Voicing the challenges of ESP teaching: Lessons from ESP in non-English departments

Luluk Iswati, Anita Triastuti


Along with the growing practice of teaching English for Specific Purposes (ESP) in non-English departments of tertiary education, it is essential to investigate the challenges faced by ESP teachers. It can be a basis for proposing policies for the improvement of ESP practice. This study was driven by the fact that ESP classes in non-English departments are allocated limited credit hours, and the teachers are generally General English teachers with no experience and training in teaching ESP. Thus, this study attempted to investigate the fundamental challenges faced by ESP teachers in one state and four private higher education institutions. The data of this qualitative study were obtained through interviews with five ESP teachers. The interview questions were mainly concerned with the knowledgeability and competence in teaching related to subject-specific contexts, adequacy of ESP training, needs analysis, and classroom condition. The findings reveal that the evident challenges encountered by ESP teachers were: lacking knowledge on students’ field of study, lacking of ESP training, lacking of proper needs analysis, large classes, and various learners’ English competencies. The findings of this study suggest that policymakers (stakeholders) should pay more attention to the practice of ESP teaching, especially in non-English departments, by reforming policy in order to minimize the problems faced by ESP teachers and to improve the practice of ESP teaching.


challenges; ESP; non-English departments

Full Text:



Ahmadvand, M., Barati, H., & Ketabi, S. (2015). Rights analysis of ESP courses: Towards democratizing ESP education. English for Specific Purposes World, 46, 1-13.

Ahmed, M. K. (2014). The ESP teacher: Issues, tasks and challenges. English for Specific Purposes, 15(42), 1-33.

Aldohon, H. I. (2014). English for Specific Purposes (ESP) for Jordanian tourist police in their workplace: Needs and problems. International Education Studies, 7(11), 56-67.

Ali, S. U. (2015). ESP teacher education model in Indonesian context. EDUKASI Jurnal Pendidikan, 13(2), 344-354.

Alsharif, D., & Shukri, N. (2018). Exploring pedagogical challenges of ESP teachers at a Saudi Arabian university. International Journal of Asian Social Science, 8(10), 841-855.

Anthony, L. (2009). ESP at the center of program design. In K. Fukui, J. Noguchi, & N. Watanabe (Eds.), Towards ESP bilingualism (In Japanese) (pp. 18-35). Osaka University Press.

Antic, Z. (2007). Forward in teaching English for medical purposes. Medicine and Biology, 14(3), 141-147

Basturkmen, H. (2010). Developing courses in English for Specific Purposes. Palgrave Macmillan.

Bezukladnikov, K., & Kruze, B. (2012). An outline of an ESP teacher training course. World Applied Sciences Journal, 20(0), 103-106.

Bhatia, V., Anthony, L., & Noguchi, J. (2011, August 30-September 11). ESP in the 21 st century: ESP theory and application today [Paper presentation]. JACET Convention The 50th Commemorative International Conference, Fukuoka, Japan. https://www.laurenceanthony.net/research/20110830_0902_jacet_national_pres/jacet50_bhatia_anthony_noguchi.pdf

Bialik, M., & Fadel, C. (2015). Skills for the 21st century: What should students learn ? (Issue May). Center for Curriculum Redesign.

Bojović, M. (2006, October 21-25). Teaching foreign language for specific purposes: Teacher development [Paper presentation]. Proceedings of the 31st Annual ATEE Conference, Portoroz, Slovenia. http://doi.org/10.13140/2.1.4011.4566

Boroujeni, S. A., & Fard, F. M. (2013). A needs analysis of English for Specific Purposes (ESP) course for adoption of communicative language teaching: A case of Iranian first year students of educational administration. International Journal of Humanities and Social Science Invention, 2(6), 35-44.

Bracaj, M. (2014). Teaching English for Specific Purposes and teacher training. European Scientific Journal, 10(2), 40-49.

Brown, H. D. (2007). Teaching by principles: An interactive approach to language pedagogy. Pearson Education.

Chen, K. (2013). Training mode design of ESP teachers in universities of science and engineering. Advanced Materials Research, 712-715, 3129-3132.

