Bridging the Gap Between School and Higher Education: Evaluating an Intensive English Programme for Women in Saudi Arabia
The purpose of this article is to evaluate a project undertaken in Saudi Arabia to prepare its students for university study. It focuses on the Female Section of an Intensive English Programme (IEP) in the context of a Common First Year. It assesses the IEP’s academic value and the extent to which cultural diversity affects its implementation. Findings show that the IEP gives students enhanced self-confidence and educational skills and provides a scenario within which positive relationships are established between students and international instructors, despite cultural differences between them. However, it uses textbooks that are not fully suited to the Saudi context and incompatible with IEP assessment approaches, tolerates dysfunctional behaviour such as plagiarism and poor attendance, and treats instructors in a manner that makes them feel over-controlled and unappreciated. Finally, the IEP fails to challenge students academically and leads them to overestimate their proficiency in English, risking disappointment for them within mainstream higher education. These problems need to be urgently addressed if the IEP is to be maintained in its present form.
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