Medical Technologies Henceforth Mt English Language Essay

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It seems that through its relatively short history, the pedagogy and perspective particular to English for Specific Purposes henceforth ESP have achieved such academic legitimacy that there have begun to exist calls to incorporate the practice into other forms of language teaching which still suffer from "more theory-driven" (Belcher et. al, 2011) approaches. It is claimed therefore that the practice is beginning to shape research in the language teaching/learning at large and has had "an established tradition that has undoubtedly provided leadership, as well as an intellectual 'nudge,' for what is still generally called 'General English' or, more disparagingly, 'English for No Obvious Reason.'" (Belcher et. al, 2011, p.1)

This is because the pedagogy major tenets tend to reverse the order in which the philosophy of education is structured. Those educational conventions that gather information to formulate objectives of a given learning situation and sort out needs accordingly generally follow a top-down pattern where 'needs' are "dictated by the textbook" and policy specifications. The fast-emerging picture instead considers that needs are dictated "by the interests, the social context and the previous knowledge of the learners" in such a way as "the language is not the object of learning, but the result, the product of mutual interaction between the learner and the outside world" (Celani, 2008, p. 418).

Those tenets of ESP depart from not only the general English models per se but…. are those that take both teaching/learning activities and research away from theory-driven to more efficient and cost effective approaches and place "heavy demands on its [ESP] practitioners to collect empirical needs-assessment data, to create or adapt materials to meet specific needs identified, and to cope with often unfamiliar subject matter and even language use" (Belcher, 2004, p. 166). Therefore, this tradition of conducting careful specification of language needs of particular groups of learners seems to be the igniting power and centrepiece of the ESP enterprise as a whole.

Research problem

'Medical technologies' (henceforth MT) is a relatively new field in the tertiary level of the Tunisian educational system. Founded through a presidential decree in 2001 (Journal Officiel de la République Tunisienne N° 68, 2001, p. 2570), l'Institut Supérieur des Technologies Médicales de Tunis (henceforth ISTMT) is the first institute in Tunisia, and so far the only one, to offer a joint training of medicine and technology. This union of the medical and the technological offered by the training seems to promise a distinct type of academic offshoot which is meant to serve professional situations that are not confined to either of the two conventionally-categorized, otherwise disconnected fields of research.

Simply put, MT is the application of technological apparatus for medical purposes. Just like a (bio)medical technician is considered as an important link between medicine and technology (Careers in focus, 2009), MT establishes itself as a link between these two provinces. A more elaborate definition is offered by Nüsslin (2006) who introduces the duality as being "an inter- and trans-disciplinary field, dealing with the development of instrumentation [that] is specifically designed for clinical application in prevention, diagnostics, therapy and rehabilitation" (p. 25). What is of special significance to the field is therefore the special multi-colour mixture of disciplines, and in addition to its direct connection to medicine, the field's ultimate host, MT is related to a variety of spheres that comprise engineering, biology, informatics, and biochemistry (Nüsslin, 2006). Because of the fast innovation rate at which medical technologies develop, plus the industrialised nature of the actual healthcare systems, the mixture is likely to call for other aspects and sub-specialities. Within the educational environment, one of the chief merits of such a pairing is not simply that it joins together two otherwise autonomous fields, but that: a) it allows for trans-disciplinary mutual need and 'borrowing' between two or more fields and, more significantly, that b) because it aims not only at the technical minutiae and know-how of relative instrumentation but at the research prospects as well as the economic implications of an industrialised and highly internationalized area, it may invite other notions to the duality such as 'enterprise' and 'marketing'. This is what Nüsslin (2006) may have meant when he claimed that:

Medical technology has widely revolutionized medicine and created a number of new sub-specialities such as medical image technology, computer aided surgery, minimal invasive interventions etc., and even beyond the limits of medical territory...countries progress in medical technology has a considerable impact on economy... In recent decades MT has become a rapidly growing market with increasing relevance for the national economies. (p. 25)

The three-speciality training at the ISTMT is meant to highlight technical details about the central notions and activities in MT. These comprise maintenance and instrumentation, image processing, electronic safety and quality assurance, to mention only an example (see Appendix F for full description of the curriculum).

Figure 1: Specialities at the ISTMT

As figure 1 illustrates, each of the three major branches of study at the ISTMT, namely GBM, BTM, and SE [1] is meant to have a special point of focus in the field of technology but relate to the other sub-specialities in the ultimate objective of the ministry programme. Starting from semester three (second year) of the degree, each speciality branches off into two sub-sections, each of which is an embodiment of the special focus and an approximation of the specific target professional situation activities.

Worth mentioning is that in the Tunisian tertiary level there are several institutes other than the ISTMT that are meant to serve professional medical purposes. These are detailed in the 2011 Orientation Guide which refers to six classes of medical training at the tertiary level with 25 specialities almost all of which have a pure medical propensity. What distinguishes the ISTMT instruction however is its unique pairing of 'healthcare' and 'technology' that seems to give other dimensions and broader prospects both to the instruction and the profession.

