Exploring EAP provision in Higher Education in four South Asian countries

Bimali Indrarathne, Sharon McCulloch

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


This paper reports on a research study exploring EAP provision in four South Asian countries. In the context of internationalization of higher education, English enjoys a prestigious place in countries like Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal and Pakistan. Sri Lanka aims to become South Asia’s knowledge hub, encouraging overseas students to study at its universities, establishing branches of foreign universities, and adopting English as a medium of instruction (EMI) (Lyne, 2013). Aside from certain humanities courses, EMI is also adopted in Pakistani universities, (Mansur & Shrestha, 2015), and in Medicine, Agriculture, Law and Engineering at Nepali universities (Shrestha, 2008). In Bangladesh, private universities use EMI, and public universities depend heavily on materials in English (Chowdhury, 2009; Chowdhury & Haider, 2012). To study in Anglophone countries or publish internationally, students and researchers need to develop academic literacies such as critical thinking and the ability to deploy source material skilfully in academic writing. High quality, relevant EAP education is, therefore, crucial, and most universities in these countries have made EAP courses compulsory for their students (Ashraf, Hakim & Zulfiqar, 2014; Shrestha, 2008). However, research indicates that many of these courses do not adequately serve their intended purpose. For example, Mansur and Shrestha (2015) and Gnawali and Poudel (2018) found that EAP courses at Pakistani and Nepali universities, respectively, failed to improve students’ academic English proficiency to the expected standards. Similar results were found in Bangladesh (Chowdhury, 2009; Chowdhury & Haider, 2012). Issues with existing courses included their ability to improve students’ academic writing and critical thinking (Gunawardena & Petraki, 2014; Shah, Rafique, Shakir & Zahid, 2014). This paper reports on British Council-funded research that explored the extent to which EAP pedagogies could benefit university students and researchers in four South Asian countries. Questionnaires were distributed to three stakeholder groups (students, EAP staff and subject lecturers) and interviews, focus groups and classroom observations were conducted at universities in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal and Pakistan. Data were analysed using SPSS and NVivo. The paper outlines findings on the extent to which aspects of EAP, specifically critical thinking and academic writing, were perceived as useful by these three groups for studying and publishing in English, the extent to which they are taught, and the factors that act as catalysts or barriers to implementing EAP pedagogies. The paper engages with conversations around the role of English in an increasingly internationalized higher education landscape in South Asia. Ashraf, H., Hakim, L., & Zulfiqar, I. (2014). English for academic purposes in Pakistan: Policy and practice in plurilingual contexts. In I. Lyanage & T. Walker (Eds.), EAP in Asia: Negotiating appropriate practices in a global context (pp. 33–50). Rotterdam: Sense. Chowdhury, T. A. (2009). Identifying the English language needs of humanities students at Dhaka University. The Dhaka University Journal of Linguistics, 2(4), 59-90. Chowdhury, T. A. & Haider, Z. (2012). A need-based evaluation of the EAP courses for the pharmacy students in the University of Asia Pacific (UAP), Bangladesh. Asian Social Science, 8(15), 93-107. Gnawali, L. & Poudel, T. (2018). Improving academic writing skills of English language teacher trainees through ITC, a research paper submitted to Kathmandu University School of Education, Latipur, Nepal. Gunawardena, M., & Petraki, E. (2014). Critical thinking skills in the EAP classroom: Negotiating tensions in the Sri Lankan context. In Liyanaga, I. & Walker, T. (Eds.) English for academic purposes (EAP) in Asia: Negotiating appropriate practices in a global context (pp. 65-78). Rotterdam, Boston, Taipei: Sense. Lyne, N. (2013). Sri Lanka: A South Asian hub. First Magazine. Available at www.firstmagazine.com/DownloadSpecialReportDetail.1443.ashx [Accessed 10.04.2018] Mansur, S.B. & Shrestha, P. (2015). The EAP course design quagmire – juggling the stakeholders’ perceived needs. In P. Shrestha ed. Current developments in English for academic and specific purposes: Local innovations and global perspectives. Reading: Garnet Education. ISBN: 978-1-78260-162-3. Shah, S. K., Rafique, S., Shakir, A. & Zahid, S. (2014). Textbook evaluation of English for academic purposes by the British Council. Research on Humanities and Social Sciences, 4(7), 104-114. Shrestha, P. (2008). ELT, ESP & EAP in Nepal: Whose interests are served? In, M. Krzanowski (Ed.) EAP and ESP in developing countries: State of play vs actual needs and wants (pp.191-210). Canterbury: IATEFL (ESP SIG).
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2019
EventBALEAP 2019 Conference - University of Leeds, Leeds, United Kingdom
Duration: 12 Apr 201914 Apr 2019


ConferenceBALEAP 2019 Conference
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
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