Plan to ditch English test draws concern

Updated: 2014-05-19 00:47

By SUN XIAOCHEN (China Daily)

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Expert: Removing subject from gaokao enables students to work on other skills

A proposal to remove the English-language test from the gaokao, the national college entrance exam, has triggered heated debate among parents and experts.

The move is aimed at easing students’ burden while promoting practical language-learning methods.

To improve exam-oriented education, the Ministry of Education released a reform proposal for the gaokao in 2013. This included the plan to exclude English as a mandatory subject in the exam, with students urged to take a third-party English assessment for university admissions.

Gu Mingyuan, president of the Chinese Society of Education, told Qianjiang Evening News the reform would take effect in 2017.

Gu’s confirmation has attracted widespread attention from observers including Xiong Bingqi, vice-president of the 21st Century Education Research Institute.

Xiong remains negative over the proposal’s initial intention to ease study pressure for students, stressing that this is unlikely to work if the college admission system doesn’t change.

“Removing English from the gaokao doesn’t mean that universities won’t require English assessment results for admissions,” Xiong told China Daily on Sunday.

“As long as colleges recruit students on their results, no matter how and where they take assessments, it won’t help ease the academic pressure at all.”

According to the draft plan, students will be encouraged to take English-language assessments held by social agencies several times during their high school studies.

Colleges will require respective English levels, converted from scores, based on the admission requirements for different majors.

Liu Limin, vice-minister of education, said the new policy would help diversify the traditional evaluation of English skills.

Local education authorities have been discussing pilot measures to reduce the proportion of English in the gaokao in line with the reform plan.

In Beijing for example, the full score for the English test will be reduced in 2016 to 100 points from the current 150. Students will take tests twice a year and their highest score will count for the gaokao.

Yu Minhong, an English-language education expert and founder of New Oriental Education and Technology Group, said removing English as a gaokao subject would inspire students to work on their practical communication skills.

However, parents still have concerns over the decision to exclude English.

“English (as a communication tool) is so important for children, and I will urge my son to study it hard no matter how the gaokao is reformed,” said Shen Aimei, mother of a primary school student in Beijing.

Chen Mengwei contributed to this story.