Students Needs in Learning English in the Medical Faculty of Muhammadiyah University at Malang

During recent years, English has increasingly become important for learning many subjects especially at the university level. Students of scientific and technical subjects depend largely on text books written in English. It is also the case with students of the medical faculty of Muhammadiyah University at Malang (MUM). Suitable English course materials that meet the students’ needs are considered necessary.The English course which is offered in the medical faculty of MUM begin with some assumptions rather than based on the students’ needs analysis; therefore, the students have poor or low motivation towards English program. In developing English materials for special purposes such as the ones for medical students, it is, of course, necessary to determine the English materials that emphasize the students’ needs. According to Richards and Rodgers (1986), the material is the first component of the level of design in the instructional system.

Furthermore, they claim that it deals with how learners are expected to learn in the system and with how teachers are expected to teach with respect to a particular set of instructional materials organized according to the criteria of a syllabus. In line with Richards and Rodgers’ statement, Dick and Carey (1985) mention that in order to have effective instructional materials, there must be a match between students and materials. According to Richards (1990), there are three purposes of doing needs analysis. The first purpose is providing mechanism for obtaining a wider range of input into the content, design, and implementation of language programs through involving such people as learners, teachers, administrators, and employers in the process. Then, identifying specific language needs that can be addressed in developing objectives and content for a language program becomes the second purpose.

The next is providing data that can serve as the basis for reviewing and evaluating an existing program. It can be concluded that doing needs survey is very beneficial. Definitions of needs vary depending on the purpose of the analysis, but all take the learner as a focus of analysis. Lawson (1979) defines need as ‘something that is recognized’ but it is not in any sense discovered, and its existence derives from whatever criteria are thought to be relevant in making the diagnoses. This implies that in order to recognize need one would have to carry out some kind of assessment or evaluation of the existing situation and the diagnosis of assessment results would reveal some deficiency. Hutchinson and Waters (1987) make a distinction between ‘target needs’ and ‘learning needs’.

The target need refers to what the learner needs to do in the target situation and the learning need refers to what the learner needs to do in order to learn. They further subcategorized target needs into (1) necessities: what the learner has to know in order to function effectively in the target situation, (2) lacks: the discrepancy between necessity and what the learner already knows, (3) wants: what the learner actually wants to learn or what he/she feels he/she needs. The learner’s wants may or may not conform with those perceived by the teachers or course designers. The learning need is equated to the route of learning. This concerns things such as how learners learn the language, why they learn it, what resources are available to help them learn. Altman (1980) explains types of learner needs based on individual differences within the framework of learner-centered language teaching. According to Altman (1980), learners should be placed properly based on their age, level of language proficiency, maturity, time available.

This requires the institution to make flexible educational arrangements to allow all learners to access to learning that is appropriate to the types of needs they have. In this way, the content and mode of learning will be influenced by the options available at their disposal. The type of modifications of learning resources are made accordingly to meet the kinds of individual differences with regard to time, goals, mode, or expectations of learning. Given the background, i.e the lack of suitable teaching materials relevant to the needs of the students of the medical faculty of MUM and the important status of English in the school curriculum, this study will, of course, be primarily conducted on that basis. In other words, this study has two purposes: to gather information about the needs of medical students of MUM toward learning English and to know the most fundamental needs of medical faculty toward learning English. Further, this study is focused mainly on the topics about students’ needs in learning English.

This study is limited to medical-faculty students, especially the third year students of 2001/2002 who have experienced learning English to elicit some information on their needs. Based on the above discussion, two questions are formulated as follows: (1) What are the needs of the medical students of MUM toward learning English? and (2) What is the most dominant need of the medical students of MUM toward learning English?. The results of this survey will function as the main data for determining suitable materials for medical students. Therefore, needs analysis does not end in itself.

Name : Langgeng Budianto*

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