Feature: Towards BES Quality
Self-Interview on OUM's Newly Launched Bachelor of English Studies (BES) Programme

By Dr David C.L. Lim

Tell us about BES and your role as the Programme Coordinator.

First of all, I should explain what 'English' is. Most people imagine it to be the study of English language, which is partially correct. What is not always realized, however, is 'English' is more than that. Yes, it includes grammar, linguistics and similar courses. And yes, it includes 'literature' which, incidentally, has evolved beyond aesthetic concerns, so much so that 'literature' now overlaps a great deal with cultural studies. In short, 'English' is a versatile discipline which, unfortunately, has been reduced to one thing or the other and offered as such in Malaysia.

My role as Programme Coordinator is to break down the divisions of 'English' and to ensure that learners following the programme get to experience the discipline as a whole. OUM'S BES is also unique in the sense that it is designed to equip learners with a range of graduate skills and knowledge, and to train them to apply these in the real world.

Here, then, is where quality lies. In my mind, it is simply insufficient for 'English' graduates to know that "car" is a noun, "the" is a definite article, or "red" is an adjective. What is more important for me is whether these graduates are able to put knowledge to work. There's no point telling me "the" is an article if you don't know how to use it properly to construct a sentence. You'll be surprised to know how often "the" is wrongly used.

So what kind of skills do you envision graduates of BES will possess?

BES is holistic in the sense that it brings together in one place all the 'subfields' of English. So learners will get to master advanced literacy skills. They'll be exposed to the fundamentals of linguistics, as well as new trends in language and literature. They'll be trained in communication in theory and practice. And there's a strong emphasis on production - the ability to produce quality professional output in thought and writing in any situation.

The key word here is transferable skills - being able to write and speak persuasively, cogently, coherently in professional contexts; being able to analyze diverse forms of discourse; being able to acquire complex information in a structured and systematic way; and so on. These are skills which learners will hone over the duration of the programme. They will definitely be valued in any graduate employment, especially in Malaysia, where there's a dearth of productive graduates.

Sounds good, but will BES be fun to follow? Or will it be tough all the way?

The programme will be rigorous, that's for sure. It will be rewarding, if learners put in the work. And it will be fun too. For me, personally, the highlights of the programme are Contemporary Fiction and Film (which trains learners to examine what is gained and lost in the act of 'translating' fiction to film), and Southeast Asian Cultural Production, which is a research project I'm working on. Learners will be exposed to literature and film from the Southeast Asian region, including the Thai classic horror film, Nang Nak. I'd kill to be able to study these courses, if I were an undergraduate!

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In my opinion, the most important factor in producing quality OUM graduates is:

Tutors who are capable and motivated
Quality learning materials
A syllabus which integrates both theoretical and practical aspects of a subject
All of the above
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