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 Table of Contents  
ORIGINAL ARTICLE
Year : 2015  |  Volume : 3  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 53-58

Attitudes of Libyan dental and medical students toward the use of English language as a medium of instruction


1 Department of English Language and Translation Studies, Faculty of Arts, Sebha University, Sebha, Libya
2 Department of Periodontology and Oral Implantology, Faculty of Dentistry, Sebha University, Sebha, Libya
3 Practicing Teaching Assistant, Faculty of Dentistry, Sebha University, Sebha, Libya

Date of Web Publication22-Jun-2015

Correspondence Address:
Khadeja Mojtaba Ahmed
Sebha University, Sebha
Libya
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/2348-1471.159188

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  Abstract 

Introduction: The use of English as a medium of instruction in the medical and dental schools in Sebha University, Libya has been officially acknowledged for more than 10 years ago; however, given the fact that Libyan students begin their English language learning at a relatively late age, some of them might face difficulties in their academic studies. Furthermore, the question of whether or not Libyan students prefer to be taught in English only has not been answered yet. Objectives: This study aims to find out whether Libyan medical and dental students prefer the use of English as a medium of instruction during their study at Sebha University or not. Methods: A total of 254 Libyan medical and dental students were surveyed. The participants were administered a questionnaire comprised of 18 multiple-choice questions. At the end of the questionnaire the students were asked to write a short paragraph about themselves. The responses of the participants were analyzed and compared using Chi square test. We assume that teaching core subjects in English only might be challenging to students since they lack proficiency in English as a result of learning English at a late age. Results: The results of this study show that the majority of the students surveyed prefer that core subjects be taught in both Arabic and English as this can facilitate the understanding of the material and enables them to improve their English language skills at the same time. Hence, the results of the study support our assumption. Conclusion: The present study provides an insight into the way Libyan medical and dental students view the use of English language as medium of instruction. According to students' views, the use of both students' native and target languages in teaching core subjects can be beneficial in terms of materials comprehension and language skills improvement.

Keywords: Dentistry, English, instruction, medicine, medium


How to cite this article:
Ahmed KM, Peeran SW, Qasem Ahmed MA. Attitudes of Libyan dental and medical students toward the use of English language as a medium of instruction. Dent Med Res 2015;3:53-8

How to cite this URL:
Ahmed KM, Peeran SW, Qasem Ahmed MA. Attitudes of Libyan dental and medical students toward the use of English language as a medium of instruction. Dent Med Res [serial online] 2015 [cited 2020 Jul 11];3:53-8. Available from: http://www.dmrjournal.org/text.asp?2015/3/2/53/159188


  Introduction Top


The use of English language as a medium of instruction has increased significantly in many parts around the globe. The fact that English is currently spoken as a global language made it essential that many sciences be taught in English in countries where English is not the native language. This allows the students to fit easily within any program abroad they join in the future. The current trend at the higher institutions is that English, as being an international language, must be the language of instruction for many specialties. This trend arises from the positive reputation of English as being the dominant language in the world. [1] In Libya, English is considered a foreign language and only recently, Libyan learners were able to learn it at schools at the age of 11. Teaching English in Libya was abandoned in the last decade for political reasons. This had a negative impact on the use of English as a foreign language in Libya. However, even when English was allowed to be taught in public schools, students were not able to speak it fluently. Interestingly, at the higher academic institutions, it was decided that medical and dentistry schools use English as the formal language of instruction. Arabic, however, was used as well to teach general noncore subjects. This trend towards using English in teaching enabled students to not only use English for academic purposes, but it also helped them to improve their language communication skills. After all, when students decide to pursue their graduate studies abroad, they will likely face no difficulties in studying in English since they are already familiar with the language in the academic context. However, given the fact that students' English language proficiency might not be high enough to enable them to fully master the core subjects, we assume that teaching these subjects in English only can be a challenge for the students. For this reason, the study seeks to explore the attitudes of Libyan undergraduate students at both the Medical and Dentistry Schools at Sebha University regarding the use of English as a medium of instruction in the core courses.