Therefore, the service that the instruction at the ISTMT is officially expected to render is one that ideally offers interesting 'extensions' of the pairing 'medicine-technology'. The focus will logically be placed on techniques and technology rather than on medicine and the end products will serve medical purposes. The presentation of the ISTMT on the official website explains the motives behind the establishment of the institute and its perspectives for the labour market; it goes as follows:

…[le] développement rapide des besoins en technologies médicales dans les domaines des thérapies, d´explorations fonctionnelles, de conception et de production des bio-médicaments et d´utilisation, pilotage et maintenance des équipements médicaux… L´ISTMT a pour ambition de fournir aux secteurs médicaux et des bio-industries des diplômés de haut niveau ayant acquis les bases d´une pluri-compétence... Intégrer des postes de responsabilité dans un secteur innovant... doit être l´objectif de nos étudiants … pour développer avec succès leur esprit d´entreprise. Les formations généraliste et spécialisée dispensées à l´ISTMT (bien que de coloration médicale), permettent aux futures diplômés… de s´insérer dans des créneaux extrêmement divers en Tunisie et à l´étranger. (Italics not in the original) ("Mot du directeur", n.d.)

The duality and its extensions are plainly confirmed in this statement of motives, and it seems obvious that the training at the institute is not a pure internal policy as much as it is a response to the external requirements of a diversified, industrialised, fast-evolving external and internal labour markets. In view of that, the extensions are not mere additions but are part and parcel of this multi-disciplinary field. If medical technicians [2] are often described as multi-skilled professionals (Eagle et al., 2009), it seems plausible therefore that their typical functions range between such discrete roles as working for equipment manufacturers as salespeople, as service technicians, or as operators in medical facilities specializing in equipment repair or maintenance (Careers in focus, 2009). This multi-disciplinarity seems to have yet another important effect: its impact on language use. The multidisciplinary, multi-competence and fast evolution pertaining to the field, together with the international scope of its commercial transactions, give English in particular a more significant role to play. As mentioned above, this sui generis field of studies in Tunisia has created a need to dig into the specificities of the combination of medicine and technique-technology and the affiliated fields and activities, including the role and status of the English language.

So far in academic research no formal needs analysis has been carried out to deal with such an inter-disciplinary and multifaceted educative and professional medical situation, which makes a major research gap. Needs analyses have rather focused only on the use of pure medical English (ME). The ISTMT is the first institute to offer such a pairing in education, and the current study leads the first needs analysis inspecting into the use of language within such a multifaceted context. The purpose of the present study is therefore to try to make a comprehensive scrutiny of the ISTMT students' need for the English language within the frames of a formal needs analysis. Prompting an appealing combination, the marriage between medicine and technology is likely to generate an interesting, and quite probably multi-faceted use of language.

The richness of the field of MT was not the sole motive behind conducting a language needs analysis. The other chief reason relates to the fact that the English course at the ISTMT, not drawing upon a formal analysis of the learners' real needs, suffers from a major handicap especially that none of the teachers have undergone any training in ESP nor have they made any formal collaboration with the speciality teachers, together with the unsystematic teamwork amongst the group. In such cases, the de facto alternative to a formal needs analysis is likely to be the esp teachers' own 'guessing' and sometimes arbitrary estimation of the students' requirements for English which may add to the absence of learner motivation and the mismatch between the course and the profession. Those teacher practices may well fall either-or both- in the trap of making very faint approximations of the real needs of the target domain, or that of producing disfigured copies of other ESP experiences; and in either case the probability of deviation from the target and of devising slapdash syllabi is always quite high.

Outline of the study

Following this introductory chapter, the literature review (chapter II) aims at contextualising the research problem by rooting the study in the major theoretical frameworks in the world of English for Specific Purposes and needs analysis. The research questions are presented at the end of the chapter. Chapter III gives details about the methodology used for this piece of research in terms of the setting of the study, the sources of data, and the data collection instruments to explore the research questions. Chapter IV serves the aims of displaying, analysing, and discussing the major findings of the current needs analysis. The discussion is meant to pave the way for cataloguing the learners' needs in terms of priority.

The last chapter draws the main conclusions and suggests a number of recommendations. This concluding chapter also acknowledges the limitations of the study and presents some implications for the teaching of ESP and for future research.

chapter two

literature Review

This chapter is intended to contextualise the research problem of the study by imparting a critical literature review of needs analysis and drawing upon the major theoretical frameworks that have emerged in the field of ESP to the present date. The chapter begins by defining the key features of ESP to later review the major historical stages of needs analysis and the basic concepts that resulted from such a development. The chapter will finally raise some of the critical issues related to the concept of needs analysis.

