china has decided to start Job-oriented foreign languages teaching

A sea change is on horizon in the way Chinese people learn English. And

along with it, a debate is growing among teachers and parents as to how

foreign languages are to be taught and learned in this country.

In October, the Beijing municipal education authorities decided to

lessen both the importance and proportion of foreign languages in the

college entrance examination, or gaokao, of the municipality, starting

2016. Similar moves were reportedly being planned in Shanghai and a

number of coastal provinces.

Since then, the policies on foreign language teaching in schools have

been revised by the education authorities of one province after

another. Children are no longer encouraged to start learning English at

a very young age, say in their first and second years in primary

school, or in kindergartens.

In the latest move, the Ministry of Education proposed that foreign

language tests should no longer be part of the once-a-year college

entrance examination. Instead, they should be offered as a social

service, and be held multiple times in a year.
All these moves, both plans and suggestions - and presumably more will

come - should not be seen as only a nationalistic whim. Nor should they

be independent from the overall endeavor to reform the system and the

ways in which many subjects, not just foreign languages, are being

taught to Chinese students.

A change in the examination system does not alter the picture of the

job market either. The need for young workers with foreign language

skills - with English the most in demand - will continue to increase

amid the economy''s continued opening-up and the unprecedented expansion

of Chinese business activities around the world.

As companies are doing increasing business overseas, they will have to

send more workers to foreign countries, and serve international clients

in their local languages.

It is certainly not because China is suffering from an oversupply of

workers who can speak English or an overcapacity of foreign language

teaching schools that foreign languages are being removed from the

college entrance examination Rather, it is because the various foreign

language exams in schools are so out of touch with the realities of the

job market.

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