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The two previous chapters demonstrated the importance of exploring Saudi students' needs and the academic culture that they encounter while studying in British institutions which relate to their English learning experience in Saudi Arabia, including their views about learning English in the UK and studying in a British postgraduate programme and to reveal individual needs and struggles in learning EAP. Without examining Saudi students' perspectives about their needs analysis from the outset in Saudi Arabia, and the EAP course in the UK, I would not be able to make any relevant connections between the EAP and postgraduate context and show how their views and behaviours vary in terms of language needs and academic needs. It is evident that the Saudi students sampled in this study find it difficult to cope with language requirements and the academic culture differences despite the fact that they are given the opportunity to prepare themselves either in Saudi Arabia or in the UK before commencing their postgraduate programs in the UK. It is, therefore, imperative to examine their current preparation in terms of EAP and cultural differences and to suggest potential ways to improve the support that is offered to these students.
The three major theories that underpinned this study were Present situation analysis (PSA), Target situation analysis (TSA) and culture analysis. The PSA and TSA are based on the Huticon and Water (1987) model which suggested finding out the students' current and future needs. The cultural needs analysis is based on different researchers e.g. as explained in the third chapter which suggested investigating the academic needs of students studying in English speaking countries. Secondly, this research aimed to identify the relationships between Saudi students studying in British postgraduate programs and their adaptation to their new academic environment and the potential conflicts they encountered. Lastly, this study conceptualised the nature of Saudi students, as a specific group through their experiences in British postgraduate programs.
Concerning these theories, this research provided findings that reflect the current problems Saudi students face and details possible contributions to Saudi students, British academics and policy makers in terms of better understanding Saudi students' learning processes in British postgraduate programs, overcoming the cross-cultural issues namely academic culture and coping with difficulties in terms of the new academic context they need to adapt to in the British context.
The first issue raised in this research was related to (PSA) on the theme of learning English. It focused on discourses that might reveal important aspects of English language difficulties through looking at Saudi students' experiences in learning the English language in the two different education systems. According to the research findings here, Saudi students sampled in this study were accustomed to a teacher-centred learning environment. The development of Saudi students' knowledge about learning patterns in this system seems not to equip them well to learn English for Academic Purposes. For example, it seems that it is somewhat hard for EAP teachers to establish what sort of difficulties the students have in learning the English language. Basically, the teacher-centred learning system is likely to prevent them from handling the problems they face because most teachers in this environment are not regarded as feeders. In a word, the teachers' role in this system is not appropriate for Saudi students' development in EAP unless teachers work hard to accommodate the students. To put this simply, it would be helpful if teachers guided the students to adapt to the British system of teaching English gradually, as doing this would enhance Saudi students' experiences learning EAP.
According to literature, students can develop their English through interacting with peers, and these interactive discourses are very important to create ways of developing the proficiency level of EAP learners. Saudi students sampled in this study are largely those who have shifted to a student-centred learning system and thus encountered many problems with their new learning environment specifically when they start their postgraduate studies. They would therefore have more chance of experiencing unexpected English language difficulties in terms of interacting with native and non-native students, academics and people in the host community. It is natural that a student-centred learning system should provide a better environment for Saudi students to create interactive discourses which they could utilise for the development of their EAP abilities.
With regard to the importance of a tutorial type of activity; this is not a formal part of the Saudi education system. There are similar types of sessions offered by the private sector in tertiary Saudi institutions, but this is different from the British education system which regards tutorials as an essential part of the learning and teaching pedagogy. This means that Saudi students are not prepared to participate in cooperative learning activities such as tutorials and team work. They are not good at sharing ideas or discussing the issues that might be raised in class. This is a major difficulty that Saudi students have in adapting to cross-cultural differences faced in British postgraduate programs. It is a new challenge for them to overcome this essential task in order to undertake their courses successfully. However, it is also true that this cannot be changed in the short term because Saudi students have not been taught with a discussion-based style including peers and teachers in Saudi Arabia.
Therefore, this is a crucial issue for both the Saudi education system and British tertiary education providers. For the Saudi education system, policy makers who are involved need to be concerned that they provide a teaching pedagogy in line with the theme of a cooperative group learning environment for Saudi students. This is because the findings of this research indicate that students' lack of experience in a cooperative learning environment heavily impacts on their EAP learning and academic success. In addition, British tertiary education providers, and people who are involved in this area, need to pay attention to the fact that Saudi students' difficulty in tutorial participation is one which interferes with or prevents students from developing EAP learning and academic success while studying in British postgraduate programs.