chief features of ESP

Centrality of purpose

One of the most marked features of ESP is that it heads towards a more focused target in language use than English for General Purposes (EGP). Dudley-Evans (1997) report the "clear consensus" about the definition of Language for Specific Purposes (LSP)/ ESP in that the field is undeniably "goal-oriented and based on needs analysis" (p. 58). The idea that ESP drives towards, or is driven by, a need to carefully set objectives makes of it a framework where 'what for?' forms a fundamental question and 'purpose' a key word (Celani, 2008). In addition to establishing the primacy of 'need', the attempts to identify the distinctive features of ESP have so far mostly been made through juxtaposing it with the EGP pedagogy. In fact, attempts to assign the 'absolute characteristics' to ESP, with Dudley-Evans & St John (1998) and Strevens (1988) being leading figures, have tended to devote a discrete item that manifestly proclaims the "contrast" between the two areas of language teaching. Although this 'contrast' is expressed differently by different theoreticians, the common point has always been that ESP aims at specifying particular purposes which underlie the particular uses of language by particular language communities. Long (2005) states that:

[i]nstead of a one-size-fits-all approach, it is more defensible to view every course as involving specific purposes, the difference in each case being simply the precision with which it is possible to identify current or future uses of the L2. (p. 19)

Standing a step forward from EGP, or in more neutral terms, being "different from" it (Murray & Christison, 2011), the chief aim of ESP is definitely not to teach language "for its own sake or for the sake of gaining a general education but to smooth the path to entry or greater linguistic efficiency" Basturkmen (2006: 18). It seems tempting at this point to deduce that what really counts in ESP is not only the identification of purpose, but also the efficient practice of doing so. Otherwise, those ESP syllabi that do not cut with the use of "generic programs and materials, not designed with particular groups in mind, will be inefficient, at the very least, and in all probability, grossly inadequate" (Long 2005, p. 1). Here it seems that the above-mentioned portrayals complement each other in that they determine what ESP revolves around. The answer to the fundamental question for the sake of specifying the 'purpose' would meet the major ESP requirements of relevance and efficiency. Needless to say that other forms of language teaching do not aim for efficiency, but because purpose is more marked in ESP, then efficiency acquires more significance and precedence. Chostelidou (2011) claims that the efficiency of ESP courses has become of high priority in view of the fact that it has been part of a trend towards ensuring more quality in teaching itself a product of the escalation in the demand for public accountability.

The issue of authenticity often emerges when considering 'purpose'. Though very controversial (Dudley-Evans & St John, 1998, Bocanegra-Valle, 2010), authenticity has often been considered as part of the dichotomy 'authenticity of text' and 'authenticity of purpose'. The first refers to texts "normally used in the students' specialist subject area: written by specialists for specialists" (Jordan, 1997: 113), but that can however be used within language learning contexts. The second refers to the relevance of the text to the real-world language use. For Dudley-Evans & St John (1998) the fact that the text is originally devised for a specialist audience for purposes other than language learning does not always guarantee authenticity of purpose. The latter, they contend, would be satisfied only when the text-based activities manage to match the specialty text to the learning pedagogy and methodology, and even to the level of the ESP classroom, and in so doing making learnable what is authentic in terms of use. The reverse is also true. Learnable stuff may be very defective were the text/ activities lacking in genuineness. It seems that at this very point the notions of 'purpose' and 'efficiency' get to meet again since the practice of parachuting specific texts in a learning context would be as inefficient as the practice of learning language as severed from the authentic language use. This may be the reason why Dudley-Evans & St John (1998) claim that the genuineness of purpose is as momentous as the authenticity of text.

Needs analysis

If what ESP revolves around is the specification of purpose for the aim of guaranteeing linguistic efficiency, then NA, though not restricted to language teaching at large (Hyland, 2003), is a framework within which those two major ESP prerequisites could be satisfied. Since NA is affirmed to be "a basis for setting goals and objectives" (Nunan and Lamb, 1996, p. 27), and since those objectives are primarily centred upon "establishing the what and how of the course" (Dudley-Evans & St John, 1998, p.121), then NA acts as an active agent whose prime function is to "provide a rationale for selecting and integrating pedagogical tasks, as well as providing a point of reference for the decision-making process" (Nunan and Lamb, 1996, p. 27). It seems therefore that ESP and the notion of 'needs' are so much tied to each other that the definition of the notion of 'purposes' in ESP is almost synonymous with that of 'needs'. It sounds also reasonable to assume that NA places itself as a link between ESP's driving rationale, namely the search for specific needs, and the ultimate goal of that search: the efficient implementation of those needs in the design of an adequate syllabus, and in so doing it marks its difference from the less specified aims of other pedagogical approaches. Belcher (2004) claims that:

Unlike other pedagogical approaches, which may be less specific needs-based and more theory-driven, ESP pedagogy places heavy demands on its practitioners to collect empirical needs-assessment data, to create or adapt materials to meet specific needs identified, and to cope with often unfamiliar subject matter and even language use. (p. 166)

The purpose of any NA is therefore to prepare learners to meet linguistic expectations necessary in the targeted workplace or disciplines communities and to be accepted in those communities (Basturkmen & Elder, 2004). All that is to follow in the analysis and the pedagogical practices/ course design, regardless of the method and extent of success, is a response to the ESP central questions, namely the how and the what, and to questions that branch off from them. Hyland's (2003) definition of NA falls in the same line as he introduces it as "the techniques for collecting and assessing this kind of information: the means of establishing the how and what of a course" (p. 58).

