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The English exam question

Updated: 2013-10-23 07:11
( China Daily)

How much should knowledge of English count in national college entrance exams?

That is not an exam question but the issue is being raised after Beijing published its college entrance exam reform plan for public feedback on Monday.

The plan, from 2016, would cut scores for the English exam from 150 to 100 while raising those for Chinese language and literature from 150 to 180.

The English exam question

Sean McNally from Britain teaches Chinese children how to learn English through paintings. Many students in China have trouble learning English and using it in their daily lives. Meng Zhongde / for China Daily

Beijing is not alone. Jiangsu, Shandong provinces and Shanghai also did the same and probably other local education authorities will follow suit.

Is this an indication that English is losing its status or importance in the country's education or is it that decision-makers believe that students should not spend too much time on a foreign language?

What must not be ignored is the fact that Beijing will hold English exams twice or even more times a year in the near future and a student may sit the exams more than once a year. Their highest score will be recognized for college enrollment.

Furthermore, listening comprehension will account for 50 percent of the exam. This, decision-makers believe, will guarantee that students have a practical command of English.

English-language training schools are an increasing feature on the education landscape and an increasing number of students are opting to study abroad.

Reducing English test scores in college entrance exams will hardly diminish the importance many students attach to learning English.

What the reform should focus on is the way English is taught.

Chinese students, usually starting from primary school, spend 10 or more years on English study until the college exams. Yet it is not unusual for a senior high school graduate to struggle in reading an English essay or novel or communicate in fluent English.

When learning English, it is not a question of how heavy this course should weigh in college entrance exams.

Rather, it should be the question of how 10 years ostensibly spent learning the language can enable students to speak, write and read well.

Any correct answer to that deserves top marks.

(China Daily 10/23/2013 page8)