The findings of this study with cross-cultural adaptation in the theme of cultural theories presented in chapter two of this study revealed Saudi students' experiences of learning English at home and in British postgraduate programs are different. Firstly, Saudi students did not have enough chance to learn about Britain, even though the UK had been regarded as one of the preferred English speaking countries Saudi students seek for their postgraduate studies. In fact, Saudi English education programs do not provide enough information about English speaking countries in their curriculum. This also tended to lead to a lack of knowledge and cross-cultural awareness for Saudi students in regards to their targeted countries. On the other hand, Saudi students' exposure to such knowledge and cross-cultural aspects was likely to be recognised once they arrived in the UK and commenced their courses in British institutions'' programs. It can be argued that Saudi students' well- organised preparation before departing their home country is crucial in ensuring better adaptation to the new learning environment, especially the academic environment.
More importantly, the research findings in this context emphasised a lack of knowledge of the academic context which is also an important issue. The fact that Saudi English education programs do not encompass the academic context is an extra concern. This may be the most serious problem that causes current Saudi students' English language difficulties when adapting to the British academic context (as well as other English speaking countries' academic contexts). For this reason, Saudi students only begin to realise the importance of the academic context as they encountered the new or real academic environment. Concerning the general trend of Saudi students' choosing English speaking countries for their education, it is necessary for people or organisations to initiate programs of English language for academic purposes as an essential part of the school curricula. These would better connect with the requirements of the learners in their new academic environment. In addition; awareness about developing a better understanding of academic cultural differences, especially when targeting English speaking countries, should be examined by both students themselves and policy makers in Saudi Arabia prior to making a final decision about who is going to study in English speaking countries .
Saudi students' movements into British postgraduate programs
Saudi students are 'on the move' to experience other countries. They are leaving Saudi Arabia as tourists, students, and businessman. In recent years, they have shown a preference for visiting foreign countries with an increasing eagerness to learn foreign languages, especially English and gaining recognizable qualifications e.g. masters or PhDs as well as to have an adventure learning about different peoples and cultures. This rapidly growing trend has been encouraged by King Abdullah's scholarship. There is no doubt that an important impetus for Saudis' attention to the outside world has been the high rate of growth of the Korean economy and its economic advancement. As a result of this progress, the number of Saudi students applying to study in British postgraduate programs has increased steadily over the last five years. Recent data from the Ministry of Higher Education in Saudi Arabia; which relates the numbers of Saudi students studying abroad, the UK came second after the US in popularity.
At present, the necessity for English language skills and their importance in the present era is a primary influence stimulating travel to the UK for academic purposes. A good level of English and its wider utilization are now crucial requirements for all working and academic areas in Saudi society. The proficiency level of English is a major requirement in judging students' eligibility to enter to tertiary institutions, as well as in the recruitment of human resources in Saudi Arabia. This enthusiastically supported social phenomenon has become a major issue nation-wide since the announcement of King Abdullah's scholarships. This accelerated the social phenomenon and led ultimately to more Saudi students undertaking overseas studies. It resulted in an enhancement of Britain's position as one of the preferred destinations for such purposes.
The Main Characteristics of Saudi Students' Experiences of Learning the English Language in Saudi Arabia
The investigation into the characteristics of Saudi students' experiences in learning the English language in Saudi Arabia focused on how they had been taught English as a foreign language in the Saudi education system and their views on their English learning in Saudi Arabia. In general, it was found that Saudi students sampled in this study indicated that they had been dissatisfied with the English course that was provided by the ministry of education. These results were not surprising as previous research conducted by Al-Tuwaijri (1982), who was studying in the US at that time, asked them how satisfied they were with English the curriculum, and teaching methods and the results showed the majority of his participants were dissatisfied. The underpinning approach can be concluded as a mainly teacher-centred learning pedagogy.
Moreover, this research found that there were some additional aspects of their prior educational experience in Saudi Arabia that impacted upon their later learning in an English speaking environment namely the UK. Firstly, the background of Saudi students sampled in this study was that many had not had an opportunity to learn or practice the English language with native English speakers. Even though some of them had experience with those who speak English as their first or second language, the main focus of the teaching pedagogy involving their speaking abilities did not seem to help their development of English language proficiency. Due to the dominant environment of exam-based English language learning, speaking in a communicative context is not a priority concern for Saudi students prior to entry into the prestigious universities in Saudi's education system. Thus, Saudi students do not have to demonstrate oral proficiency.