Literature review

The use of English as a medium of instruction has received increasing attention recently in the academia. A number of studies focused on the attitudes of learners regarding the use of English as a medium of instruction. For example, a study was conducted by Chang [2] in which he examined the attitudes of 6 teachers and 370 undergraduate students in order to evaluate the use of English as a medium of instruction for content courses at a northern private university in Taiwan. Chang sought to examine students' attitudes in terms of a number of factors: Students' attitudes about the use of English as a medium of instruction, the influence of using English as a medium of instruction on the students, the problems in students' comprehension of English and students' English learning needs. The results of the data collected from the students showed that despite students' statement of their incomplete comprehension of the courses taught in English, they stated that they were able to develop their English language skills, particularly that of listening. Another study was done by Jensen and Thøgersen [3] to investigate the use of English as a medium of instruction among lecturers at Danish University. Since the use of English as a medium of instruction has been a debate in Denmark, having different competing positions towards the issue, the study aimed to explore lecturers' attitudes about the different negative and positive positions regarding the use of English as a medium of instruction. In addition, the lecturers were prompted to evaluate their English language skills. In this study, the researchers compared a number of variables with respect to lecturers' various backgrounds. These included occupation, age, gender and load of teaching native and English languages. The results of the study revealed that there seems to be some worry among lecturers regarding the increasing use of English as a medium of instruction in Danish Universities. On the other hand, a great number of lecturers expressed positive attitudes with regard to the use of English as a medium of instruction. When it comes to the differences in gender and load of using native versus English language among lecturers, the results showed that younger lecturers and those with heavy load of using English as a medium of instruction exhibited a positive attitude towards it. In a similar study, Alenezi [4] examined the attitudes of 17 students regarding the use of code-switching between Arabic and English in a science class of human development for occupational therapy at a Health Science Kuwaiti College. Alenezi's study showed that the students prefer using an Arabic/English medium of instruction more than using one language separately. They believed that such a method of instruction could be very helpful in terms of the comprehension of the material. In another study conducted to measure students' attitudes towards the use of language as a medium of instruction, Kumbahr [5] surveyed a total of 714 college students from engineering and medical specialties. Kumbhar's study had a number of objectives. One that is relevant to this study was to examine students attitudes regarding the medium of instruction in colleges where English was the medium of instruction with colleges where the local language, Marathi, was used. In addition, Kumbhar aimed to compare students' performance levels in the two environments by examining the students' exam results in the two mediums. The study's results revealed that the performance of the students, who were in their final year, with English being the medium of instruction, was higher than the performance of the students who received instruction in Marathi being the medium of instruction.

This study aims to examine the attitudes of the Libyan students at the medical and dentistry colleges regarding the use of English as a medium of instruction in the core courses. In addition, the study seeks to answer the following questions:

  • What language do Libyan students of the Medical and Dentistry Colleges prefer as a medium of instruction?
  • Do students exhibit any improvement in their English language skills as a result of using English in teaching some of the subjects?



  Methodology Top


The method employed in this study is a questionnaire. The questionnaire consists of 18 multiple-choice questions asking about students' academic preferences. At the end of the questionnaire, students were asked to write a short paragraph about themselves. This part was aimed to assess students' language skills in composition.

Participants

A total of 254 students participated in this study; 142 of which are medical, and 112 are dental majors. The participant's age ranged between 18 and 29 years with a mean age of 21.51. About 32 males and 222 females have voluntarily participated in this study.

Data collection

The data in this study were collected by administering the questionnaire to the participants. The questionnaire was designed to collect the answers of the subjects anonymously.

Data analysis

The data were analyzed using chi-squared test of the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS) by comparing the participants' answers considering three factors: The first comparison was made based on the medical and dental students' answers to each question to see if there are any significant differences in the participants' answers in the two groups from the two specialties. The second comparison was made by comparing the answers of the participants from the two specialties based on their study years to see if there are any differences within the participant groups of the same year. The third comparison was made for the composition section to see if there are any differences in the answers of the students from the two specialties with respect to the number of words written, the grammar mistakes, and the spelling mistakes. [Table 1] shows the mean averages of participants' answers to each question in both medical and dental specialties. [Table 2] shows the comparison of participants' answers according to their study years. [Table 3] shows the mean averages of participants' answers in the composition section in terms of number of words, grammar mistakes, and spelling mistakes.
Table 1: Comparative analysis between dental and medical groups' answers per question

