Are Nordic students prepared foruniversity courses taught in English? : Comparing the Danish, Finnish, Norwegian and Swedish pre-university English language syllabuses with international requirements for university entry.
Abstract: Due to globalization and the importance of having a single lingua franca in academia, the number of international university courses taught in English—so called English medium instruction (EMI) has been steadily increasing. All students, national and international, are required to pass a certain linguistic threshold in order to be able to apply for a university program. Concerning Nordic universities, international students are required to take one of many international proficiency tests, such as the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) and the International English Language Test System (IELTS) in order to prove their English language competence. On the other hand, for Nordic students there is no such test, instead Nordic pre-university English syllabuses are assumed to meet the demands of English proficiency as set by the universities. There is some research that suggests that Nordic students are able to fully cope with EMI in higher education—in some cases, at the same level of proficiency as native-speakers. However, other research suggests that Nordic students are unable to cope with EMI due to insufficient academic language competence. Given this uncertainty regarding Nordic students' readiness for EMI, this study sets out to investigate the extent to which students are prepared for coping with EMI at a university level. This is achieved by analyzing the Danish, Finnish, Norwegian and Swedish pre-university English language syllabuses in terms of Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency (CALP) skills. By applying the same interpretive method used for Nordic syllabuses to international tests, and comparing the two sets of findings to the Common European Framework, this study is also able to highlight the extent of which Nordic syllabuses are able to prepare its students. Findings suggest that Nordic countries vary in how well they prepare students and what skills are taught in upper secondary school. Also, the study was able to highlight similarities and differences between the language competences referenced by the domestic syllabuses and those expected of international students.
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