Why do we need syllabus design in English for Specific Purpose (ESP)?


What is syllabus?

Richard (2001) states that a syllabus is specification of the content of a course of instruction and lists what will be taught and tested. Thus the syllabus for speaking course might specify the kinds of oral skills that will be taught practiced during the course, the function, topics, or other aspects of conversation that will be taught and the other in which they will appear in the course.

Hutchinson and Waters (1987) see that ESP is an approach rather than a product. They state that ESP is an approach to language learning which is based on learner need. It is true that ESP is specifically based on learner need or English in specific professional areas which comes from the demand of the learner.

It is clear that teacher should have knowledge of the field. It can be argued that ESP really needs a language structure of its own to be taught properly and the teacher requires some knowledge; however, the learner feels the need of knowing English in his own field because of some needs. Those needs are varied according to purpose of the learner. For instance, a graduate whose first language is not English may need to study Academic English to follow further education or a migrant may need to study both Academic English and ESP English (depends on the subject) to work in an English-speaking country.

Hutchinson and Waters define that a syllabus is a document which says what will (or at least what should) be learnt. But, in fact, a syllabus consists of several stages, which at each stage lead the learner and the teacher. Each stage on its route imposes a further layer of interpretation.

  • the evaluation syllabus
  • the organizational syllabus
  • the material syllabus
  • the classroom syllabus
  • the learner syllabus

Stevens (1988) states that the absolute characteristics are that ESP consists of English language teaching which is:

  • designed to meet specific needs of learner;
  • related in content to particular disciplines, occupations and activities;
  • centred on the language appropriate to those activities as regards syntax, lexis, discourse, semantics and so on, and analysis of this course.
  • in contrast with “General English.”

Dudley-Evans and St John state that definition of ESP should reflect the fact that much ESP teaching, especially where it is differs from that used General Purpose English teaching.

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