Time to cool down nationwide English mania
Global Times | 2013-10-11 0:28:01
By Global Times
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According to a report in the Yangtse Evening Post, a Nanjing-based Chinese language newspaper, the authorities in East China's Jiangsu Province are considering reforming college entrance examinations, also known as gaokao, in 2016. It is possible that English tests will be excluded from the rating system for the overall mark. Instead, there will be two English tests every year and a grading system will be introduced. Universities can then make their own requirements of English proficiency for applicants.

Although the plan is still a draft, the reform lowering the importance of English should be applauded.

Gaokao is a prerequisite for entering almost all higher education institutions at the undergraduate level in China. After China reinstituted the gaokao system in 1977, English was soon ranked in the scope of basic courses, having the same status as Chinese and mathematics. English education and training has been given extensive attention. Chinese students, who start to learn English even from kindergarten, might have invested the most time learning English of non-English-speaking countries.

There are benefits to this nationwide mania for English learning. An overall escalation of English proficiency broadens the horizon of Chinese people, enabling them to have an insight into the rest of the world.

However, learning English has already become "too much of a good thing." English education and training has become institutionalized, forcing Chinese people to learn by rote for the sole purpose of passing various exams. Its constructive significance of enlightening and activating the minds of Chinese people has been largely ignored.

The low-end and exam-oriented motivation for English learning has caused another problem, making most English learners dabblers. Although English is popularized in China, many institutions which require that employees have a really good command of English are complaining about the shortage of real talent.

The excessive focus on English learning occupies much of the free time of Chinese students. Compared with their counterparts from other non-English-speaking countries in Europe, Chinese students read fewer books and lack hands-on ability and active minds.

China might have needed to strike in full force to improve its English education at the beginning of reform and opening-up because of the dire shortage of English-language talents. But times have changed, and its English education needs a reshuffle. It is time that we pour some cold water on the mania, reversing the tendency of excessive emphasis on English education and learning at an increasingly young age.

China's process of internationalization will not be frustrated because of the reduction in the fever. It cannot be simply achieved by how proficiently Chinese people can speak English. It is the need for international communication that matters.


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