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1.1. Background to the Study

For international students pursuing graduate studies in an English as a Medium of Instruction (EMI) setting, the ability to read proficiently serves as a crucial foundation for academic accomplishment across a wide range of fields. According to Grabe (2009), It is important to recognize that many people around the world read in more than one language. Large populations of people have learned to read in second or third languages for a variety of reasons, including interactions within and across heterogeneous multilingual countries, large-scale immigration movements, global transportation, advanced education opportunities, and the spread of languages of wider communication. Students from non-English-speaking backgrounds, therefore, may confront considerable challenges in today’s academic environment, where English serves as the lingua franca.

             In the view of Capin, Gillam, Fall, Roberts, Dille, and Gillam (2022), their ability to grasp and actively engage with complicated academic materials may be hindered by a wide range of difficulties, including, but not limited to, a restricted vocabulary, poor understanding, and sluggish reading speed. This implies that they may have trouble understanding subtle meanings and complex ideas and expressing themselves clearly because of their limited vocabulary. Grabe (2009) agrees with the view that Students with lower language skills may have difficulty understanding the context and nuances in written texts. Hyland, (2006) also states that complex terminology and sentence constructions are common in academic writing. In order words, academic writings may be difficult for ESL students to read because of the complexity of specialised terminology.

Poor reading comprehension could also impede the development of critical analytical abilities, which are essential for navigating complicated academic materials, as well as the ability to synthesise knowledge. According to Hollowell (2013), students need the skills of information extraction, concept separation, and argument recognition to make meaningful use of scholarly texts. Grabe & Stoller (2002) implied that ESL students might not have mastered reading techniques like summarising, skimming, predicting, and scanning which are essential for optimal comprehension. However, when students have trouble reading, they may miss important details, fail to fully understand key concepts, and have a hard time developing well-grounded arguments and viewpoints. This connotes that student’s inability to analyse and comprehend complex texts can have serious repercussions for their academic writing and general critical thinking skills, both of which are essential for success in graduate school. Without a solid background in reading comprehension, students may find it difficult to synthesise and analyse information, limiting their participation in and contribution to academic discourse as well as their potential for success in advanced study.

In the view of Abu Abeeleh, Al-Ghazo and Al-Sobh (2021), when students have trouble reading quickly, it not only makes it harder for them to complete their assignments on time but also raises their stress levels. Feelings of being overloaded, anxious, and even burned out can result from having to learn and retain a lot of material in a short amount of time. This view implies that students whose reading speeds are too slow may struggle to fully comprehend advanced concepts or delve deeply into a certain topic, both of which might hamper their capacity for critical analysis. As a result, they may struggle to make meaningful contributions to class discussions and complete tasks to a high standard.

Tobing (2013) connotes that sometimes individuals have trouble keeping up with class material and expressing themselves clearly in writing and oral assignments. The effects of these restrictions are not confined to a simple language barrier; rather, they impede the students’ ability to learn and their chances of achieving their professional goals. Reading challenges, especially for ESL international students could also have far-reaching effects outside the classroom. This is why Al-Jahwari and Al-Humaidi (2015) postulated that those who have trouble reading may find it difficult to keep up with the extensive reading demands of graduate school, making it difficult to follow research trends, take part in academic discussions, and produce high-quality scholarly work, all of which are strongly correlated with academic success. As a result, their participation in academic communities wanes, limiting their opportunities for professional development. The complex web of difficulties stems from the fact that the ability to read is foundational to many fields of study and work. They may therefore be unable to critically evaluate previous research, consider new angles, or produce original findings because they struggle to understand complex texts. According to Shabani and Kiany (2016), this puts these students at a disadvantage when it comes to starting and maintaining productive partnerships, as their reading comprehension and fluency levels are low.

In the opinion of Tompkins (2011), reading difficulties not only add more work but also cuts into time for things like research, writing, and working in groups with other students. When faced with these obstacles, international postgraduate English as a Second Language (ESL) Students need access to comprehensive support systems that are designed with them in mind. These systems should include focused interventions that help students improve their vocabulary, understanding, and reading speed as mentioned by Capin, Gillam, Fall, Roberts, Dille, and Gillam (2022).

Therefore, it may be argued that reading difficulties among English as a Second Language (ESL) international students are a complex and important subject that requires thorough consideration. Tlale (2021) believes that it is crucial for educators, administrators, and decision-makers to comprehend the extensive effects of reading challenges on students’ academic progress. Because of the many challenges that ESL international students must overcome, it is imperative to research and develop efficient solutions and support systems to lessen the impact of reading difficulties on academic progress.

1.2 Statement of the Problem

            The influence of reading difficulties on the academic achievements of ESL international students pursuing postgraduate studies is a critical issue that requires careful attention and intervention. As earlier mentioned by Capin, Gillam, Fall, Roberts, Dille, and Gillam (2022), these students face numerous challenges, including limited vocabulary, poor comprehension, and slow reading speed, which have a significant impact on their ability to understand complex academic texts, engage in critical analysis, and effectively communicate their ideas. These reading difficulties not only hinder their overall academic performance but also impede their confidence and motivation, leading to feelings of frustration and alienation. Adams (2015). Therefore, it is crucial for stakeholders, including educators, administrators, language specialists, and support services, to work collaboratively and develop effective strategies to address these challenges. These strategies may involve tailored language courses focusing on academic vocabulary and reading comprehension skills, the provision of accessible and engaging reading materials, one-on-one tutoring or mentoring programs, and the integration of technology-based tools and resources to enhance reading fluency and comprehension. Additionally, creating a supportive and inclusive learning environment that fosters cultural sensitivity, encourages peer collaboration, and provides opportunities for ESL students to practice their language skills could significantly contribute to their academic success. By recognizing and actively addressing the impact of reading difficulties, teachers can empower ESL students to overcome these barriers, unlock their full academic potential, and thrive in their postgraduate studies.