What renders the ESP practitioners' task of working with a specific population in mind more vital is the other trait peculiar to the world of educational NA, namely the dynamic and evolving nature of needs. Not only is a NA per se necessary, but it should not be "a 'done once then forgotten' activity" (Hyland, 2006, p. 74). Instead, an ongoing approach to NA has to be implemented. This stems from the fact that the nature of needs, whether those of learners, teachers or sponsors, are changing, evolving and emerging with time (West, 1997). The idea that the practice of NA has to be an ongoing process has actually been attained after the failure of the original genre-based and text-bound approaches to ESP to account for the variability of student population, the target situation and needs (Basturkmen, 2006). The success of a course design rests therefore on "a continuous process of questioning and revision to check the original results, evaluate the effectiveness of the course and revise objectives" (Hyland, 2006, p. 74). More recently therefore, the ESP enterprise has ascertained that it is imperative to "adopt a more dynamic view of genres, seeing them as subject to change and adaptation, by the participants" (Basturkmen, 2006, p. 10).

The link between ESP and NA is therefore established as incontestable and one based on which ESP is defined according to the extent to which it meets those specific needs of the learner (Masuhara &Tomlinson, 2008) and secures the path towards linguistic efficiency. Accordingly, it can be assumed that the NA attached value of efficiency is one of the major distinctive features of NA and, therefore, ESP and which Hyland (2002) portrays as the basis of its success:

...This success is largely due to ESP's distinctive approach to language teaching based on identification of the specific language features, discourse practices and communicative skills of target groups, and on teaching practices that recognize the particular subject-matter needs and expertise of learners (p. 385).

According to this observation, the identification of certain sets of skills, linguistic structures and communicative practices which informs the design of curricular and teaching materials and underlie ESP's 'pragmatic' commitment to the different target environments has to make a half-departure from absolute theory to more efficient "practical outcomes" as noted by Dudley-Evans and St John (1998). In so doing, NA can be assumed to be "a crucial link between perception and practice, helping ESP to keep its feet on the ground by tempering any excesses of academic theory-building with practical applications" (Hyland, 2007, p. 380). Thanks to this maxim of practicality, it is a prerequisite that language skills and forms be taught not simply because they are there in the language (Nunan, 2004), but since ESP is preoccupied with specific targets and since each of these targets yields a distinct specialised language (Ruiz-Garrido et al., 2010), the scope of emphasis of ESP would be on pragmatism and practice. Celani (2008, p. 418) even goes as far as claiming that "it is possible to state that the basis of an ESP approach can also be the basis of sound general pedagogy and also of modern thinking in relation to foreign language learning", or, in Belcher et al.'s (2011) terms, ESP "has an established tradition that has undoubtedly provided leadership, as well as an intellectual 'nudge,' for what is still generally called 'General English' or, more disparagingly, 'English for No Obvious Reason'" (p.1).


Being related to needs analysis as its "major source" (Hyland, 2007), multi/inter-disciplinarity seems to fit as a cog into the educational-cum-research ESP machinery. Dudley-Evans and St John (1998) posit that this ESP distinctive feature has two aspects. It is the "need and willingness to engage with other disciplines through teaching, and the need and willingness to draw on the insights of researchers in other disciplines" (p. 17) that make of ESP a special candidate for building bridges among disciplines and methodologies. This twofold need and willingness is growing more indispensable as the interconnectedness among different academic disciplines is becoming more of a reality, thus resulting in the emergence of diverse approaches to solving complex problems (Tanik, 2011). According to Tanik these approaches fall into one of the following paradigms: multidisciplinarity [3] , interdisciplinarity, crossdisciplinarity, and trandisciplinarity. Table 1 below briefly describes how the different paradigms work both in education and research.

Table 1: Descriptions of various integrated disciplinary approaches.


Short Description


Joins together disciplines without integration


Integrates disciplines without dissolving disciplinary boundaries


Crosses disciplinary boundaries to explain one subject in terms of another


Joins, integrates, and/or crosses disciplines by dissolving disciplinary boundaries

Source: Tanik (2011, p. 67)

Some of the premises and promises of the different approaches, particularly those related to 'transdisciplinarity', seem to be a little too ambitious to be implemented in all educational environments, which is admitted by the adherents themselves, with Tanik (2011) being one of these. However, and even if the ultimate aim of the ESP theoreticians is generally not to describe universal and interdisciplinary language patterning (Bruce, 2008), ESP, being "research-based" in nature (Hyland, 2007), is undeniably the realm where different disciplines do not only coexist but cohere resulting in rich content and methods and promoting critical thinking both in teachers and learners. After all, the conventional disciplinary models of the 20th century are considered as unable to meet all of the needs in education and research of the 21st (Tanik, 2011).

