Designing a communicative English programme for the specific purposes of science students in the secondary stage of education in Jordan
The terminal objective of the study was to suggest a communicative programme of English for Scientific Purposes (EScP) for science students at the secondary schools in Jordan. The problem of this study was that the target students' needs for EScP were not assessed when introducing the English curriculum for this stage. Besides, the community concerned in teaching English for science students was not involved in developing this curriculum. Moreover, there was a lack of research on English for Specific purposes (ESP) at the school level in Jordan. The researcher founded this programme on: 1) content analysis of the national philosophy of teaching English, 2) assessing the learners' needs for learning English for Scientific Purposes (EScP), and the concerned community's perspectives of teaching EScP, 3) Communicative and ESP approaches to ELT and course design and 4) the pertinent theoretical and empirical literature. The research proceeded through two major phases, i. e. the documentary phase and the empirical phase. In the former, the researcher analysed: 1) the national documents related to ELT in particular as well as those related more precisely to English curriculum development in the country, and 2) the content of the existing curriculum and textbooks used in the public schools of the secondary stage. In the latter phase, the semi-structured interview technique was applied to explore the actual situation by interviewing the concerned stakeholders to assess their needs and perspectives in learning and teaching English for scientific purposes (EScP). The stakeholders included the learners, teachers, education supervisors, curriculum developers and university lecturers. The quantitative data were collected by developing two questionnaires addressed to two target groups. The first questionnaire was devised to identify the scientific characteristics of the suggested programme in terms of the topics, concepts and terms. The second aimed to identify the English language-based characteristics in terms of the language sub-skills, functions and contexts. The construction and the application of the data collection tools were co-operative processes executed mostly by teamwork that involved teachers, education supervisors and members in the national committees for developing educational curriculum and training. The pyramid network technique was also adopted to administer the questionnaires and the pre-post-test. The main findings were that the First Year Scientific Stream Students (FYSSS) of the secondary stage in Jordan needed to learn EScP for future careers or to pursue their education at the university or college levels. The female students showed higher perception of their needs than the males did. The levels of agreement of the FYSSS on items of the Science-based Content Questionnaire were not as high as those of the university students, educators and university lecturers who were more supportive of the needs for EScP. However, 21 scientific items were identified and ranked as the most important topics to be introduced in the suggested programme. On the other hand, the respondents to the English Language Questionnaire agreed on 24 items as the important language functions to be presented in this programme. Thus, the researcher set the characteristics of the proposed programme in a framework describing the general and specific descriptions, components, layout and design exemplified in two trial units. These two units were constructed to test its applicability and effectiveness in actual classrooms at 12 schools selected randomly using the cluster sampling technique from the six regions in Irbid Governorate in the north of Jordan. Then, an achievement test was constructed and administered to 839 students chosen randomly and grouped into an experimental and control groups. The SPSS programme was used to analyse the two groups' scores on both the pre-test and post-test. The results showed that the experimental group students were very much interested in the units and they gained more from them than the control group, because they felt that their needs were met and they were involved and consulted in what they needed to learn. The researcher concluded that applying ESP programmes needs a flexible system of education to meet the specific needs of the students, as there were significant differences between the males and females in some skills and between the regions where this study was conducted. Such a flexible system needs more active involvement of the stakeholders in developing such programmes. Finally, the researcher recommended that on applying the ESP programme, the MOE in Jordan should revise the management system of education to meet the various needs of the learners taking into its account the effect of students' gender and differences among regions. Learners, teachers and the concerned community should be actively involved in the development of educational programmes. To make the ESP communicative programmes effective, teachers should receive special training on pair-group-work and on how to develop student-centred activities. Schools in Jordan should be delegated the authority to develop school-based programmes and activities meeting their students' needs and train the school staff to do so.