New program mixes English language skills with academic studies
Nobuyoshi Torigoe embraced one goal: Attend UBC’s Okanagan campus to earn a degree in applied science.
However, while Torigoe aced the entrance requirements, his proficiency in English became a roadblock to his success. It was a trend administrators at UBC were seeing consistently, with brilliant young minds turned away because they couldn’t quite pass the English Language Admission Standards test.
“These students met the grade-point-average (GPA) requirements but they missed on the English test by just a few points. We found out they would stay in their home countries and take the test over and over and over again,” says Leah Sanford, manager of International Programs and Services at the Okanagan campus. “We knew there had to be a better way to introduce these students to the university.”
Last September, UBC offered a new English Foundation Program (EFP) as a pilot – 17 students registered, most of them international. The students thrived. This September, more than 100 registered in the EFP.
The EFP is unique, Sanford explains. If students meet the academic requirements for undergraduate degrees in Arts, Science, Applied Science, Management, Fine Arts, or Human Kinetics, they can apply for, and take courses, in that program. So, while they are taking English foundation courses, they also study two academic courses related to their degree.
“Quite often, international students would take only English foundation courses and not get involved with other first-year students in their degree program,” Sanford says. “But we invite our students to begin their academic career as early as possible. We want them to succeed, and being a part of a cohort can help with that success.”
EFP students remain in their faculty and at the same time are immersed in courses that help develop skills in academic writing, reading, listening, and speaking English. Credit for these courses goes toward their undergraduate degree.
Torigoe, who hopes to become a civil engineer, grew up in China and Japan and he likes that he could take academic courses while working on his English skills.
“The EFP helped me get accustomed to university life and I learned how to use the library system and how to write a research paper,” he says. “It also helped me get involved in many events and activities.”
It goes further, he says, as he had teaching assistants who were able to teach him how to study for his applied sciences courses and with their help he “aced” his entire first year.
“The EFP is an amazing program that helped improve my English level. In one semester, I have seen a huge improvement in my writing skills,” he says. “I love UBC’s Okanagan campus, and I’m experiencing an unforgettable opportunity at the university.”
Sanford, along with EFP Faculty of Education Instructors Karen Rauser and Jeanie Ortis, say the EFP students add a wonderful dimension to the campus as they share their language, culture, and their own special talents.