Medical technology and multi-disciplinarity

Multi-disicplinarity seems to be at the heart of, or more precisely, a very distinctive feature of Medical Technology (MT) (Nüsslin, 2006). The disciplines to which MT is claimed to be in close connection are not only those that belong to the various areas of biosciences like biology, biomedical engineering and biomedical informatics (Nüsslin, 2006), but links extend to such otherwise 'distant' partners as industry and business transactions. The "intermeshing" between MT and industry is so uniting that a variety of labels have been used to describe it (Faulkner, 2009). Citing Clarke et al. (2003), Faulkner refers to such indicative terms of the nature of the connection as the "'health-industrial nexus', 'corporate health', 'medical-industrial complex' and 'Biomedical TechnoService Complex'" (p. 31) (italics not in original).

'Industrializing' the arenas of medicine and technology calls for another player in the 'nexus', that of marketing of the medical device product. Faulkner (2009) elaborates on the above-mentioned labels asserting that "given the interdependence of healthcare delivery systems and device industries, it is useful to conceive of their relationship as occurring in the spheres of socioeconomic production and market entry, and adoption and usership" (p. 31).

Implementing multi-dsciplinarity in education seems to be as ambitious and promising as the combinations between medicine and its allies in the world of MT. Accordingly, this paradigm seems to be inexorable given "the growing interconnections and dependencies among academic disciplines and the explosion of knowledge [that] have transcended discipline-specific academic fields, resulting in different approaches to solving complex problems" (Tanik, 2011, p. 67).

A historical overview

The first comprehensive framework for NA dates back to Munby's (1978) Communicative Needs Processor (CNP) (Kormos et al., 2002) which detailed what language components and features a learner precisely needs to learn to attain a system of predefined needs (Nation & Macalister, 2010). Such a model epitomised what later came to be known as 'target situation analysis' (TSA). The model revolutionised the field of ESP through offering a scrupulous view of language teaching in specific contexts where the objective was "seen in terms of training students in communicative repertoires characteristic of target situations" (Basturkmen, 2006, p. 5).

Nevertheless, much of the criticism levelled at the theory was founded on the claim that it was based on a rather impractical conception of language use in specific situations, a problem further compounded by the model's inherent "neglect of the learner in needs analysis" (Holme & Chalauisaeng, 2006, p. 404). By failing to account for the ever-changing and broadening range of purposes and needs (Belcher, 2006), and therefore the evolving nature of language use in those real life situations, the model typified a "rigid view of language needs" identifying "not only the English language functions that would be needed...but also the actual linguistic formula for realising these functions" (Basturkmen, 2006, p. 5).

Conversely, and apart from marking a big step forward from the prevailing register analyses and structural syllabuses of its day (Long, 2005), one of the major virtues of Munby's framework is that it stimulated the debate about diversity in types of needs and procedures to establish them (Harwood & Petrić, 2011) with the subsequent research being oriented towards developing "a reaction against an exclusive focus on descriptions of language use in target situations of earlier periods, and a shift towards considering the learner as the centre of the teaching/learning process" (p. 247). This reaction has hitherto attempted to reconsider the basic concepts of 'needs' and 'needs analysis' to establish new definitions beyond the original borders.

Basic concepts

The abovementioned 'shift' from the descriptive accounts of language as used in target situations to more explanatory and exploratory endeavours, together with the necessity to give more weight to the learner seem to have given the notions of 'needs' and 'needs analysis' "expanding" dimensions to ultimately become more sophisticated (Bastukmen, 2010; Hyland, 2007) and a potential to cover extra variables. Hyland (2006) depicts the notion of needs as "an umbrella term" that comprises a wide range of aspects. According to him these relate, among other things, to the learners' goals, backgrounds, proficiencies, preferences and reasons for taking this course. In addition, Hyland refers to the objective versus subjective perceptions of needs by teachers and learners, respectively. From the same perspective needs can cover what learners already know, what they don't know, and what they want to know. What is sure about 'needs' is that it is strongly tied to the language and communication styles and strategies of the target situation where the learner is supposed to employ them. Here, an analysis of needs, as is the case with ESP, is a departure from theory to practice where adequate answers to specific and carefully devised questions is indispensable to the success of the analysis and the course (Nation & Macalister, 2010). To better explore this issue, it is of significance to try to define the notion of 'needs' itself to later aim at determining what an analysis of those needs entails.

definition of needs

The notion of 'needs' has been described as being such multi-faceted a concept as it covers more than one aspect or classification. Dudley-Evans & St John (1998), reported that a "confusing plethora of terms" (p. 123) had, up until their time, already been offered for the definition of this term. Dudley-Evans & St John list down the marker labels that have documented the attempts to define such a concept. Brindley's (1989) objective and subjective needs, Berwick's (1989) perceived and felt needs, Brindley's (1989) target situation/ goal-oriented and learning, process oriented and product-oriented needs, in addition to Hutchinson's and Waters' (1987) necessities, wants, and lacks are the terms depicting the "different factors and perspectives which have helped the concept of needs to grow" (Dudley-Evans & St John, 1998, p. 123). These labels are not necessarily mutually-exclusive, even if each of them corresponds to "a different philosophy or educational value", and the contribution of Dudley-Evans & St John (1998) to the development process of ESP is one that aimed at synthesizing these attempts, offering their own comprehensive version of the terminology in what they called "jigsaw". This comprises "target situation analysis" (TSA), "learning situation analysis" (LSA) (p. 123), and present situation analysis" (PSA) (p. 124).

