English is the most spoken language in the world, which is why the education field is highly focused on implementing courses, pieces of training, and other options that allow students to learn it. According to researchers, EMI (English as a medium of instruction) is widely applied in non-native English-speaking countries to help tertiary students overcome international linguistic barriers (Yen et al., 2018). There are several reasons why this method is applied in educational institutions. Moreover, it is important to mention that Asia started moving towards EMI courses due to fast globalization and industrialization (Nguyen et al., 2018). The first aim is to contribute to more opportunities for the future workforce. Researchers highlight that bilingual students are more likely to acquire desired jobs due to the skill that is appreciated on the job market (Nguyen et al., 2017). Another key element is the international status of the English language that allows students to work abroad, travel, and have fewer difficulties working in international companies and operating in multicultural teams (Walkinshaw et al., 2017). However, several challenges have been observed in EMI implementations, which can affect multiple educational fields, including aviation.
EMI is used in academic environments as a tool for teaching non-native English speakers subjects in English. Due to the fast acceleration of competitiveness in the domain of higher education, multiple universities all over the world include EMI options within their curriculums (Barnawi, 2021). Vietnam is among the countries where English is becoming a more significant educational objective. According to researchers, Vietnam is still ranked low on the scale in terms of English proficiency (Quyen & Yen, 2019). EMI is specifically designed to provide students with the necessary knowledge to advance in English by actively using it in academic settings. Moreover, studies show that Vietnamese students view universities providing EMI courses as more reliable and possibly beneficial in the future in comparison to standard programs (Tran & Nguyen, 2018). While EMI is a widely spread methodology, the arguably less advanced predecessor was ESP.
As mentioned prior, the current EMI trends replaced another existing system widely used in universities and colleges worldwide. ESP (English for Specific Purposes) was implemented in the 1960s and significantly influenced the international academic environment in terms of a focus on English (Kırkgöz & Dikilitaş, 2018). However, ESP’s main objective was the language itself compared to EIM, which is centered around the teachings of multiple subjects using English. ESP is now considered a support mechanism for the EMI methodology, being illustrated as an addition rather than as the primary tool (Mancho-Barés & Arnó-Macià, 2017). Dearden (2018) also portrays English for specific purposes as a way of delivering EMI more efficiently. Multiple countries have chosen to replace the more outdated programs with current systems. Asia, in particular, has made a significant shift from the previously popular EMS to EMI in the last couple of years (Graham-Marr, 2017). There is little concern in terms of missing out on reliable teaching methods or valuable skills. According to Pham’s research (2019), examining Vietnamese universities has shown that EMI is a more efficient system compared to EMS. Such findings contribute to the significance of English as a medium of instruction in the academic field of Vietnam.
English as a Medium of Instruction: A Global Overview
Multiple universities globally are willing to contribute to their students becoming more proficient in English since it correlates with high career success and inclusion in international companies/environments. Such a phenomenon can even be observed in countries with past restrictions on both political and academic levels. For Example, China was notoriously focused on maintaining certain national traditions and minimizing the level of westernization. However, since the country started opening up politically and entering the global arena, English has become one of the main subjects in tertiary institutions (Fang, 2017). However, researchers have observed certain challenges within the Chinese language education policies that correlate with issues portrayed in multiple countries. Namely, Jiang et al. (2016) mention that teachers do not always consider the students’ needs when it comes to communication. This includes a lack of vocabulary that does not allow specific individuals to have a comfortable dialogue with their teachers due to a lack of English skills.
Japanese academic institutions also provide opportunities for language education through EMI. While multiple students report high satisfaction levels by attending such programs, challenges such as linguistic barriers and administrative difficulties may negatively impact the learning process (Bradford, 2016). Such findings appear to be linked with inefficient implementation of the program. Murata (2018) has conducted a survey that showed that first-year students in Japan are particularly prone to facing problems. This suggests that a lack of a solid base of English vocabulary is the leading negative factor in Japanese academic institutions with EMI options.
In Taiwan, the situation is similar in terms of challenges. Researchers refer to EMI implementations as factors that contribute to constraints in students’ choices regarding studying foreign languages (Lin, 2019). Moreover, Yu et al. (2020) have conducted research that highlighted a lack of follow-up examination of EMI success in tertiary education. While the industrialization of Taiwan contributed to the development of EMI courses in the system of high education, there are certain aspects that need to be addressed.
Brazil is another country focused on the development in the field of English learning. Furtado Guimarães and Kremer (2020) found that EMI implementation is linked to multiple challenges similarly to Croatia. Drljača Margić and Vodopija-Krstanović (2020) examined the correlation between EMI and low self-esteem in unprepared teachers. However, it is evident that, globally, there is an interest in including English as a significant domain within tertiary education. In Turkey, researchers mention that EMI correlates with higher job perspectives (Altay, 2020). Furthermore, evidence shows that 90% of Italian universities offer English courses (Costa & Mariotti, 2020). The literature review shows that EMI is linked to success for students, yet there are several challenges in its implementation.
English as a Medium of Instruction: Tertiary Education in Vietnam
As mentioned prior, English as a medium of instruction is widely applied in tertiary education. Based on the model suggested by Kaplan & Baldauf (2003), planning the implementation of a foreign language in education involves the inclusion of such levels as access, curriculum, method, employees, resources, community, and assessment. In terms of access, these are several possible issues that students meet. For example, Kamaşak et al. (2021) concluded that students with no English knowledge prior to EMI find it challenging to be fully integrated into the courses. This suggests that, while universities provide such opportunities, not all individuals find it necessarily accessible based on their prior knowledge. Pun and Jin (2021) also found a correlation between success and prior knowledge of English. Lee et al. (2021) refer to the inaccessible traits of EMI, which do not allow people with an initial lack of language vocabulary to be successful in the courses. Evidence shows that English as a medium of instruction is accessible for those with an existing base of knowledge and experience in linguistics.
