English Medium Instruction (EMI) refers to the practice of offering academic subjects taught through English in countries or jurisdictions where English is not the first language of the majority of the population.
The growth of EMI in higher education has been well-documented, and the driving forces behind EMI are intertwined with goals related to the internationalisation of higher education. Although EMI as a phenomenon has grown exponentially in recent decades, research has reported the lack of evidence on the impact of the medium of instruction on students’ content learning outcomes.
This study drew comparisons between EMI students (n=27) and Japanese medium instruction (JMI) students (n=26) in terms of their directly measured and self-perceived content knowledge acquisition. Data were collected at a research site university where the Chemistry courses were available in both Japanese and English as part of a parallel program offering the same curriculum in either of two languages of instruction. An analysis was made of students’ content learning outcomes measured by a novel pre-post course content tests created by the EMI Chemistry professor for the purpose of the research. These measurable test outcomes were triangulated with data from student interviews to identify further differences in their perceived learning experience according to the language of instruction. These student interviews in addition to teacher interviews and lecture observations were used subsequently to discern the differences in the EMI and JMI course implementation as well as to elucidate academic challenges associated with medium of instruction. Subsequently, factors previously attested as crucial for EMI, such as proficiency, challenges, and prior content knowledge were explored to investigate the impact of these factors on students’ success in EMI.
Based on the findings, I will conclude the talk with recommendations for researchers and practitioners who are questioning the value of gaining content knowledge through EMI while also trying to promote the further expansion of EMI programs.