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Language should be a matter of choice

By Raymond Zhou | China Daily | Updated: 2014-05-24 09:09
Language should be a matter of choice

Language should be a matter of choice

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Language should be a matter of choice

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Making every college student pass a uniform test of English has created an unexpected fallout, which a new testing system under consideration may rectify.

The recent week has seen a spate of seemingly contradictory news stories about the fate of English language testing in the all-important national college entrance examination.

At first, there were rumors that such exams will be scrapped from the system. Then it was "confirmed" by someone of note at a forum that 2017 is the deadline. And finally a clarification emerged that suggested the topic is being discussed and no amendments are likely at least in the next three years.

But if you care to read the fine print, you'll find much in common from all the reports: Testing of English as a second language will evolve from a mandatory part of the once-a-year college entrance exam to regular tests that are held through the year. The reports point to 2017 as the earliest possible date for the change. Most importantly, scores will be based on how much emphasis a school places on English and the student's own choice of discipline.

Many of my friends expect me to oppose the change in policy because they perceive it as the downgrading of English in the nation's testing system. They were shocked when I said I actually endorse it. Sure, I benefited from the system and have been using the language as a crucial part of my day job. But I don't believe people will, or should, love English or any other subject with equal zeal.

We all have different preferences and hobbies. When I read of Chen Danqing, the painter-educator who quit Tsinghua University, talking about some of his best fine-arts students being rejected simply because they flunked their English test, I realized that English had morphed into a stumbling block for a significant section of the nation's student community.

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