English as a Medium of Instruction (EMI) classes have become a focal point in global education, especially in non-English speaking countries. A comprehensive study led by Dr. Lei Feng, an associate professor at Beijing Jiaotong University, along with collaborators Dr. Li He and Dr. Ayinuer Yiganmu, sheds light on the determinants of academic success in EMI settings. Published in the Heliyon Journal, their systematic review offers valuable insights into this increasingly prevalent educational approach.

The research begins by acknowledging the challenges and opportunities presented by the adoption of English for teaching various subjects. Feng’s team delved into eight databases, reviewing relevant studies to uncover the factors influencing students’ academic achievements in EMI contexts.

A pivotal finding of the study is the role of English proficiency. Dr. Feng states, “The results revealed that general English proficiency was the most important predictor of academic success, playing a vital role in EMI students’ learning achievements. That is, the higher the English proficiency, the greater the academic achievement.” This highlights the crucial need for effective language support systems in EMI contexts.

The study also sheds light on the importance of self-efficacy and self-concept in EMI success. Dr. Feng explains, “Both self-concept and self-efficacy are important predictors of students’ academic success in EMI courses. To put it simply, students with strong self-efficacy beliefs are more likely to succeed in the EMI classes.” This finding underscores the necessity for EMI educators to focus not only on language proficiency but also on nurturing students’ confidence and self-belief.

Additionally, vocabulary knowledge emerges as a significant factor. The depth and breadth of a student’s vocabulary are closely linked to their ability to understand and engage with EMI course content, thereby impacting their academic performance.

Contrary to common beliefs, the study found that academic motivation does not significantly predict academic outcomes in EMI settings. This suggests that while motivation is important, it may not be as critical as language proficiency, self-efficacy, and vocabulary knowledge in EMI contexts.

The research highlights the limitations of previous studies, which were primarily quantitative, and suggests future research should adopt mixed-method approaches for more comprehensive insights. Dr. Feng and his colleagues’ findings provide a nuanced understanding of the factors contributing to academic success in EMI contexts, offering valuable guidance for educators, administrators, and policymakers in designing effective EMI programs.

In conclusion, this outstanding study presents a thorough understanding of the determinants of academic success in EMI settings, emphasizing the importance of English proficiency, self-efficacy, and vocabulary knowledge. These insights are invaluable for anyone involved in EMI education, from teachers and students to educational administrators.

Journal Reference:

Lei Feng, Li He, Ayinuer Yiganmu. “Determinants of students’ academic success in English as a medium of instruction (EMI) classes: A systematic review”, Heliyon 9 (2023). DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.heliyon.2023.e20421.