379025 Internationalizing Access to Chemical Engineering Education By a Lifelong Language Learning Environment
Both chemical engineering and engineering education are rapidly obtaining international dimension. The U.S. has served as home for leading chemical engineers from all over the world for the last 50 years. The challenges of finding best candidates for chemical engineering career and best chemical engineering education will shape the chemical engineering future in the USA in the 21 Century. In turn, the ability to internationalize best practices in chemical engineering (both at the education and industrial level) is necessary for the successful development of the chemical industry in the global perspective.
Attracting promising students to chemical engineering education system and their transforming into chemical engineering professionals for the US and world chemical industry requires a continuous flow of talents. Successful enrollment of talents by top world universities specialized in chemical engineering is an excellent proof of successful internationalization of chemical industry and education. These universities are, however, facing a rapidly growing challenge of dropping demand for chemical engineering programs both by domestic and international students. Chemical engineering education and engineering education in general are becoming less popular. This fact is confirmed by the statistics of the institute of International Education.
The global demand for world class chemical engineering programs taught in U.S. and other top world chemical engineering universities can be increased if we attract more potential students from Asia, Russia and post-Soviet countries. These countries are proud of talented school graduates and offer government funds programs to sponsor their education in best world chemical education centers. The problem of reduction of the influx of talented school graduates from these countries is that academic mobility in these states is closely linked to the language learning problem (in other words, the ability of involved faculty and students to speak world languages such as English at a level of fluency ensuring their integration into the global community). For example, several percent of Russian secondary school graduates and undergraduate students demonstrate TOEFL results sufficient for enrollment by chemical engineering universities in the USA. These students can be, however, excellent chemists and scientists and be motivated to obtain a good-paid position at world-class chemical industry companies requiring a degree from top universities offering chemical engineering programs.
A new approach is offered to involve more students into the U.S.-offered chemical engineering programs – a language learner focused approach. This strategy is called a “Lifelong Language Learning Environment” (a “Triple-L E”) meaning that English learning in the universities from above-mentioned countries should be treated as a truly life-long process with the focus on chemical engineering linguistic aspects. Starting at the secondary school level, engineering English learning continues at a university to offer Bachelors able to pursue Master’s degree in a U.S. university or a secondary school graduate with TOEFL scores allowing entering a chemical engineering program. Another component of this “Environment” is that faculty in involved in language learning together with students. An indispensible prerequisite for a successful Lifelong Language Learning Environment is involvement of U.S. universities into its development and functioning at their partnering higher education centers abroad (in other words, it requires strong international partnership that is successfully achieved by all top chemical engineering universities in the USA).
This paper also provides a case study of development and implementing of a “Triple-L E” initiative at one of Russian National Research universities specialized in chemical engineering. A peculiar feature of the Lifelong Language Learning Environment implementation in that university is that mostly technical English training is provided, English for Specific Purposes (ESP). English for Specific Purposes is aimed at developing specific skills of communicating in English on the topics of professional interest, depending on the background and career prospects. English teaching is focused on the engineering field of study with the application of computer aided language learning solutions. The core of the process if formed by professors having both engineering (major) and linguistic (minor) degrees or the linguists with 5-10 years of experience in technical English. Successful involvement of U.S. universities is achieved through the development and implementation of joint short-term and dual degree programs with the focus on the spread of disciplines taught in English from these programs to other university chemical engineering programs. This strategy allowed training of faculty, administrators and students for the internationalized chemical engineering programs and attracting English-speaking students from other countries as well as stimulating outgoing academic mobility.