Evolution of the concept

The above illustration does not reflect a preoccupation with terminology as much as it is a sign of evolution over time of the notion and therefore definition of 'needs'. Hyland (2007, p. 669) argues that the concept "has been expanded beyond the linguistic skills and knowledge required to perform competently in a target situation." He contends that this expansion has taken two forms. The first is that the concept has come to include, ensuing the earliest phases of ESP evolution, Hutchinson's & Waters' (1987) 'learner needs' which incorporate both the learner's starting point of proficiency and his/ her perceptions of needs. In this regard, factors that relate either to the learner, such as the affective, cognitive, or social aspects, or to the learning situations are taken into consideration.

The second part of the expansion, always according to Hyland's account, has to do with Benesch's (1993, 1996, 1999 and 2001) critical assessment of NA and the ESP enterprise itself. Benesch, though she conforms to the centrality of NA in ESP, claims that it does not account for the power being exercised by different parties for different ends and even succumbs to the efforts that hush them up. The veiled aim of such a practice, Benesch (1999) contends, is often the maintenance of the current status quo and the institutionalised manifestations of power (e.g. the requirements and expectations of institutions) that exert pressure over the learner to change and suit established norms in the target settings. Rights analysis, a concept first introduced by Benesch (1999) to act in parallel with critical needs analysis, is the framework within which 'rights' "are not a set of pre-existing demands but a conceptual framework for questions about power and resistance" (Benesch, 2001, p.58). (Further reference to 'rights analysis' is in the section about limitations of NA).

The process of evolution does not seem to halt at this point, given the evolving nature inherent in ESP and the purposes that stimulate it, and the prospects seem to develop towards promising outcomes in the future. Among the future trends, many follow the same line of evolution, namely the necessity for ESP as a whole to get ready for real change-which has theoretically been the case- fostering learner participation and autonomy in decision making. Basturkmen (2010) sheds light on one of the pioneer studies (Holme and Chalauisaeng, 2006) that have heralded the student's aspired conversion from being simple investigated subjects to active participators in NA. Holme and Chalauisaeng (2006) borrowed, both the label and technique, from the aid project approach known as 'Participatory Rural Appraisal' (RPA) to develop a set of qualitative techniques of NA under what they called the 'Participatory Appraisal' (PA) approach. The premise of these techniques, as the name may suggest, is to help learning 'communities' discover their own needs, which thereby entails that a given community independently appraises their needs within the frames of "effective study habits" (p. 404) that in turn enable the student to act as a needs 'investigator' regardless of the time intervals of intervention of the NA.

Some of the other future trends cited in Basturkmen (2010) and which have already been underway revolve around a considerable number of objections to the subject of study in the analysis of the learners' needs. One of these objections is voiced by Long (2005) who contends that being built around 'linguistic units' of analysis such as words, texts, notions or functions, NAs would neither be compatible with the communicative purposes for which a syllabus is designed, nor with the syllabus specification, methodology, materials or assessment, nor would they reflect a significant level of validity or reliability. For Long (2005) and others, the alternative, presented as the 'task-based' NA, has the 'promising' potential to:

give more voice to insiders to offer more valid data about 'real world' tasks,

rid NAs of the decontextualization of language items that offer little or no information on how, or for what purpose structure is actually used,

show that texts are task-motivated, not the opposite, and in so doing it can "reveal more than text-based analyses ...the dynamic qualities of target discourse" (p. 23),

overcome the obstacles that relate to the target domain expert's tiny knowledge about language and the linguist's lack of expert knowledge of content through the valid information offered by the experts' in terms of tasks about the nature of work being done.

enhance the chances of learning provided it is harmonised with the findings of language acquisition research, especially those that relate to the universalities of L2 developmental processes of the learner whether in or out of a classroom.

For these reasons, persists Basturkmen (2010), text-based analysis, at least when not paralleled by other types of analyses, is reported as incongruous with the goal of guaranteeing real world use, and not usage, of language, and as little investigative into the specificities of the target domain discourse. This may be the reason why it is expected that in the foreseeable future there will be more reliance in ESP on ethnographic methods (in the form observations and fieldwork, for instance) whose role Long (2005, p. 43) claims to be the lessening of "cultural distance between outsider (observer) and insider (observed)" (italics in original). In the same veins, Belcher et al. (2011) call for more of the critical ethnography approach which they claim is still immature in ESP research or, to adopt Hyland's (2006) terms, one that "still struggles for recognition as an appropriate research methodology" (p. 68).

