A participant in one of the sessions asked about the importance of speaking in achieving academic success. My response is summarized below:
"Speaking can be regarded as the least important of the proficiencies that an ESL student needs in order to achieve academic success. We have had many students over the years who have gained good grades in their classes while still being a long way from native speaker levels of oral fluency. An obvious reason why speaking is not such a significant skill is that students usually have to demonstrate their knowledge through, and are graded on, written not spoken answers.
In fact, it is much more important that students are effective listeners, and can read and write well. In many ways the first prerequisite for academic success is a large English vocabulary - particularly academic vocabulary. Study after study has shown the very strong correlation between reading ability and academic success. And there is an equally impressive number of studies showing the strong correlation between vocabulary size and reading ability.
In summary: if you can speak English fluently but not read, you will not be academically successful at FIS. Conversely, a lack of oral fluency will not prevent you from being successful here if you have a strong academic vocabulary and can hence read and write well."