The second criterion is the curriculum, which is another seemingly significant issue. Vietnamese universities are facing problems when applying EMI strategies on institutional levels. (Pham & Doan, 2020). Evidence shows that this approach is difficult to initiate due to its complexity (Yang et al., 2019). Universities have to balance between standard and EMI courses, which can be problematic in terms of changing the curriculum and adapting it. Moreover, some subjects appear to be more prone to failure. The scientific content is particularly tough to comprehend is students receive the information in a foreign language (Zumor & Qasem, 2019). Such aspects may lead to adverse outcomes both for students and institutions.
The method used to implement EMI strategies is volatile and does not consider certain factors. Tang (2020) mentions the structural imperfection of the system. First, the method does not include a prior assessment of existing English knowledge, which can cause problems for individuals taking the courses (Tran et al., 2020). Airey (2020) found the same correlations in students with no prior experience that the method of implementation does not take into consideration. A lack of planning is one of the critical problems affecting this domain (Dimova, 2020). Such conclusions examined through the literature review highlight the challenge in the methodology of applying EMI.
Based on existing literature, employees are either encountering challenges with EMI courses or are the challenges themselves. Arnó-Macià et al. (2020) highlight that teachers are constantly facing new demands as new strategies are being constructed. Belyaeva and Kuznetsova (2019) also mention the challenges for educators due to the fast globalization and demand for bilingual education. Furthermore, researchers refer to teachers as unprepared to be a part of the relatively advanced EMI requirements (Dang et al., 2021). It appears to be the case that while there is a need for in-depth English programs in tertiary education, the existing system implemented new measures without being ready for them personnel-wise. Lê (2018) also points out that there is a shortage of skilled English teachers in universities in Vietnam. This can be a significant challenge and lead to adverse outcomes. As Graham and Eslami (2019) concluded, educators who do not meet the required standards and are perceived as not skilled enough for EMI courses correlate with low levels of satisfaction among students. This encourages individuals to be more passive during lessons, skip classes, and pay less attention to the curriculum because of how they perceive the teachers. However, it is certain that educators themselves find challenges when it comes to applying the new measures to their teaching methods. This is concluded by Noorashid (2020), who found a link between quick, systematic changes in educational systems and a lack of satisfaction among the personnel.
There are not enough resources centered around the implementation of EMI in Vietnam universities. Researchers mention that academic personnel does not have the necessary tools to adequately plan and structurize their approach to bilingual policies (Dimova, 2020). There is also the aspect of community that does not widely use English as a second language. Hence, students only apply their theory into practice in class (Phuong & Nguyen, 2019). Also, multiple students can only exercise their experience abroad (Truong et al., 2020). Another essential aspect that needs to be considered is the assessment policies or their inexistence. Studies show that there is a lack of explicit policies regarding the results of EMI in terms of testing and examining the student’s acquired skills (Heron et al., 2021). Pérez Cañado (2020) mentions an urgent need for assessment tools to be put in place in order for educators to understand whether their EMI methods are successful or something needs to change. This will minimize the rate of students who go through specialized courses without significantly improving their level of English.
Language Education Policy: Aviation
As mentioned prior, multiple fields chose to apply certain EMI practices to provide students with a higher chance of finding jobs and having skills demanded on the job market. However, there are certain domains where knowing English is a must. Moreover, a lack of adequate linguistic skills can lead to major safety issues, accidents, and harmful events. Aviation is undoubtedly the domain where English is a primary concern (Mekkaoui & Mouhadjer, 2019). There are several reasons why this academic field is so concerned with providing adequate training. Pilots have to know how to communicate with each other and with dispatchers. Since a job in aviation often correlates with international flights, English is the primary tool people use to give each other helpful information. Moreover, it is essential to mention that speaking the language is just as important as listening and understanding. The current standard for assessing the level of English is EPTA (English Proficiency Test for Aviation). Prior to this method, pilots only had to prove they could memorize English words, while now, they have to show both written, verbal, and hearing skills (Lee & Choi, 2019). However, it is vital to point out that aviation is not a general educational field and requires the use of specific terminology based on international aviation standards.
The academic field related to aviation has to provide students with unique EMI methods. Researchers highlight the significance of having tailored courses for students studying aviation (Zhao et al., 2017). This creates a challenge for teachers who find it challenging to imply such a specific approach to EMI courses. Evidence shows that there is an informational gap in regards to students having adequate English skills if this is not their first language. Kim (2018) specifically mentions that aviation students are not as proficient in this language as expected from the international community. The same conclusion was highlighted by Alderson (2009), who refers to pilots as often being unable to meet international standards when being tested and examined in regards to their communication abilities. This is certainly the case for non-native English speakers since the complex terminology is more challenging for them to learn compared to, for example, American aviation students.
A study performed in the US based on individuals in the aviation academic field has shown similar results. Fowler et al. (2021) concluded that there is a lack of adequate assessment programs for international students in such programs. This can lead to future challenges related to the inability to clearly express instructions, thoughts, or problems that need to be verbalized when the safety of passengers/crews is at stake. Hazrati (2015) refers to the problem in which individuals with contrasting communication styles cannot express themselves fast and clearly enough. Such aspects lead to miscommunication, which can be a fatal factor that results in aviation accidents. Due to the high risks that correlate with a lack of communication in this field, implementing effective language learning policies is crucial for the mitigation of possible issues that may result in tragic outcomes.
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