Creswell, J. W. (2012). Educational research: Planning, conducting, and evaluating quantitative and qualitative research (4th ed.). Pearson.

Dudley-Evans, T., & St. John, M. J. (1998). Developments in English for Specific Purposes: A multidisciplinary approach. Cambridge University Press.

Ellis, M., & Johnson, C. (1994). Teaching business English. Oxford University Press.

Forde, C., McMahon, M. A., Hamilton, G., & Murray, R. (2016). Rethinking professional standards to promote professional learning. Professional Development in Education, 42, 19-35.

Gass, J. (2012). Needs analysis and situational analysis: designing an ESP curriculum for Thai nurses. English for Specific Purposes World, 12(36), 1-21.

Gatehouse, K. (2001). Key issues in English for specific purposes (ESP) curriculum development. The Internet TESOL Journal, VII(10), 1-10.

Gestanti, R. A., Nimasari, E. P., & Mufanti, R. (2019). ESP Issue in Indonesian tertiary context: what students need in learning English. PUPIL: International Journal of Teaching, Education and Learning, 3(1), 98-117.

Harmer, J. (2001). The practice of English language teaching (3rd ed.). Longman Education Limited.

Hoa, N. T. T., & Mai, P. T. T. (2016). Difficulties in teaching English for Specific Purposes: empirical study at Vietnam universities. Higher Education Studies, 6(2), 154-161.

Hou, H. I. (2013). A needs analysis of culinary arts majors’ ESP learning in Taiwan’s context. Asian ESP Journal, 9(3), 5-34.

Hyland, K. (2002). Specificity revisited: How far should we go now?. English for Specific Purposes, 21(4), 385-395.

Inozemtseva, K., & Troufanova, N. (2018). ESP tertiary teachers’ perception of how they comply with requirements of cross disciplinary education. In L. G. Chova, A. L. Martínez, & I. C. Torres (Eds.), Proceedings of EDULEARN18 Conference (pp. 6427-6434). IATED.

Kazar, S. G., & Mede, E. (2015). The perceptions of ESP students’ target needs: A case study. Procedia Social and Behavioral Sciences, 191, 2526-2530.

Kellerman, E., Koonen, H., & Van der Haagen, M. (2010). “Feet speak louder than the tongue”: A preliminary analysis of language provisions for foreign professional footballers in the Netherlands. In M. H. Long & J. C. Richards (Eds.), Second Language Needs Analysis (pp. 200-222). Cambridge University Press.

Kusni, A. (2013). Reformulating English for Specific Purposes (ESP) in Indonesia: Current issues and future prospects. In Saunir, H. Ardi, Januarisdi, & N. Yulia (Eds.), SELT 2013 Proceeding (pp. 36-48). Sukabina.

Liton, H. A. (2013). An assessment of the efficacy of engineering ESP teachers’ training program in promoting better performance at ESP classroom. English for Specific Purposes World, 13(37), 1-17.

Luka, I. (2009). Development of students’ English for Special Purposes competence in tourism studies at tertiary level. English for Specific Purposes World, 8(4(25)), 1-32.

Luo, J., & Garner, M. (2017). The challenges and opportunities for English teachers in teaching ESP in China. Journal of Language Teaching and Research, 8(1), 81-86.

Maleki, A. (2008). ESP teaching: A matter of controversy. ESP World, 7(1(17)), 1-21.

Marwan, A. (2017). ESP teaching challenges in an Indonesian vocational higher institution. The English Teacher, XXXVIII(0), 1-12.

Medrea, N., & Rus, D. (2012). Challenges in teaching ESP: Teaching resources and students’ needs. Procedia Economics and Finance, 3(12), 1165-1169.

Muhrofi-Gunadi, K. A. (2016). ESP practitioners’ role and their ethnography: A case study of ESP practitioners at the Indonesian tertiary level. International Journal of Education, 9(1), 1-9.

Nguyen, B. H., Haworth, P., & Hansen, S. (2019). Challenging ESP teacher beliefs about active learning in a Vietnamese university. Teacher Development, 23(3), 345-365.