In addition, Saudi students sampled in this study revealed a lack of knowledge about the IELTS test system because of the dominance of the TOFEL test in Saudi Arabia. There are many more preparation programs for the TOFEL test in Saudi universities and private English language institutions than there are IELTS testing centres. The British Council in Riyadh provides IELTS test centres in Saudi Arabia. Unfortunately, from the data it seems that there are not any specific tertiary preparation programs for domestic Saudi students who seek to study in English speaking countries like Australia, Canada, UK, US and New Zealand. More importantly, the results revealed that there is little concern about the importance of English for academic purposes in general in the English language learning pedagogy in Saudi.
Learning English for the sake of learning a new language was completely absent from the participants points of view. The results also, showed that English learning is mainly undertaken because the high pressure placed upon learning English as an important step for entry into prestigious Saudi Arabian tertiary institutions, or to gain a better opportunity to be employed by major companies such as ARAMCO and this has always been a crucial aspect of learning English.
Concerning the issue of a pre-departure preparation strategy for Saudi students intending to study in the UK, there is evidence here that Saudi students were not sufficiently prepared in Saudi to meet the requirements of the proficiency level of English needed for most British postgraduate programs. Students needed to prepare for such requirements, including the by enhancing their proficiency level in English and their understanding of the academic environment of British postgraduate programs. However, the Saudi students sampled in this study revealed that they did not attend any program in Saudi Arabia in order to assist them in coping with such potential problems while studying overseas.
In general, even though those who wished to study overseas realised the importance of taking official English tests, more than half of the students in this study took them in Saudi Arabia. The evidence of the survey outcomes in this study reveals that the IELTS test is the most preferred by Saudi students entering British postgraduate programs. This is not surprising because most, if not all, British tertiary institutions emphasise this test as a crucial measurement of international students' ability when determining whether or not they can undertake British postgraduate programs.
According to the findings from the survey, the Saudi students sampled in this study had begun to learn English as a foreign language at an inappropriate age in terms of their cognitive development as second language learners. They were between childhood and adulthood when they began studying English language. According to Park (2006) learning the English language at the age of 13 years is rather late in terms of experiencing the most effective development of their second language learning skills. It seems that Saudi students were not fully confident about why they had to learn English and how far they could progress in their English proficiency level. The results revealed in chapter one that Saudi students were taught the English language in Saudi Arabia by unqualified English teachers who required them to learn in a passive the top down way. This meant that Saudi students needed constant guidance from their English teachers about their mistakes during the learning process.
The Main Characteristics of Saudi Students' Experiences in Learning EAP in the UK
The first issue raised in learning EAP in the UK context is about the composition of the learners group inside the classroom as it might impact on the development of EAP learning process. According to research findings about Saudi students' experience of EAP learning in UK institutions, the groups of learners learning English were mainly composed of Saudis with two or three non-Arabic students who speak Arabic as their priority. This means that Saudi students did not have much opportunity to improve their speaking proficiency level. In addition, it is natural that they would speak in Arabic if they had something to ask to each other in class. It is necessary for EAP teachers to ask or even to force them to speak in English. EAP teachers may tell them that if they do not speak in English they will lose some marks. From the observation there were some EAP teachers who were really strict about speaking in English. It would be a positive move if the EAP teachers were to continue this practice towards better provision of the transformation of the students' habits of speaking in English all the times at least in the classroom.
A multicultural group learning environment, whether in the UK or Saudi Arabia, would offers Saudi students' positive experiences including more opportunity to interact with students from different countries who speak English as a second language. In these circumstances students have to use English in order to communicate with each other whether or not their proficiency level of English is sufficient to communicate. One piece of evidence to support this argument is that the results of this study showed that Saudi students improved their English language skills once they started conversation with those who speak English as a first or second language. Considering this outcome, it can be emphasised how important it is to arrange an appropriate environment for learners of EAP. This is a reason why policy makers in the UK should consider the number of each nationality in the classroom. In addition to that the English education system in Saudi Arabia needs to recruit as many native English teachers as possible, especially if the system does not evolve a multicultural group learning environment in Saudi education system. It is the best option to provide a similar environment to English speaking countries.
The last issue raised in this context is that language interference might occur during the process of English language learning in a different environment. The learning environment where Arabic language is dominant (as in Saudi Arabia itself) does not provide specific language interference. However, Saudi students in the UK are directly influenced by the differences between their first language, Arabic, and English. For Saudi students sampled in this study, English is their main priority, so it is natural that the distance between the two different languages would create language interference whenever they use English in activities that are a part of the British academic context. Nevertheless, both academics and EAP teachers in the UK should be able to identify this problem in order to improve students' proficiency levels in the English language.
