PROSPECTIVE STUDY OF THE LINGUISTIC COMPETENCE OF FIRST-COURSE STUDENTS IN SCIENTIFIC AND TECHNICAL DEGREES FACING BILINGUAL EDUCATION

I. Pérez1, M. San-Martín1, R. López2, C. Hadfield1, J.F. San-Juan1, M.A. Hernández-Verón1, J.A. Ezquerro1, E. Mirpuri2

1University of La Rioja (SPAIN)
2Center for Biomedical Research of La Rioja (SPAIN)
The University of La Rioja (Spain) is immersed in an internationalization strategy, one of the most visible results of which will be bilingual education. Degrees to be offered in a second language, English in this case, have to be carefully selected according to several constraints which are full of uncertainties. One of the main issues to be analysed concerns the effect of the non-native language usage on students’ results. A study has been conducted in order to gain some insight into this subject.

Five different degrees of non-linguistic nature have been chosen, so as to analyse the effect of the language on students not specialised in studying linguistic subjects. In particular, Degrees in Mathematics, Computer Science, Industrial Engineering, Business Administration, and Nursing have participated in the study, adding up to 238 students of five first-course subjects in the fields of Mathematics, Computer Science and Programming.

During the first weeks of the course, students took both an English test, intended to find out their level, and a questionnaire, designed to collect some information about their academic situation, knowledge and habitual practice of English, and attitude towards bilingual education. Later, a small part of the subject was taught in English, and finally evaluated together with the part taught in the native language, Spanish in this case.

A complete statistical study from collected data has been performed, offering some conclusions concerning differences in results for both parts of the subject, the English and the Spanish, and their relation to the students’ context, collected through both the English test and the questionnaire.

Results of the study show that 44% of the students would decide to enrol on the English version of the degree if it is offered. On average, the marks are 10% lower for the part of the subject taught in English, although the difference is smaller for those 44% who declare their intention to enrol on the English degree. On average, albeit with little homogeneity, students who pass the Spanish part get a mark 2% under the pass mark in English. Significant evidence has been found that frequent use of English can help students who pass the Spanish part to improve the mark of the English part, although it has no effect on the difference of marks between both parts for all the students, including the ones who fail the Spanish part.