DOES THE LEVEL OF KNOWLEDGE DELIVERED IN 'ENGLISH IN DENTISTRY' AFFECT THE QUALITY OF FUTURE DENTAL EDUCATION?
Background: It is well recognized that English, as a second language, increasingly plays an important role in many international dental meetings, associations and publications. International dental collaboration also requires a high standard of dental English proficiency. The current educational system in the Faculty of Dentistry in Damascus University has emphasized on delivering dental education in Arabic. English as a subject is taught in the faculty to undergraduates in five semesters. However, effort is spent on understanding grammar, teaching dental terminology and translating text from English to Arabic. The Faculty is currently engaged in significant curricular reform in order to meet the demands of ever-growing dental knowledge. It is essential to identify English learning needs in dentistry in order to develop the curriculum. Therefore, this study was undertaken to investigate attitudes of undergraduates to learning 'English in Dentistry' and assist the identification of what is needed from teaching 'English in Dentistry' as a topic in order to improve the quality of dental education. Materials and Methods: A questionnaire was designed and distributed to 115 undergraduates in the faculty of dentistry. It contained questions about advantages and disadvantages of learning 'English in dentistry', reasons behind learning it, barriers to learning it, and methods for improving learning and teaching. Results: The response rate was 93 % (107/115 questionnaires). About 98% of students considered learning 'English in Dentistry' in the faculty an important and wanted it to be improved. The majority (88%) answered that they need it to travel abroad to obtain higher education. About 97% of students reported that they need it to improve their scientific standards, 96% thought that this would be necessary to read scientific articles, 90% and 70% of students thought that this would be desirable to attend/ present lectures in international dental meetings respectively. Interestingly, 40% of students wanted to learn 'English in dentistry' to be able to write and publish in international journals and 35% wanted it to be able to critically appraise scientific articles. This has not been previously raised. Assessment of barriers to improving 'English in Dentistry' in the faculty revealed interesting results. The highest percentage of students (69%) indicated that the burden of other dental topics in each semester prevented them from improving their knowledge in 'English in Dentistry'. About 22% of students believed that there is no time to learn 'English in Dentistry' and that the dental curriculum is not designed to efficiently allocate time for improving English. With regard to questions dealing with methods of improving teaching and learning of 'English in Dentistry', 69% of students wanted other dental subjects to be taught in both Arabic and English so they can improve their dental terminology, About 5% of students suggested exchange of students and staff as a method for improvement. Conclusion: Obviously, increased students motivation and positive attitudes to learning 'English in Dentistry', require greater insight into the quality of the current delivered subject. The present study provides evidence to dental educators to consider improving methods of teaching and learning 'English in Dentistry' to produce a competent dental graduate who is fit for 21st century and can fulfill the requirements of leading dental schools in the world.