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English medium instruction may have negative learning outcomes for students

Students taking a course in English performed worse than their counterparts taking the same course in their native language, according to a new study.

The study from KTH Royal Institute of Technology and Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden took 2263 students and divided them randomly between an English and Swedish version of a programming course. Academic performance was measured by the number of test questions answered correctly and the course completion/dropout rate. The course itself was digital and self-paced.

Results from the study showed poorer performance amongst those who took the course in English. On average, those who studied in Swedish gave correct test answers to 73% more questions. Additionally, those studying in English were 25% more likely to drop out of the course entirely.

Researcher and professor, Hans Malmström, says the study should be taken with a pinch of salt:

‘It is important to remember that a single study should not be used as the basis for a radical overhaul of the language or teaching policy in higher education, neither at local nor national level.

‘However, we believe the results from this research can contribute to a more informed discussion about the consequences of using English as the language of instruction.’

Image courtesy of Andrea Piacquadio
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