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M. S. Thirumalai, Ph.D.
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B. Reena, M.A., M.Phil.
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Copyright © 2011
M. S. Thirumalai
Engineering English: A Critical Evaluation-
In the age of globalization, engineering students and practitioners need to enhance their English communication skills and other soft skills in order to cope with increasingly tough competition in the job market. Mere subject knowledge in the chosen field of engineering is not going to be a guarantee for an engineering graduate to get a good job or excel at the workplace.
Multinational corporations (MNCs) and major information technology (IT) companies in India recruit engineering candidates who have good English communication skills. In this highly competitive society, proficiency in English is considered one of the employability skills. In other words, English language skills are considere ‘life skills’ or ‘survival skills’ in the twenty-first century.
Engineering students need to be able to think critically, solve problems, communicate clearly, be creative and work in a team in order to get placed in a reputed company. As the need for the students of engineering to be trained in a multitude of transferable skills is high (Hatakka, 2005), most private engineering colleges in India hire trainers to train their wards in soft skills including English communication skills and prepare them for on and off campus placement. In many institutes of technology, English language teachers are involved in placement training. As there is an increasing focus on and demand for soft skills, the English for Science and Technology (EST) practitioners in engineering colleges are expected to play the role of communication skills consultants and soft skills trainers. There is a shift from imparting mere linguistic skills to multi-skills in an integrated manner.
In this context, the Engineering English course taught during the first year of the four-year engineering programmes in around 300 engineering colleges affiliated to the Anna University in Tamil Nadu, India, is expected to play a vital role in improving students’ communication skills and preparing them to the workplace or making them ‘industry ready’.
Though the aim of the course is to enable the students of engineering to learn certain macro- and micro-skills in the English language and use them effectively as students while following other courses and later as engineers/technologists at the work place, most students and professional engineers/technologists who have undergone the course are not proficient enough to communicate effectively in the language. This perceived problem of lack of specific language/communication skills among engineering students and professional engineers and technologists makes the researcher raise a key question whether the English for Engineering course reflects the needs and wants of the learner and whether there are any other factors that affect the successful imparting / learning of the skills required by the target group. It is presumed that there are problems in the teaching of the course at colleges, resulting from inappropriate teaching materials and instructional techniques, lack of English Language Teaching (ELT) – trained professionals and poor teaching methodology.
The hypothesis of the study is that if the Engineering English course offered during the first year of the four-year engineering programme at engineering colleges affiliated to the Anna University is redesigned or modified based on the corporate expectations /needs / requirements, delivered (taught) properly by competent English for Science and Technology (EST) practitioners and students’ language skills are assessed effectively during and at the end of the course, then the course will achieve its goal by instilling confidence in the students and preparing them to higher education, campus recruitments and thus to the workplace.
This is only the beginning part of the article. PLEASE CLICK HERE TO READ THE
DISSERTATION IN PRINTER-FRIENDLY VERSION.
Albert P'Rayan, Ph.D.
Associate Professor & Head, Training Cell
KCG College of Technology
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