Models of needs analysis

Target Situation Analysis (TSA)

The term was first introduced by Chambers (1980) (Basturkmen, 2010) and such a type of analysis had as central mission the focus on the students' needs at the end of a language course (Robinson, 1991). TSA was well influential because it stressed the fact that "the purpose of an ESP course is to enable learners to function adequately in a target situation" and Munby's (1978) Communicative Syllabus Design introduced "the most thorough explanation of TSA" (Hutchinson & Waters, 1987, p. 12). Munby formulated a framework that details needs through the CNP which comprises "a set of parameters within which information on the students' target situation are plotted" (Robinson, 1991, pp. 8-9).

Although TSA has been criticised for being too language-centred (Hutchinson & Waters, 1987) and Munby's model for representing "a very 'purist' and idealised point of view" (McDonough, 1984, 33), approaches to needs analysis have generally not excluded the contributions this approach seems to have offered to ESP. Even if TSA "takes little account of the present state of the learner's present language proficiency" as West (1997: 71) points out, and that the unilateral reliance on it "gives the process a misleading impartiality, suggesting that teachers can simply read off a course from an objective situation" (Hyland, 2006, p. 74), the expanding nature of NA has allowed it to later determine what West metaphorically calls the 'starting point' of the language teaching 'journey'. This has been represented under the label Deficiency Analysis (DA), which has as ingredients the "lacks, deficiencies, or subjective needs as they estimate the 'learning gap' between present needs and target needs" (West, 1997, p. 71).

Additionally, the notions of 'target' and TSA do not necessarily bear the pejorative meaning that has long been associated with Munby's and other analogous models where discourses are analysed in isolation from the social and affective contexts. This is being, or thus it should be, substituted by focus not on language but communication where language is used within interactional and semiotic contexts situations to which it is closely related (Hyland, 2007).

Present Situation Analysis (PSA)

As noted above PSA can act as complement to TSA, or as Basturkmen (2010) puts it, "target situation and present situation analysis can... be seen as two sides of the same coin" (p. 138). Holme (1996) argues that the undertaking of NA is not only a matter of "where the students are heading to but also where they are coming from" (p. 6). Keeping with the same idea, PSA allows for a greater number of variables to be taken into account (Benesch, 2001). What PSA then seeks to determine is the "identification of what the learners do and do not know and can or cannot do in relation to the demands of the target situation" (Basturkmen, 2010, p. 19). PSA was suggested by Richterich & Chancerel (1980) who fostered the centrality of the language learner in contrast to what TSA stressed, namely language form and features that belong in a certain target milieu. Therefore, being considered to be at the heart of the NA paradigm, the learner's perceived needs have been made the ground for a wider scope of NA.

The learning-centred approach

In reaction to the previous models, Hutchinson and Waters (1987) posit that what should be stressed is not the language to be targeted but how learners should learn. The learners' needs are assessed from two angles, namely the target needs and the learning needs. The first part encompasses items such as necessities, lacks, and wants. The second part handles information about the learner and learning conditions. These principally cover the learner's attitudes, their socio-cultural background, age, gender, and their knowledge of specialised content.

ESP in Tunisia

In a country where the official language is Arabic and the second language used is French, with the latter enjoying the double privilege as a means of instruction (Labassi, 2010) and an important channel in some business and administrative sectors, English has been struggling to secure a special place. The teaching of English in the tertiary level in Tunisia has undergone significant changes during the recent years with the principal change being a change in the status of the language with all institutes teaching subjects related to business, economics and science and technology being welcoming hosts of the language (Lumala & Trabelsi, 2008). Since what much of the notion of status depends on a political scheduling, the situation of French as former colonizer losing some of its privilege in Tunisia has mostly been decided by the ruling elites in the country probably following the decline of the language in science, technology and business (Labassi, 2010).

This has therefore been the stimulant to accessing "scientific and technological information directly from the original sources, rather than through French which has come to be seen as a handicap in the quest for faster modernisation, development and integration in the global community" (Daoud, 2001, p. 31). In spite of this change, French still has a considerable supremacy in instruction in the ESP host institutions since students there "are taught through the medium of French, and write exams papers and defend the results of their research in the same language" (Labassi, 2010, p. 23).

ESP in Tunisia is said to have always suffered from a problem of status (Daoud, 2000). Assigning a merited status to ESP does not mean that policy makers have only to acknowledge the importance of English and ESP in the current educational systems or the Journal Officiel. This is in fact something that the successive governments have already done and probably they have even "gone the furthest in the region in generalizing the teaching of English in the educational sector", and the official discourse "has been unequivocal about the need for English" (Daoud, 2000, p. 81). The problem resides elsewhere: it is, Daoud (2000) argues, "the lack of policy and planning commitments to ensure the professional development and delivery of ESP services, which may be explained by several factors, including central control, institutional inertia, and continuing resistance to the spread of English in a French-dominant educational and economic system" (p. 81).

In view of this lack of commitment on the part of policy makers, and given the fact that the involvement of governmental institutions is a "condition for the sustainability of ESP projects" (Labassi, 2010, p. 25), ESP is rather mostly sustained through individual enthusiasm and diligence of some ESP teachers and deans (Daoud, 2000). Otherwise, "questions remain as to whether what is being offered is true ESP given the lack of proper needs analysis, teacher training and evaluation" (p. 79).

