English? A need? A Closer Examination of the Perceptions of Mechatronics Undergraduates at a Vocational University on the Need for English Language Skills for Academic Purposes

Ranasuriya, D. ,  Herath, S.


Due to the demands of the academic context and the workplace, two branches of ELT, English for General Purposes (EGP) and English for Specific Purposes (ESP) emerged. Over the years, EGP was famously practiced in the ELT classrooms, but of late, ESP has created an immense interest among ELT practitioners. At the University of Vocational Technology (Univotec) undergraduates are offered an English module titled “Communication Skills” to provide language assistance to undergraduates reading for the degrees offered in the English medium. However, this has not been successful and the number of students who dropout as they are incapable of continuing studies in the English medium is high. The current study was carried out on the evidence that the current English language module offered at Univotec fails to meet the academic language needs of its graduates, as a large portion of its content consists of EGP.  The core of the study is a Needs Analysis (NA) carried out to critically explore the needs of the undergraduates of Univotec and to explore possibilities of redesigning the English language program in close alignment with the needs of the stakeholders in the field of Mechatronics. The sample comprised undergraduates reading for the Bachelor of Technology (B.Tech) in Mechatronics due to its  popularity  over  other  degree programs. The study explored the skills that the undergraduates consider important to reach their academic goals.  The recurring themes that emerged from the data suggested that a curriculum with a blend of ESP and EGP would better suit the needs of the undergraduates.  A strong recommendation could be made to revise the current curriculum to better suit the requirements of both the academic context and the target career. Incorporating basic grammar in the first year and advancing it as the years progress, and incorporating sub skills of the four language skills: reading, writing, speaking, and listening are recommended.

Keywords: English for Specific Purposes (ESP), English for General Purposes (EGP), Needs Analysis (NA), language skills, stakeholders, vocational studies