            It is in line with the above that this study seeks to examine the influence of reading difficulties on the academic achievements of ESL international students of postgraduate studies in a selected university in the Southern Part of England.


1.3 Purpose of the Study

The present study aims to investigate the influence of reading difficulties on academic achievements of ESL international students of postgraduate studies in a selected university in the southern part of England. Other specific objectives of the study are:

  1. To identify the reading difficulties experienced by ESL international students of postgraduate studies in a selected university in the southern part of England.
  2. To examine the correlation between reading difficulties and academic achievements among ESL international students of postgraduate studies in a selected university in the southern part of England.
  3. To propose strategies and interventions for overcoming reading difficulties in order to improve the academic achievements of ESL international students of postgraduate studies in a selected university in the southern part of England.

1.4 Research Questions

The following research questions will guide the study:

  1. What are the reading difficulties faced by ESL international students of postgraduate studies in the selected university in the southern part of England?
  2. What is the relationship between reading difficulties and academic achievements of ESL international students of postgraduate studies in the selected university in the southern part of England?
  3. How can reading difficulties be overcome in order to enhance the academic achievements of ESL international students of postgraduate studies in the selected university in the southern part of England?

1.5 Significance of the Study

The study has the potential to give insightful information regarding the specific reading challenges that ESL students studying in a country different from their birth country face, as well as the ways in which these challenges influence the students’ academic accomplishments. Students can seek the right support and interventions to improve their reading abilities and better their academic achievement if they understand the obstacles they face and are able to identify them.

The outcomes of the study can help university administrators and educators in the chosen university obtain a better knowledge of the reading challenges experienced by ESL international students. This knowledge can be used as a guide to direct the development of specialised programs, resources, and support services to address these issues and improve academic performance within this student population.

The study has the potential to give instructors and tutors of the English language with useful information on the specific reading challenges faced by students studying English as a foreign language in other countries. Because of this insight, they will be able to modify their teaching strategies and the resources they use in the classroom to better address these issues, which will ultimately lead to improvements in the students’ reading abilities and academic accomplishments.

The findings of the study can be used as a basis for informing the development of specialised support services inside the institution, such as academic writing centres, language help programmes, or reading comprehension workshops. These services can be developed to precisely target the reading issues that ESL international students have and to assist those students in overcoming those obstacles in order to improve their academic accomplishments.

The findings of this research can provide policymakers and educators working in the field of English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) with valuable information that can help them make decisions that are supported by evidence. The findings can be used as a reference for the establishment of policies, strategies, and additions to curricula that address the reading difficulties of ESL international students. This will ensure the academic achievement of these students and build an inclusive learning environment.

In addition to these, this study has the potential to lay the groundwork for subsequent research on the reading problems and academic accomplishments of international ESL students. Future researchers can therefore expand upon the findings of this study and investigate further causes, interventions or comparative studies to further their understanding of this topic and contribute to the field of English as a foreign language teaching.

1.6 Scope and Delimitation of the Study

            This study will focus on English as a Second Language (ESL) students from other countries who are enrolled in postgraduate programs at a specific university in southern England. The study will investigate the effect that reading difficulties have on the academic accomplishments of the aforementioned students. This research is restricted in a number of ways, for example, it will not include students who are in their first year of college or who come from a variety of linguistic backgrounds. The research will focus precisely on reading issues and the impact that they have on academic accomplishments, eliminating any other language-related challenges or other factors that may have an impact on academic performance. Due to the fact that the research will only be carried out at one university in southern England, the findings may not be applicable to other educational institutions or parts of the world. In addition, the research will not investigate other areas of academic success, such as the ability to write, the capacity to speak, or the overall grade point average. Although the study is not designed to evaluate the efficacy of any particular interventions for improving reading challenges, it may offer broad recommendations based on comments made by participants or on literature that is already available.



1.7 Operational Definitions of Terms

Reading Difficulties: For the purpose of this study, reading difficulties refer to the challenges and struggles encountered by ESL international students in comprehending, decoding, or understanding written texts in the English language, including difficulties in word recognition, vocabulary comprehension, reading fluency, and reading comprehension.

Academic Achievements: In the context of this study, academic achievements pertain to the measurable outcomes and performance indicators of ESL international students pursuing postgraduate studies in a selected university in the southern part of England. It includes factors such as grade point average (GPA), course completion rates, academic awards or honors, research productivity, and overall academic success as assessed by the university’s standards and evaluation criteria.

ESL International Students: ESL international students are individuals who come from non-English speaking countries and are pursuing postgraduate studies (e.g., master’s or doctoral degrees) in an English-speaking country, specifically in a selected university located in the southern part of England. These students typically have English as a second or foreign language and may face challenges related to language proficiency and language acquisition during their academic journey.

Postgraduate Studies: Postgraduate studies refer to advanced academic programs undertaken by students who have already completed their undergraduate degrees. In the context of this study, postgraduate studies include master’s and doctoral programs offered by the selected university in the southern part of England, encompassing various fields of study such as sciences, humanities, engineering, social sciences, etc.

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