The English Language Difficulties that Saudi Students Face in the British academic Context
The second dimension of the first research question was to identify the English language difficulties that Saudi students faced from an educational perspective while they were enrolled in British postgraduate programs delivered in English which related to both present situations analysis and target situation analysis. The research findings revealed that Saudi students' reading and writing problems are the main issues to overcome during their courses. There are several important factors contributing to students' difficulties in these two aspects in the British academic context. As discussed in the background to Saudi students' experience in learning English in Saudi Arabia, these factors could be related to problems with English language pedagogy and teaching methodology in Saudi Arabia or in the UK. It can be said that Saudi students' background experiences in learning the English language directly reflect the problems of Saudi students' reading and writing difficulties in the British academic context. The findings obtained from this research clearly indicate that EAP programs did not provide enough opportunities for the development of students' reading and writing abilities.
This study indicates that participation in tutorials or group activities and giving a presentation were amongst the more difficult tasks for Saudi students to cope with. The analytical outcomes obtained from the three different methodologies applied to this study, namely the descriptive results of the survey, observation, and in-depth interviews, indicated three contributory factors. The first is a lack of confidence with their proficiency level in English as a second language, which was due to a self-realisation about the inadequacy of their preparation and tuition, with regard to the way they were taught English in Saudi Arabia. Needless to say as many Saudi researchers have found ( ), Saudi students were taught English in an examination-based and text-based system. These learning experiences tend sometimes to make them anxious when required to participate in tutorial sessions and group meetings, which is the predominant pedagogy in tertiary teaching. Furthermore students' anxieties arise from a lack of confidence with all major English language skill categories, including speaking, listening, reading and writing. These anxieties as Park (2006) claimed also lead to students having psychological stresses. Consequently, it can be concluded that the shift from a teacher-centred to student-centred learning system and being critical, not only in writing but in all aspect of learning are the main cross-cultural factors that causes problems.
In short, Saudi students in this study who spoke English as a second language and were currently enrolled in British postgraduate programs were shown to have difficulties in adapting to the use of the English language. With regard to adaptation difficulties, two important findings of this study were a lack of exposure to a real English speaking environment and unfamiliarity with the use of English, particularly for academic purposes. The research findings from sample responses in this study clearly indicate that Saudi students mainly face reading and writing problems. The results of this study revealed that Saudi students have difficulty in reading quickly through a text to get a general view of the content when reading. It was also apparent that they are unfamiliar with the structure of English academic writing, have difficulty in expressing ideas when writing and find it difficult to organise ideas in a logical sequence.
The research findings here indicate that Saudi students' difficulties in reading and writing activities are affected by teaching and learning methods that were adopted in the Saudi education system. Needless to say the pedagogy in Saudi is predominantly reliant on an examination-based framework. Despite the efforts of EAP teachers in the UK Saudi students still find it difficult to cope with academic reading and writing. The difference between the two education systems in terms of teaching writing and reading are also important factors that were reported to affect Saudi students' ability to cope with EAP in British postgraduate programs.
The Main Cross-Cultural Factors that Impact on Saudi Students' Difficulties in the British Context
Lastly, this research asked about the main cross-cultural variations that impact on Saudi students' difficulties in the British postgraduate learning environment. In general, the research findings indicated that cross-cultural discourses presented fewer problems when compared to English language difficulties. However, the most important finding of this research is that Saudi students are heavily influenced by changed patterns in their learning environment, particularly moving from a teacher-centred to student-centred system. This was also shown to have an impact on Saudi students' difficulties in participating in some tutorials and some other in-class activities. The impact of this shift also influenced Saudi students' confidence with the English language and created anxieties and stress in tutorial sessions.
The research findings indicate that the Saudi students sampled were affected by different types of academic activities and cross-cultural differences as the researcher expected. In addition, the following three important aspects of the new academic context influenced the Saudi students sampled in this study. These were moving from a teacher-centred to a student-centred, discussion-based and critical thinking-based learning system as found in British postgraduate programs. According to the results, students who had experience of attending the EAP program tended to have fewer problems in the discussion-based approaches of the teaching system. The older student participants in this study, in particular, were likely to encounter fewer problems adapting to a different learning system. Whilst younger students were likely to have some difficulty in adapting to a British individual ability-centred academic environment. According to the study's findings, the students that undertook EAP programs still have difficulty in preparing assignments. In contrast, these students showed a higher adaptability in all other categories with respect to the cross-cultural issues raised in this study.