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Table 2: Intergroup comparison between dental and medical cohort according to their study years

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Table 3: Comparative analysis between dental and medical cohort in the composition section

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[Table 2] shows that the differences in the total responses of participants from the two groups vary in significance. That is, the responses of questions 1, 12 and 14 show significant differences in participants' responses, whereas the responses of the other questions show no significant differences in the attitudes of the participants. The majority of the students; 93 (65.5%) from the medical and 90 (80.4%) from the dental specialties stated that they were early schooled in Arabic. When they were asked to rate their knowledge of English, the majority of the participants; 87 (61.3%) from the medical and 60 (53.6%) from the dental specialties stated that they have average knowledge. As for their four language skills proficiency, the participants rated their four skills as follows: For listening, the majority of the students rated their skill as average; 53 (37%) for the medical and 52 (46.4%) for dental. For speaking, the majority of the students rated their skills as average; 60 (42.3%) for the medical students whereas the majority of the dental students rated their skill as below average; 42 (37.5%). For the reading skill, the majority of the medical students rated their skill as average; 45 (31.5%); however, dental students had different competing opinions. As for the writing skill, the majority of the medical students rated their skill as average; (39.4%) and the majority of the dental students rated their skill as average as well with 38 (33.9%). When the students were asked what language they mostly used when communicating with their peers, teachers and staff at school, the majority of the medical students 104 (73.2%) stated that they use both Arabic and English and the majority of the dental students; 87 (69.6%) had the same answer. In addition, 90 (63.4%) of the medical students and 80 (71.4%) of the dental students stated that they prefer to be taught in the two languages. In addition, a great number of the medical students; 45 (40.2%) and 54 (38.0%) of the dental students stated that they have average understanding of the material that is taught in English only. As for whether or not teaching the course in English results in reduced learning, the majority of the medical students; 37 (26.1%) stated that this is possible; however, the majority of the dental students; 31 (27.7%) stated that this is not possible at all. Regarding the probability of threatening Arabic as an academic language if English was used as a medium of instruction, the majority of the medical students; 40 (28.2%) stated that this can be possible; however, the majority of the dental students; 31 (27.7%) did not agree with this statement. When the students were asked about the way using English as a medium of instruction can enhance their academic future and improve competitive capacities, the majority of the medical students; 75 (52.8%) stated that this can be definitely true. Similarly, the majority of the dental students; 73 (65.2%) had the same response. In addition, the majority of the students from the two specialties stated that they have not lived overseas. Regarding the use of dictionary when learning/studying, the majority of the medical students; 38 (24.6%) stated that they occasionally do so. Likewise, the majority of the dental students; 39 (34.8%) gave the same response. When the students were asked about the level of their interest in learning English, the majority of the medical students; 69 (48.6%) stated that their level of interest is medium whereas the majority of the dental students; 55 (49.1%) stated that their level of interest is high. Regarding the importance of English proficiency, the majority of the medical students; 101 (71.1%) stated that it is very important and the majority of the dental students; 84 (75%) had the same response. When the students were asked about their willingness to improve their English by taking courses, the majority of the medical students; 86 (60.6%) stated that they are definitely willing to so and the majority of the dental students; 76 (67.9%) gave the same response. Lastly, regarding the frequency of using both Arabic and English while being taught, the majority of the medical students; 49 (34.5%) stated that they always prefer that and the majority of the dental students; 41 (36.6%) gave the same response.

The results shown in [Table 2] reveal that some of the answers of the medical and dental students in their different years of study exhibit significant differences while others do not show any significant differences. For instance, 1 st year students in both medical and dental specialties exhibit significant differences in the answers to questions 4, 6, 9, 10, 11, 12 and 15. Regarding the composition section, the same groups had significant differences in the number of words written and the grammar mistakes. As for the 2 nd year students, the results showed that there was a significant difference in the answers of the students from the two specialties in the questions 1, 3, 11 and 18. The composition section showed difference in the grammar mistakes only. Interestingly, 3 rd year students from the two specialties had no significant differences in the answers to all questions including the composition section. However, 4 th year students from the two specialties had significant differences in question 18 and the part regarding the number of words in the composition section. Lastly, 5 th year students had significant differences in their answers to questions 9 and 11. They also had significant differences in the number of words and grammar mistakes in the composition section.

