Helping students improve their English and academic standards

by Beena Giridharan

Students who do not meet Curtin’s academic and English language entry requirements for enrolment at Curtin University, Sarawak Malaysia (Curtin Sarawak) need not despair.

Curtin Sarawak offers a range of alternative entry options to help students gain entry into its undergraduate and postgraduate programmes, including an Intensive English Programme and English Language Bridging Programme through The Learning Centre at the university.

The Intensive English Programme or IEP is designed to improve students’ general English language proficiency. It specifically caters to potential tertiary education students who lack the English language entry requirements to enter a foundation, diploma or degree course.

The programme consists of four levels, that is, Elementary, Intermediate, Upper Intermediate and Advanced, with 20 contact hours per week. There are four intakes and terms a year, each term comprising of 10 weeks.

A placement test is administered to determine students’ command of the English language and, based on their results, they are placed at the appropriate level in the IEP.

At the lower levels, teaching materials and classroom activities allow students to practise listening and reading comprehension. They learn communicative skills through role plays, games and group discussions on everyday topics, and in writing classes, learn to write narrative, descriptive and comparative paragraphs.

At the advanced level, the English language skills taught prepare students for academic purposes.

On-going assessments and end-of-term tests are conducted to determine students’ progression to higher levels of the programme. Students are awarded certificates of completion and test transcripts upon successful completion of each level.

Course materials are continually assessed and modified to ensure quality learning and the university provides high-quality teaching facilities and resources including classroom computers, overhead projectors and audio-visual devices.

The teaching staff at The Learning Centre are a team of highly experienced, well-qualified and dedicated teachers who adopt diverse approaches and techniques in the teaching of English as a second language.

By the end of the programme, the students are expected to be able to critically analyse information, create cogent arguments and deliver academic presentations.

Students at the advanced level take the Curtin University Test of English (CUTE) as the exit test. The bands that students achieve from this test can then be used to meet the English entry requirements at the different levels of entry to Curtin courses.

The English Language (EL) Bridging Programme, meanwhile, is an advanced English language programme which also helps students fulfill the English entry requirements for undergraduate and postgraduate study at Curtin Sarawak, providing them the necessary language and study skills and links to the mainstream programmes.

There are two intakes a year for the programme, in February and July, and the duration of the programme is one semester.

Students will take up advanced units such as Academic Writing, English Communication, Tertiary Study Skills and English for Specific Purposes. All the units except for English for Specific Purposes will have a combination of continuous assessment and examination. 65 percent of the marks will be awarded to continuous assessment and 35 percent to the final examinations.

In order to successfully complete the programme and to continue onto undergraduate or postgraduate studies at Curtin Sarawak, the students must receive a pass in all units. A Certificate of Completion is awarded to those who successfully complete the programme.

Both the Intensive English Programme and English Language Bridging Programme are identical to those offered at Curtin’s main campus in Perth, Western Australia, and classes are small to cater for the individual needs of the students.

“Students completing the programmes will be well prepared to undertake academic challenges they may face in their undergraduate and postgraduate studies,” said Beena Giridharan, Dean of Curtin Sarawak’s School of Foundation and Continuing Studies and The Learning Centre.

The Learning Centre at Curtin Sarawak is a self-access academic guidance centre for students who wish to explore and extend their English language capabilities, as well as strengthen their knowledge of mathematics and science.

Workshops and seminars are also conducted for postgraduate and doctoral students on research writing and referencing by experienced academic staff members through the Learning Centre to assist them in their preparations for candidacy and dissertation or theses writing

The learning modules offered at The Learning Centre cater to students from engineering, business and arts backgrounds. In addition, special academic learning needs are supported through the expertise of staff and academically proficient students are encouraged to participate in a range of special programmes and competitions arranged at the centre.

The centre also provides academic staff support and professional development in Teaching and Learning (T&L), and English for Specific Purpose modules for professional staff in Curtin Sarawak and other organisations in the local community.

It is also actively engaged with the local community, including providing knowledge building and service to the local community in the areas of English, mathematics, science and learning through its ongoing OUTReach programme.

For more information on The Learning Centre at Curtin Sarawak, visit or call +60 85 443 386.

Beena Giridharan is the Dean of Curtin Sarawak’s School of Foundation and Continuing Studies and The Learning Centre. She can be contacted at +60 85 443939 or by e-mail to