Abdulwahid Qasem Al Zumor(1*),

(1) King Khalid University
(*) Corresponding Author



This study examines the challenges of using English medium instruction (EMI) in teaching and learning scientific disciplines. The main objective of the study is to identify students’ perceptions regarding lecture comprehension, communication, pedagogy, assessment, and affect in an EMI setting. The participants in this study are 264 Saudi students who study Computer Science, Engineering, and Medicine. A questionnaire with a four-point Likert scale was used to survey the participants’ views on the challenges they encounter as a result of the use of EMI for teaching and learning scientific disciplines. The collected data were analysed quantitatively with SPSS and qualitatively by using the content analysis method. The major findings of the study are: a) using English language to teach scientific disciplines has a seriously negative impact on the scientific content comprehension and assessment of a majority of the students in the present study, b) using English language as the medium of instruction and assessment causes anxiety, frustration, tension, fear, embarrassment and, ultimately, poor educational outcomes, c) EMI deprives the students of their basic rights to effective understanding, communication, interaction, discussion and inquiry. The study recommends ensuring quality English education in the foundation year and examining the option of “additive bilingual education.”


English medium instruction; Arabic medium instruction; lecture comprehension; language education policy; higher education; language barrier

Full Text:



Airey, J., & Linder, C. (2006). Language and the experience of learning university physics in Sweden. European Journal of Physics, 27(3), 553-560.

Albulwi, A. (2016, March 07). Shura Council to Ministry of Education: University graduates are weak. Al Riyadh. Retrieved November 05, 2018, from

Al Kahtany, et al. (2016). English As The Medium Of Instruction In Saudi Higher Education: Necessity Or Hegemony?. Journal of Language Teaching and Research, 7(1).

Al Abdul Rahman, K. B. (2010). Arabization of medical education: Realistic vision and practical steps. Sauress. Retrieved February 17, 2018, from

Alhamami, M. (2015). Teaching Science Subjects in Arabic: Arab University Scientists’ Perspectives. Language Learning in Higher Education 5(1):105–123.

Arkin, İ. E. (2013). English-medium instruction in higher education: A case study in a Turkish university context . Doctoral dissertation, Eastern Mediterranean University (EMU).

Başıbek, N. et al. (2014). Lecturers’ Perceptions of English Medium Instruction at Engineering Departments of Higher Education: A Study on Partial English Medium Instruction at Some State Universities in Turkey, Social and Behavioral Sciences 116 ( 2014 ) 1819 – 1825.

Bowman, P. (2011). English Medium in the United Arab Emirates: Serving Local or Global Needs? Unpublished thesis for the degree of Doctor of Education (Ed.D) in TESOL in September 2011 from the University of Exeter.

Dearden, J. (2014). English as a medium of instruction – a growing global phenomenon: Phase 1. Interim Report April 2014. British Council. Accessed

January 25, 2018.

Ebad, R. (2014). The role and impact of English as a language and a medium of instruction in Saudi higher education institutions: Students-instructors perspective. Study in English Language Teaching, 2 (2), 142-143. Retrieved from

in Development.” TESOL Quarterly 36: 297-322.

IEAA. (2015). The increasing pull of China. Accessed February 14, 2016.

Kim, K. R. (2011). Korean Professor and Student Perceptions of the Efficacy of English Medium Instruction. Linguistic Research, 28(3), 711-741.

Kirkgoz, Y. (2005). English Language Teaching in Turkey: challenges for the 21st Century. , in G. Braine (Ed.), Teaching English to the world: History, curriculum, and practice (pp. 159-175). Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Kirkpatrick, A. (2010). English as a lingua franca in ASEAN: A multilingual model (Vol. 1). Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press.

Kirkpatrick, A. (2017). The languages of higher education in East and Southeast Asia: Will EMI lead to Englishisation? In B. Fenton-Smith, P. Humphreys, & I. Walkinshaw (Eds.), English-medium instruction in higher education in Asia Pacific: From policy to pedagogy. Dordrecht: Springer.

Knagg, J. (2013). The Changing Role of English and ELT in a Modern, Multilingual, and Internationalized HE world. British Council – Going Global 2013 proceedings.

Luckett, K. (1993). National Additive Bilingualism”: towards the formulation of a language plan for South African schools. SAJALS, Vol.2 No.1.

