A Critical Review of EFL Writing Syllabus at Tertiary Level in the Arab World

El-Sadig Ezza, Khaled Al-Mudibry


Research into the written performance of Arab EFL learners centres for the most part upon their failure to handle a variety of assignments as prescribed by the writing syllabus.  All things considered, writing problems are primarily attributed to the students’ linguistic incompetence, immature mastery of rhetorical structure of the English text and Arabic discourse transfer (Al-Khuweileh and Al-Shoumali, 2000; Al-Hazmi and Schofield, 2007) By contrast, educational policies and teaching usually evade criticism. This study is an attempt to provide a new interpretation of learners’ writing problems. In other words, it posits that   writing problems could also be caused by the employment of outdated approaches and resources. To verify this argument, the present paper explored the existing writing courses in three Arab Universities, revealing that English Departments adopted approaches and materials   characteristic of the 1940s and  1950s. Needless to say, unless  new developments into the linguistic theory and writing pedagogy, i.e. genre analysis, contrastive rhetoric and discourse analysis, are incorporated into the existing writing syllabus, Arab EFL learners will continue to have writing problems.



Writing theories, writing pedagogy, writing materials, writing syllabus, process approach, product approach

Full Text:



Al-Hazmi, S. (2006). Writing Reflection: Perceptions of Arab EFL Learners. South Asian Language Review, XVI (2): 36-52.

Al-Hazmi, S. And P. Schofield. (2007). Enforced Revision with Checklist and Peer Feedback in EFLWriting: The Example of Saudi University Students. Scientific Journal of King Faisal University (Humanities and Management Sciences), 8(2), 237-267.

Al-Khuweileh, A. A. and A. Al-Shoumali. (2000). Writing Errors: A study of the Writing Ability of Arab Learners of Academic English and Arabic at University [Abstract]Language, Culture and Curriculum, 13 (2): 174-183.

Al-Jamhoor, A. (2001). A Cross-Cultural Analysis of Written Discourse of Arabic- Speaking Learners of English. Journal of King Saud University (Language an Translation), 13(1): 25-44.

Allwright, R. (1979). Language Learning Through Communicative Practice. In C. I. Brumfit and K. Johnson

(Eds.), The Communicative Approach to Language Teaching, 167- 181. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Connor, U. (1996). Contrastive Rhetoric: Cross Cultural Aspects of Second Language Writing. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Daoud, S. A. (1998). How to Motivate EFL Learning and Teaching of Academic Writing by Cross-Cultural Exchanges. English for Specific Purposes, 17 (4), 391-412.

Fitze, M. & Glasgow, R. (2009). Input Enhancement and Tense Formation in Arab EF Writing. Retrieved from http://www.tesoljournal.com/Articles/Example_Article.doc

Freedman, A., I. Pringle, Y. Yalden (Eds.). (1983). Learning to Write: First Language/Second Language, 179- 189. New York: Longman.

Harsh, W. (1982). Linguistics and TESOL: A Turbulent Twenty Years. Forum, xx(v), 2-8.

Hymes, D. (1979). On Communicative Competence. In C. I. Brumfit and K. Johnson (Eds.), The Communicative Approach to Language Teaching, 5- 26. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Jordan, R. R. (1997). English for Academic Purposes. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Krashen, S. D. (1984). Writing Research: Theory and Applications. Oxford: Pergamon Press.

McDonough, J. & Show, C. (1993). Materials and methods in ELT: A Teacher’s Guide Oxford: Blackwell.

McMillan Encyclopedia. (1986). London: McMillan Limited.

Peters, P. (1986). Getting the Theme Across: A Study of Dominant Function in the Academic Writing of University Students. In B. Couture (Ed.): Functional Approaches to Writing: Research Perspectives, 169-185. London: Frances Printer.

Radford, A. (1986). Transformational Grammar. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Raimes, A. (1987). Why Write? From Purpose to Pedagogy. Forum, xxv(4), 36-41.

Rivers, W. (1981). Teaching Foreign Language Skills. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Silva, T. (1990). Second Language Composition Instruction: Developments, Issues and Directions. In B. Kroll (Ed.): Second language writing: Research Insight for Classroom, 11-23. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Van Dijk, T. A. (1972). Some Aspects of Text Grammars: A Study of Theoretical Linguistics and Phonetics. The Hague: Mouton.

Widdowson, H. (1979). Directions in the Teaching of Discourse. In C. J. Brumfit and K. Johnson (Eds.): The Communicative Approach to Language Teaching, 49-60. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

X, G. Q. 1991. The Major Concerns of Text Linguistics and Their Relevance to the Teaching of Writing [abstract]. ERIC Document No. 338060.

Zamel, V. (1983). The Composing Processes of Advanced ESL Students: Six Case Studies. TESOL Quarterly, 17(2): 165-186.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.7575/aiac.ijalel.v.3n.6p.80


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

2012-2023 (CC-BY) Australian International Academic Centre PTY.LTD

International Journal of Applied Linguistics and English Literature

To make sure that you can receive messages from us, please add the journal emails into your e-mail 'safe list'. If you do not receive e-mail in your 'inbox', check your 'bulk mail' or 'junk mail' folders.