Özyel, M., Özdemir, C., & Kalajahi, S. A. R. (2012). Needs of an ESP context: Needs analysis, curriculum & unit design. Advances in Asian Social Science, 1(3), 265-280.

Pei, X., & Milner, J. O. (2016). Problems in transforming EGP teachers in China’s universities into ESP teachers. Theory and Practice in Language Studies, 6(11), 2102-2108.

Pham, H. A., & Ta, B. T. (2016). Developing a theoretical framework for ESP teacher training in Vietnam. Asian ESP Journal, 12(1), 66-84.

Poedjiastutie, D. (2017). The Pedagogical challenges of English for Specific Purposes (ESP) teaching at the University of Muhammadiyah Malang, Indonesia. Educational Research and Reviews, 12(6), 338-349.

Poedjiastutie, D., & Oliver, R. (2017). English learning needs of ESP learners: Exploring stakeholder perceptions at an Indonesian university. TEFLIN Journal, 28(1), 1-21.

Pradhan, A. (2013). English for Specific Purposes: Research trends, issues and controversies. English for Specific Purposes World, 14(40), 1-13.

Prudnikova, N. N. (2013). ESP teaching at the institutions of higher education in modern Russia: Problems and perspective. SSRN Electronic Journal, 390-396.

Richards, J. C., & Farrell, T. S. C. (2005). Professional development for language teachers. Cambridge University Press.

Richards, K. (2009). Interviews. In J. Heigham & R. A. Croker (Eds.), Qualitative research in applied linguistics: A practical introduction (pp. 182-199). Palgrave Macmillan.

Saldana, J. (2011). Fundamentals of qualitative research. Oxford University Press.

Saragih, E. (2014). Designing ESP materials for nursing students based on needs analysis. International Journal of Linguistics, 6(4), 59-70.

Serafini, E. J., Lake, J. B., & Long, M. H. (2015). Needs analysis for specialized learner populations: essential methodological improvements. English for Specific Purposes, 40, 11-26.

Setiawati, B. (2016). Needs analysis for identifying ESP materials for medial record students in APIKES Citra Medika Surakarta. Kajian Linguistik dan Satra, 1(1), 61-72.

Stojkovic, N. (2019). Possible reasons why ESP is under recognized in academia. The Journal of Teaching English for Specific and Academic Purposes, 7(3), 405-409.

Suslu, S. (2006). Motivation of ESL teachers. The Internet TESL Journal, 12(1), 1-8.

Tabatabaei, O. (2007). Who qualifies to monitor on ESP course: A content teacher or a language teacher?. Indian Journal of Applied Linguistics, 33(1), 1-13.

Tao, J. (Tracy), & Gao, X. (Andy). (2018). Identity constructions of ESP teachers in a Chinese university. English for Specific Purposes, 49(2018), 1-13.

Trisyanti, U. (2009). Developing materials for ESP (English for Specific Purposes) class. Jurnal Sosial Humaniora, 2(1), 66-77.

Tsou, W., & Chen, F. (2014). ESP program evaluation framework: Description and application to a Taiwanese university ESP program. English for Specific Purposes, 33(1), 39-53.

Wahyuni, R. N. B., & Rozi, F. (2020). The performances of ESP lecturer’s pedagogical and professional competences in teaching speaking class (The case study of Semarang University). English Education Journal, 10(3), 340-350.

Xu, X., Chan, F. M., & Yilin, S. (2018). Personal learning environment: an experience with ESP teacher training. Interactive Learning Environments, 0(0), 1-16.

Yu, X., & Lui, C. (2018). Curriculum reform of college English teaching in China: From English for general purposes to English for specific purposes.ESP Today, 6(2), 140-160.

Zhang, T. (2017). Research on the development of ESP teachers in higher vocational colleges. Advances in Social Sciences, Education and Humanities Research, 123, 999-1002.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.24815/siele.v8i1.17301

Article Metrics

Abstract view : 0 times
PDF - 0 times


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Print ISSN: 2355-2794, Online ISSN: 2461-0275

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

View Journal Stats