I had a moment of revelation at the 12th BUSEL EAP conference held at Bilkent in Ankara, Turkey last week. One of the plenary speakers was describing a bridge that we try to move students across towards faculty requirements. Then she looked at her own picture and said well it’s a ‘one way bridge’. In that moment I started to examine the way we use the word ‘bridge’. Even a presentation given by my collegue and myself at the same conference had the expression a ‘bridging course’ for maths and science into faculty. In education what do we exactly mean by bridge.
Usually in our every day experiences a bridge allows us to cross from A to B but we also have the option of recrossing the bridge, of turning back, of stopping to admire the view. It is very rare that a bridge is not recrossed or experienced again. Yet how many of our learners in an intense EAP situation are able to actually go back to point A if they need to and not just once but as many times as they need to. How much do EAP programmes allow for that? From what I heard from that weekend and from that of my own and other experiences there seems to be a ticking clock where learners need to complete the level in a certain time frame to make it to the next stage. EAP has far more in common with a computer game where learners have to complete levels but there is little turning back.
Realising this made me feel quite sad for those learners who need to travel from A to B many times, to come home and leave again at their own choosing. I wondered as I sat staring at the bridge, which looked more like something from Indiana Jones whether EAP programmes could be more flexible to allow learners to have a bridge like experience.