English Learning Needs of Non-English Major Students of Higher Education

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English competence is very crucial in higher education context and it is one of quality indicators of a good university in Indonesia.To facilitate the students to acquire this competence, universities offer English as a compulsary subject in their curriculum, and it is offered in various numbers of credit units. Some offer it as a two-credit unit course, but some others offer it for more credits from 3 up to 24 credit hours. Different views related to English teaching in higher education is not only found among univerities, but also among study programs within the same university, such as the case of English as a general course program in Yogyakarta State University.

Yogyakarta State University (UNY) is trying hard to improve its quality to reach the status as a world class university. To reach this, an appropriate English program to prepare all its students to master English as an international language is a must. Good programs can only be developed following the steps of program development. Needs assessment is the first step in designing a program and it aims at finding students’ needs in order to determine goals and contents of the program (Richards, 2001, Nation & Macalister, 2010). Hutchinson & Waters classified needs into target needs (necessities, lacks, wants) and learning needs. Nation & Macalister (2010) propose the terms present knowledge to refer to lack, required knowledge to refer to necessities, both of which are included in the objective needs, and subjective needs to refer to wants.

Learning needs refers to what students need to do in the learning process of English. Needs assessment is the process for identifying programmatic needs that must be addressed in designing a curriculum or an instructional program. There are two approaches in assessing needs, the perceived needs and empirical needs approach. The perceived needs approach is a way of finding learning needs by referring to theories or experts while the empirical needs approach is done through collecting information from the program users or related stake holders (Richards, 2001).

Ideally these two approaches go hand in hand to picture clearly and accurately what students in a certain context really need in their study. That is why needs assessment starts from reviewing literature before conducting a survey. The result of the needs assessment then can be used as the bases in determining the goals and contents of the program. English used in higher education is commonly called English for academic purposes or EAP (Hyland, 2006). EAP is needed by all higher education students in their academic life since English has become the language of science and technology and academic publication. More and more books, references, journal articles are written in English, and this requires students to master English in order to read them (McKay, 2012: 34).

EAP at its first development was more focused on academic discourses, which are used in certain academic fields such as law, medicine, economics, engineering, etc. In the later development EAP includes not only academic discourses but also all activities students do in their learning, such as listening to lectures, participating in discussions and tutorials, reading textbooks or articles, writing essays, doing exams problems, and even more specific learning activities such as asking questions, making notes and summaries. Related to this development, Hyland (2006) classifies EAP into two, EGAP (English for General Academic Purposes) and ESAP (English for Specific Academic Purposes).

EAP is what students of higher education need, and this has been studied by many experts such as Richards, Nations, Chaudron et al. According to Nation (2013: 56), students learning English for academic purposes need English language skills in order to develop their study skills. Students need listening skill (note taking), speaking (presenting a prepared talk, taking part in discussion, following discussion, and discussing academic reading), reading (note taking, reading academic texts, using library sources, and using internet sources), writing (coping with written assignments, understanding and applying the classic research articles format, understanding referencing conventions, avoiding plagiarism, developing skills in computer use such as word processing, spreadsheets, library and journal searches, referencing programs, and writing emails), language learning (coping with technical vocabulary and increasing vocabulary size), and the last one is skills related to university requirements (understanding attendance, work, and assessment requirements) (Nation, 2013: 56). Based on these experts, there is so much to master in EAP since it requires a high level of English proficiency. Nation (2013) further states that in order to be able to use English for academic purposes, students need to master at least 5000 word families, or 8000 word families is better, plus academic words. Skills proposed by Nation (2013), afore mentioned are those needed by students learning in English speaking countries, such as the US, UK, Australia, or New Zealand.

Do students in Indonesia need the same skills? If so, it requires a really serious big English program, and therefore, it can hardly be achieved with only a two-credit course such as that of English as a general course program in UNY. Among those skills, what are the most needed by Indonesian students to facilitate their learning? To answer this question, this study was conducted.

Name : Jamilah

Source : https://media.neliti.com/media/publications/171757-EN-english-learning-needs-of-non-english-ma.pdf