Tertiary entry level English language proficiency: a case study.
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This study was initiated as a result of the appearance of a number of articles and commentaries in the academic press which intimate that the English language levels of many overseas students studying in Australia are not sufficient to meet the demands of their academic programs. A preliminary investigation into the standards set by one university revealed that there was no statement, policy or, public document describing an appropriate level of language use; and that the university concerned defined language proficiency entirely in terms of bands, scores or grades provided by external testing organisations.Commencing with the assumption that there is an entry level of English language competence, below which students have little chance of success in their studies (at least, within the accepted timeframe), this qualitative case study into one tertiary institution utilises a number of data collection strategies in order to develop a description or definition of a 'gatekeeper' level of English competence. It then compares the findings with the criteria for assessment and grading used by the two most widely available English language tests, TOEFL and IELTS.The first chapter introduces the background to the study. The second chapter outlines the underlying philosophical, social and linguistic framework within which the study was devised, in the context of the literature which informed it. The following chapter presents a justification for the selected research methods and data collection strategies. In the fourth and fifth chapters, the results demonstrate that interpretations of tertiary entry-level language proficiency vary, leading to confusion and an absence of strategic direction; it is further suggested that an appropriate level of language proficiency for tertiary entry cannot be defined without taking into account the prevailing social, political and educational environment. Recommendations are put forward for the development of an institutional-level framework in which it might be possible to make judgements about the desired levels of language proficiency and improve on existing procedures for their evaluation.This study aims to bring together a number of different strands of research into language and tertiary education such as definitions of language proficiency, language testing and literacy issues, and demonstrate their interconnectivity. As a result, it presents a broad overview (within the overarching discipline) rather than focusing on a single area in depth. Although as a site case study this research does not claim generalisability, it is hoped that- its findings might be useful for other institutions as a basis for their own research.
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