The Best Preparation for Saudi Students to Succeed in British postgraduate Programs
The research findings can contribute to the discussion and formulation of strategies to develop more effective ways for Saudi students to prepare for British postgraduate programs in terms of their language and academic needs. Successful achievement of their goals and gaining an understanding of their new academic context are the real burdens for Saudi students. Currently, these are barriers that prevent them from adapting both academically and linguistically. The Saudi students sampled in this study clearly indicated that they had shown different levels of adaptation according to the previous programs they experienced prior to entering British postgraduate programs. The previous two chapters detailed the current performance of Saudi students sampled and their responses in adjusting to the British academic context.
More than half of the Saudi students who participated in this study had experienced EAP programs before commencing their courses in British postgraduate programs. In particular, a majority of them attended a course offered by the university program that was mainly designed to prepare them to enter the university and meet its requirement but not for the official IELTS test or any other test. Saudi students sampled in this study are likely to have spent less than 12 months studying in such a preparation program. Typically, the Saudi students sampled in this study appeared to depend on passing the EAP program to gain permission to study in British postgraduate programs once they arrived in the UK.
I would suggest that the EAP programs provided by the universities should also be focusing on the IELTS test because the results from the student interviews revealed that they are not confident about the university assessment procedure. Therefore, preparing students for the IELTS would prevent any misunderstandings on the students' part over whether they were tested based on their background.
For the present sample of Saudi students, however, it has been revealed that as time has gone on the IELTS test is recognised to be only one measure of entry level ability and not necessarily the one that predicts success in tertiary learning. In fact, this research indicates that most Saudi students continue to face English language difficulties and academic cultural challenges in the academic context while undertaking their postgraduate studies. The EAP teachers who had previous experience of teaching Saudi students in this study believed that the proficiency level of English acquired by passing the IELTS test differs from the proficiency level of English which would be utilised in the real life situations which arise in the course of academic study. A lack of knowledge and skills associated with English for academic purposes is a major reason. Saudi students sampled in this study admitted that the level of English learning and teaching does not meet the level that British postgraduate programs require because the current Saudi English education system and its learning environment are not practical enough to achieve the high proficiency level of English that is essential for Saudi students.
The research findings clearly indicate that Saudi students who had experienced an EAP program showed better performance in their academic studies compared to those students who had not attended any EAP programs. The results also showed that Saudi students were found to have experienced difficulty in meeting the required levels of proficiency in the English for British postgraduate programs. The recognition of the English language problems that students encounter while undertaking their programs currently is described by informants as the lack of their knowledge about the target language because of the way it was taught in the EAP program. Howevet, the research found that with respect to academic cultural issues, students who had undertaken EAP programs demonstrated more adaptability in most areas of later learning. For example, some students responded that they were satisfied with proficiency level of their English speaking and were confident and had less anxiety when they needed to speak in a class. While others also had difficulty in organising ideas in a logical sequence when writing English. Moreover, they were likely to have fewer problems than other nationalities when giving a spoken presentation in class.
6.5 Chapter summary
This chapter discusses the outcomes from the data analysis and connects them with the theories that have been discussed in chapters two and three. It was clear that student language proficiency was not high enough for Saudi students to start their postgraduate studies at British institutions. It was also revealed that students are facing difficulties in coping with their new academic environment. Consequently, the research suggests that the best preparation for Saudi students as they enter British postgraduate programs and achieve successful results is to attend EAP programs where they can achieve early acculturation and pre-preparation by experiencing interaction with native English speakers in real academic situations. This suggested pathway would likely offer future Saudi students a more realistic opportunity to overcome problems currently faced by Saudi postgraduate students.
These Saudi students must be regarded as adult learners when considering their age according to the results of the survey. As adult learners, they would likely recognise the importance of EAP and the academic differences in their new academic environment. It can be said that their greater realisation of this context was mainly based on experiences of interacting with the British academic learning environment. As a result, they came to realise what sort of preparation they needed and how they might better cope with unexpected problems faced in British programs. It means that they had opportunities to discover, through their experiences, how to deal with EAP difficulties and academic cultural differences at this level. In addition, these Saudi students revealed that their anxiety, stress and lack of confidence with English as a second language created a psychological difficulty when participating in tutorials. Regarding the issues discussed above, a range of possible recommendations can be offered that might provide a valuable direction for Saudi students, the policy makers in Saudi Arabia and British institutions, private providers and other people who are involved in this sector. These might be considered in order to improve Saudi students' performances in British postgraduate programs in the future.