Types of Syllabus for English for Specific Purposes (ESP)

Syllabus design plays a very important role in ESP. Course designers should carefully in plan the content to ensure that it includes what the learner needs and excludes what learners don’t need. Similar to English for general purposes, there are also a number of different syllabus designs, such as the following.

Content-based syllabi

“Content” has different meaning in syllabus design. It may mean language form, language notion, language function, situation, or even topic. One of the most famous innovations in the 1970s was the development of the notional-functional syllabus, in which the basic units are notions or concepts (time, space) or functions (greeting, asking, clarifying, etc.)

Skill-based syllabi

“Language skills” in these types of syllabuses would usually focus on a particular macro and micro-skill. Examples would be a course in writing business letters or a course in presenting business reports.

Method-based syllabi

There are two sub-categories of “method” namely:

  1. learning process, which focuses on the students’ preferences on language learning (i.e. what happens in the classroom is a negotiation between the teacher and the student); and
  2. ask or procedure, which focuses on the class activities that students should do; in this type, students understand the task and they do not act mechanically. This means that each task is relevant and subject-specific. Moreover, tasks are appropriate and meaningful (e.g. If students have to write a letter of application in class, they know that writing is required in the process of application, and not just a language practice activity.)