Macaro, E. (2015) English medium instruction: Time to start asking some difficult questions. Modern English Teacher, 24(2), 4-8.

Madhavan, D. (2016, May 14). Ten truths (and a lie) about EMI. IATEFL webinar.

Mahboob, A. (2017). English Medium Instruction in Higher Education in Pakistan: Policies, Perceptions, Problems, and Possibilities. In Ben Fenton-Smith, Pamela Humphreys, Ian Walkinshaw (Eds.), English Medium Instruction in Higher Education in Asia-Pacific: From Policy to Pedagogy, (pp. 71- 91). Cham: Springer.

Manh, L. D. (2012). English as a medium of instruction at tertiary education system in Vietnam. The Journal of Asia TEFL, 9(2), 97-122.

Markee, N. 2002. Language in Development: Questions of Theory, Questions of Practice. TESOL Quarterly 36 (3): 265-274.

Marsh, D. (2006). English as medium of instruction in new global linguistic order: Global Characteristics, local consequences. Second Annual Conference for Middle East Teachers of Science, Mathematics and Computing. Abu Dhabi. Retrieved January 25, 2018, from

Onsman, A. (2012). Distributing the future evenly: English as the lingua franca in the Saudi Arabian higher education sector. Higher Education Policy, 25, 477-491.

Pessoa, S., & Rajakumar, M. (2011). The impact of English-medium higher education: The case of Qatar. In A. Al-Issa & L. S. Dahan (Eds.), Global English and Arabic: Issues of language, culture, and identity (pp. 153-178). Oxford, UK: Peter Lang.

Pennycook, A. (2001). Critical Applied Linguistics: a critical introduction. Mahwah, New Jersey London: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Phillipson, R. (2015) English as a Threat or Opportunity in European Higher Education. in S Dimova, AK Hultgren & C Jensen (eds), English-Medium Instruction in European Higher Education: English in Europe, Volume 3. Mouton de Gruyter, Boston/Berlin, Language and Social Life, vol. 4, pp. 19-42.

Pie News. (2015). OECD: Half of world’s mobile students from Asia in 2013. http://thepienews. com/news/oecd-half-of-worlds-mobile-students-from-asia-in-2013/. Accessed September 11, 2016.

Sert, N. (2008). The Language of Instruction Dilemma in the Turkish Context. An International Journal of Educational Technology and Applied Linguistics, 36(2), 156–171.

Shamim, F. Abdelhalim, A., & Hamid, N. (2016). English Medium Instruction in the Transition Year: Case from KSA. Arab World English Journal, 8 (1).

Spolsky, B. (2004). Language policy. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Tamtam, A. G., et al. (2012). A Comparative Study of the Implementation of EMI in Europe, Asia and Africa. Procedia-Social and Behavioral Sciences, 47, 1417-1425.

The world's largest ranking of countries and regions by English skills. (2018). Retrieved November 02, 2018, from

Troudi, S. (2009). The effects of English as a medium of instruction on Arabic as a language of science and academia. In P. Wachob (Ed.). Power in the EFL Classroom: Critical Pedagogy in the Middle East. (pp. 199-216). Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.

Troudi, S. and Gail, H. (2017). The Dilemma of English and its roles in the United Arab Emirates and the Gulf. In A. Mahboob and T, Elyas (Eds.), Challenges to Education in the GCC during the 21st Century (pp. 93-116). Cambridge: Gulf Research Centre.

Troudi, S., & Jendli, A. (2011). Emirati students' experiences of English as a medium of instruction. In A. Al-Issa & L. S. Dahan (Eds.), Global English and Arabic - Issues of language, culture, and identity (Vol. 31) (pp. 23-48). Oxford, UK: Peter Lang.

UNESCO (1953). The use of the vernacular languages in education. Monographs on Foundations of Education, No. 8. Paris: UNESCO.

UNESCO (2008a). Mother Tongue Matters: Local Language as a Key to Effective Learning. Paris: UNESCO.

Vu, N & Burns A, (2014). English as a medium of instruction: Challenges for Vietnamese tertiary lecturers, Journal of Asia TEFL, vol. 11, pp. 1 – 31.

Wiseman, A., Odell, A. (2014). Should non-English speaking countries teach in English? Voices,

Article Metrics

Abstract view : 1555 times | PDF view : 286 times


  • There are currently no refbacks.

License URL:




Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.