course’s description.

“The incentive for us to initiate this petition was our dissatisfaction with the existing EAP course as well as the responses we previously got from Office of Academic Affairs,” one of the authors of the petition Xirui Zhao said. “Although we don’t deny that we may be loathing it for its decreasing our grades or over-consuming our time.”

“Before submitting the petition, we also conducted a survey among non-FOS students who are taking or have taken the course and we found similar results.” Regarding the data collected by the survey, Zhao explained that, the responses mainly come from class of 2020; 63% of 51 non-FOS EAP students surveyed found EAP “undesirable” and 65% deemed the course “not sufficiently rewarding”.

“We have consulted the leadership, the Dean, Academic Affairs and faculty members from the EAP Program before we made the decision that EAP would still remain a required course,” Joanna Waley-Cohen, NYU Shanghai Provost, said with regard to the process of decision had gone through and adjustments would be made accordingly. “EAP courses have been redesigned for next semester, with substantial input from science and other faculty members.”

“What we requested in the petition was a general abolition of EAP course as a language requirement instead of some improvements of the FOS EAP course next semester. Our incomplete survey showed that this was not our particular struggle with FOS EAP but there existed a universal struggle against the poorly-designed program,” said Zhao in response to the course redesign next semester. “The ‘content-based language teaching’ attempted to focus on both content teaching and language teaching but accomplished neither, I think, at least this is the current situation.”

“If we separate content teaching from this language course, I think my learning experience of EAP could be described as rewarding. I took two semesters of EAP; one was about business, and the other was about news and the media. The courses have taught me a lot of interesting concepts and provided me good opportunities to explore these two fields, such as social entrepreneurship practice and video editing skills. Academic seminar discussion and presentation skills seem a bit weaker than what learned about the topic.” Sophomore Evelyn affirmed her gains from the EAP courses when she retrospect her learning experience.

“From my own experience as a freshman who is new to the English academic environment, I think GPS recitation has done better than EAP in accommodating me into this English-speaking university,” said freshman George. “The necessity of a language course preparing us for future academics does exist. I sincerely hope that the course redesign could address these issues.”

Similar ideas are reflected in the petition, which writes “the impacts of courses such as Writing as Inquiry and POH surpass EAP in terms of English language skills and knowledge.” Zhao also suggested some potential alternatives of EAP courses that they considered as more reasonable and effective. “One possible alternative is optional English language education program offered by Academic Resources Center. Our previous survey has shown that 68% of all 68 students surveyed agree ungraded ARC sessions focusing on academic English might be a better solution.”

As for the role of EAP course, Provost Waley-Cohen explained that, though EAP and Chinese are both language requirements at NYU Shanghai, it’s inappropriate to equate or compare one with the other. The habits and skills learned in EAP courses could be transferred to communication through various channels, which made EAP not solely a language course.

This article was written by Flora Ziyun Lu. Please send an email to managing@oncenturyavenue.com to get in touch.
Photo Credit: NYU Shanghai

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