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Intensive English Language Program for Overseas Students at Malaysian Private Tertiary Education Institutions

Oktavia R. Nurtjahja Intensive English Program School of Pre-University Studies Curtin University of Technology Sarawak Campus Malaysia oktavia.r@curtin.edu.my

Noraisikin Sabani Intensive English Program School of Pre-University Studies Curtin University of Technology Sarawak Campus Malaysia noraisikin.s@curtin.edu.my

INTENSIVE ENGLISH LANGUAGE PROGRAM FOR OVERSEAS STUDENTS AT MALAYSIAN PRIVATE TERTIARY EDUCATION INSTITUTIONS

ABSTRACT As Malaysia is positioning itself to be a regional center of educational excellence, efforts are taken to recruit international students from other countries in the region to pursue international tertiary education, with English as the language of instruction. It is an acceptable fact that most countries within the region place English as a foreign language, thus, the majority of students coming from these countries do not possess the command of English language required to study at a tertiary level. Therefore, as an international education provider, Malaysia has to cater for this need. This paper aims to highlight the competitive advantages and limitations that Malaysia has in terms of providing the English language program that overseas students need. It also explores possible strategies to overcome the limitations. The discussion is focused on Malaysian private tertiary education institutions. It mainly stemmed from a critical analysis of Malaysian education system as well as the socio and cultural aspects of Malaysia. It also incorporates data from informal discussions with English teachers and international students.

I.

INTRODUCTION

The importance of English in this globalized world can no longer be denied. It is now the language used by people from all over the world to discuss business, science, technology and research (Tan 2005). To be a global citizen, one needs to possess the command of English language. Not surprisingly, the use of English has also penetrated the education field. Another challenge posed by globalization is the increasing importance of knowledge in fostering economic growth. For this purpose, tertiary education plays a very important role since it is a key factor in producing human resources’ capacity through regeneration of research and innovation (Yahaya & Abdullah 2003). As cited in Abdullah and Chan (2003), the alarming number of graduates who had problems getting employment was attributed to their poor command of English. It is believed that a graduate who also possesses a good command of English has a competitive advantage to find his/her place in the industrial world. Thus, international tertiary education sector is now a thriving industry. In the past, students from this region, wishing to get tertiary education in English, had to go abroad to countries that provided international education. Rudner (1997 cited in Mazzarol & Soutar 2001), for instance, listed US, France, Russia, the UK, Germany, Japan, Australia and Canada as the top eight countries that had attracted 95% of foreign students. The data from UNESCO revealed that the majority of foreign students came from Asia, making them the biggest contributors of foreign students since 1970s. Malaysia, for instance, has been known to be one of the leading contributors of

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international students, particularly to English speaking countries such as USA, UK, Australia, Canada and New Zealand (Mazzarol & Soutar 2001). The big number of market for international education, estimated to reached US $27 billion (Rudner 1997 cited in Mazzarol & Soutar 2001), as well as the increasing demand for higher education in Malaysia, which will increase to 600,000 students in the year 2020 (Blight, Davis & Olsen 2000), prompted Malaysian government to restructure the Malaysian higher education sector in the 1990s. This is to ensure that Malaysian higher education institutions can produce a...
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