[Table 3] compares the mean averages among medical and dental students in the composition section. The results show that there is a significant difference among the two groups in the number of words with 36.81 for the medical and 46.22 for the dental students, z (4) = 4.172, P = 0.000. In addition, there was a significant difference in the mean averages of the grammar mistakes among the medical and dental students with 1.95 for the medical and 2.95 for the dental, z (5) = 5.225, P = 0.000. On the other hand, no significant difference was noticed in the spelling mistakes among the two different groups where the mean averages were 3.49 for the medical and 3.34 for the dental, z (0) = 0.969.


  Discussion Top


This study was aimed to explore the attitudes of the medical and dental students at Sebha University regarding the use of English as a medium of instruction. The results above show variation in the attitudes of the Libyan medical and dental students regarding the use of English language as a medium of instruction. However, by looking at these results, it appears that the majority of the students from the two specialties prefer the use of both Arabic and English inside the classroom because that makes the comprehension of the material easier for them. In addition, the students will get the opportunity to improve their English language skills. They also see no threat posed on their mother tongue, Arabic by using English. The findings of this study are similar to what Sabbour et al., [6] concluded in their study on the language barrier among Egyptian medical students when they found out that using Arabic was easier for the students than English when it comes to composition and emphasized on the use of both Arabic and English in teaching medical courses to Egyptian students. Since the Libyan medical and dental students start learning English at a relatively late stage, their poor English language proficiency might not help them to fully succeed in their academic field; however, using both Arabic and English can be beneficial to them in many ways. For example, the professors can present the material in English and only use Arabic for terms that are difficult to understand or to present concepts that students, with their poor language skills, cannot easily understand. In addition, professors can provide examples in Arabic to make sure that the students understand. Further research to observe and assess students' performances in the core subjects taught in English can provide additional evidence regarding the use of English as medium of instruction in Sebha University Medical and Dental Schools.


  Conclusions Top


The demand for using English as a medium of instruction at the Libyan Medical and Dental Schools is increasing. However, with the lack of high language proficiency, in general, Libyan medical and dental students face difficulties in the comprehension of the material presented in English only. The attitudes of the 254 Libyan medical and dental students reflected that using Arabic and English while taking the core courses will ensure that they learn efficiently and enable them to improve their English at the same time. Accordingly, this study supports our assumption that students could face difficulties in understanding the material taught in English only as they are not fully competent in English. The study gives an insight into the way Libyan medical and dental students view English as being the medium of instruction.


  Acknowledgment Top


We thank Dr. P. G. Naveen Kumar for helping us with the statistical work.

 
  References Top

1.
Coleman JA. English-medium teaching in European higher education. Lang Teach 2006;39:1-14.  Back to cited text no. 1
    
2.
Chang YY. English-medium instruction for subject courses in tertiary education: Reactions from Taiwanese undergraduate students. Taiwan Int ESP J 2010;2:55-84.  Back to cited text no. 2
    
3.
Jensen C, Thøgersen J. Danish University lecturers′ attitudes towards English as the medium of instruction. Iberian 2011;22:13-34.  Back to cited text no. 3
    
4.
Alenezi A. Students′ language attitude towards using code-switching as a medium of instruction in the college of health sciences: An exploratory study. ARECLS 2010;7:1-22.  Back to cited text no. 4
    
5.
Kumbahr PA. A Study of the Impact of the Medium of Instruction at School Level on the Performance of Individuals Pursuing Engineering and Medical Courses; 2003. Available from: http://www.shodhganga.inflibnet.ac.in/.  Back to cited text no. 5
    
6.
Sabbour SM, Dewedar SA, Kandil SK. Language barriers in medical education and attitudes towards Arabization of medicine: Student and staff perspectives. East Mediterr Health J 2012;16:1263-71.  Back to cited text no. 6
    



 
 
    Tables

  [Table 1], [Table 2], [Table 3]


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