Students and teachers’ views on factors that hinder or facilitate science students in mastering english for academic purposes (eap) in Rwanda higher education
Mironko, Beatrice Karekezi Uwamutara
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This study explores second and third year students' and teachers‟ views on factors that hinder or facilitate the mastery of English for Academic Purposes (EAP) in the Science and Engineering Technology Higher Institutions of learning in Rwanda (KIST) and seeks to establish the extent to which the current programme meets the needs of the students. This is done by highlighting a whole range of teacher and student perspectives on the EAP programme. Two key requirements invite students to write their academic assignments in the form of research proposals and research project reports. In order to help them perform well in their field subjects, KIST introduced a department of English with a General English Programme under the umbrella of the then School of Language Studies (SORAS) in 1997. The department‟s first assigned mission was to teach English to students in all departments in a bid to support and encourage them to cope with their field specific courses which are taught in English. Rwanda‟s National Council for Higher Education (2007), on language teaching and learning, states that the trio, that is Kinyarwanda (the Mother Tongue and national language) and English and French (as foreign languages), should be taught at primary, secondary and higher iv education levels in order to reconcile the divide between Rwandan returnees (who had lived abroad for many decades) and locals. It is in this context that KIST, one of the institutions of higher learning, adopted the bilingual policy to cater to students‟ needs to learn both French and English as media of academic communication. However, after Rwanda‟s integration into the East African Community and the Commonwealth, English has been officially adopted as the medium of instruction in all schools and higher institutions of education. That is why there was a sudden language shift in 2006 from French to English as a medium of instruction at KIST. French and Kinyarwanda are now merely taught as subjects. The motive behind the move was to cater for Rwanda‟s needs to fully participate in the economic community of East African Community in general and in the global economy in particular. The move drastically affected students‟ ability to read and write English in their respective disciplines. The move also affected lecturers of other speciality areas. To avert the obvious challenges emanating from this sudden shift in language policy, the Institute introduced the English for Specific Purposes (ESP) and English for Academic Purposes (EAP) programmes under the then KIST School of Language Studies (SOLAS) and the KIST Language Centre. However, appropriate instructional materials for such courses have not been easily available. Given this situation, English teachers have had to create their own materials rather than the existing generalised and pre-packaged language teaching materials. As a result, students‟ specific needs for induction into a scientific writing community at tertiary level have rarely been met. It is against this background that the study seeks to investigate factors that are facilitating and the mastery of EAP. The study operates on post-colonial/post-structuralist theoretical perspectives. These were founded on the analytical framework that is guided by thematic and/or conceptual underpinnings of language policy in the post-colonial Africa. Thus, English Language Teaching (ELT), developed into v English as a second and additional language that is multi-semiotic and multi-modality in EAP and science genres, focusing mostly on its academic literacy, identity, ideology, power and agency, as well as its investment in language teaching and learning and the scientific community practice.