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
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