Given the reality that the latter three conditions are almost missing, the design of in-house materials would be a mission impossible for teachers. As mentioned above, developing local materials and methodology is part and parcel of what ESP is all about. The localisation of ESP projects bears a great deal of flexibility and adaptability themselves crucial to the sustainability and efficiency of the field (Labassi, 2010). It is a truth that what the greatest portion of ESP teachers in Tunisia resort to are ready-made materials from published textbooks without comprehensively scrutinising their responsiveness to their students' needs. This rarely-done scrutiny is carried out on a non-systematic and uninformed basis. What compounds the problem is that the collaboration between the ESP teachers and subject-matter teachers is very rare, random and at best informal. The problem of the teaching of ESP in Tunisia seems to be the same problem of the field in other places of the globe, namely the conformity of the courses to the standards required in such types of programmes among which there is the concept of needs analysis (Lumala & Trabelsi, 2008). Apart from the problem of status or sincere policy implementation, the other obstacle for the spread of English in the education system is from within the community of ESP in Tunisia itself since the practice "is largely ad-hoc, lacking in course design, teacher training, sufficient instruction time, and proper evaluation" (Daoud, 2000, p. 77).

Methods of data collection

Dudley-Evans & St John (1998) catalogue seven methods to collect data. These are checklists and questionnaires, structured interviews, observation, analysis of authentic texts, assessment, discussions, and record keeping. These are the most common methods in the literature with some slight additions or deletions. Parrott (1993) for instance, chooses to add proficiency tests that help teachers "to set against impressionistic judgements about the effectiveness or otherwise of particular materials, techniques about or approaches and to help them in making future decisions about using these" (p. 21).

Critical account of needs analysis

As mentioned above, the effort exercised within the frames of mainstream ESP needs analyses has been criticised for being too little radical in spite of the adherents' endeavours to take it beyond the descriptive accounts meant to reveal strictly-defined discrete target situation features. One of the major figures who have led the movement of criticism levelled at 'needs analysis' is Sarah Benesch (1993, 1996, 1999, and 2001). The critical effort of Benesch has not been aimed at demolishing the whole edifice of NA or its centrality in ESP but at identifying its problematic facets. Problematizing needs in Benesch's works seems to revolve around the fact that ESP/EAP tends often to be too much "accommodationist" (Benesch, 1993), too much pragmatic, and too timid to act as tool for real change of the institutionalised criteria (Basturkmen, 2006). One of those problematic facets, according to Benesch (2001), is the power relations that exist within the ESP/EAP institution and that are disregarded in the actual practice of analysing the learners' needs.

Calling for a critical approach to one of the pillar assumptions of this practice, namely that target needs are the goal which establish the purpose of instruction, Benesch goes as far as claiming that there is an urgent need to be aware of, and question, a dominant "ideology" adopting "strict pragmatism and obedience to requirements" (Benesch, 2001, p. 101). NA in general, and this ideology in particular, Benesch details, is problematic for two main reasons. The first is that it combines two otherwise incongruent entities, namely the external requirements of the target situation and the students' desires, treating them as harmonious. The second reason relates to what Benesch (2001) refers to as the subtle "ideological battles" within the academic life that exist around curriculum decision-making. The two reasons/ aspects seem therefore to be mutually causative. If the defect of NA according to Benesch was that it highlights "only the final outcomes of those charged decisions" (p.101) by virtue of pragmatism and the desire to "deliver maximum assistance in minimum time" (Swales, 1994, p. 201), then it would disregard the power, among other factors, inherent in academic environments. The issue of power, according to Benesch, relates to which party makes the decision about the course content and the nature of teaching and assessment.

What Benesch (2001) proposes as an alternative, as mentioned above, is not the subversion of NA as the basic defining criterion of ESP, but that the whole ESP activity should be a) approached from a critical angle and, b) expanded to include a rights analysis. The main promise of the first part is to help the researcher go "beyond pragmatic instrumentalism and a limited notion of student success as fulfilling content class requirements" (p. 57). Within the frames of critical ESP, preparing students for the target tasks is seen as a valuable but insufficient goal. Instead, students should not be forced to fit as a cog into the existing educational-cum-institutionalised machinery but rather be helped to "articulate and formalize their resistance, to participate more democratically as members of an academic community and in the larger society" (p. 57). As to rights analysis, by revealing how learner needs and institutional requirements and constraints are fused, 'rights' is meant to counterpoise 'needs' as the latter is often a tool for naturalising "what is socially constructed" thus "making externally imposed rules seem not just normal but also immutable" (p.57).

Research questions

In the light of what has been mentioned, the present study will attempt to address the following research questions:

What are the students' needs for English?

What is the effect of trans-disciplinarity on the English language needs?

What are the attitudes of third year students and the in-service former students to the English course at the ISTMT?

How do the different parties perceive the students' needs for English?

How can the present study contribute to designing an effective curriculum for the population at hands?