Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Ministry findings beat up on teachers...again

More English teacher bashing. Give a look at the Japanese or English version at the Yomiuri on Line. The English headline reads, "Ministry survey finds schools' English teaching falling short." The Japanese article reads, "Public junior high schools, Classroom English 4% only." (my translation)

Again, we have English teachers being evaluated on criteria that teachers of no other discipline have to live up to, have no proven relationship with their roles, and which are not listed as real standards in any official documents that I can find.

These articles list two measures of teacher quality, use of English in the classroom and TOEIC scores. Is the science teacher ever expected to use English in the classroom? Why not? They were both fished out of the same pond. They have the same certification upon employment. They are both qualified teachers. Why should one be expected to use English and not the other? Is English only a language for English class? That wouldn't make for very impressive progress. In actuality, the science teacher is not expected to use English, nor would he or she be expected to use any specific language in the classroom, including scientific language, no matter how much one may imagine that they do. The science teacher is also not held to any specific testing criteria that I can find in the press or anywhere else.

Only 8.3 percent of middle school teachers and 16.3 percent of high school teachers scored more than 730 points in the TOEIC test, a figure indicating thorough comprehension of ordinary English conversation and an ability to provide quick responses.
Only 8.3 percent? What in the world does that mean? Should more have taken it? Says who? How many would be enough? Why would anyone reasonably expect any teacher at all to take the test?

730 points... Who says that is a is a significant figure? Fujitsu set target scores for engineers, researchers, planners and salespeople at 600. Matsushita decided that employees would need score of at least 450 to be a shunin. I don't know what they based their numbers on, probably some random judgment, but you have to wonder where 730 came from.

Why is the Education Ministry advertising this test for ETS anyway? Is it an especially good measure of teaching ability? As I have pointed out before, I don't think ETS would even suggest that. Is there some financial hocus-pocus going on behind the scenes? That sounds far more likely.

...comprehension of ordinary English conversation and an ability to provide quick responses." Huh? Where does this generalization come from? Some ETS-sponsored study that shows a relationship between a certain score and English language ability? Of course they would show the highest possible correlation between test scores and skills that the test doesn't directly measure. It does measure listening and reading comprehension, and it probably does that very well. But where is the quick response section on the test? Did I miss that part?

This TOEIC fever is totally out of control. Institutions imbue it with powers that it does not have. ETS bathes in the attention and keeps its mouth shut. Teachers, not just in Japan but in Korea too, get bludgeoned by the press and their own Education Ministry for poor performance when it is really the bureaucrats who lack the ability to plan a proper curriculum, to set realistic goals for their teachers, and then back that up with real teacher development opportunities.


Michael Turton said...

What? You mean it is exactly like Taiwan? ROFL. Thanks, man.


Daniel said...

You have to hand it to the TOEIC marketing group. They have done some great salesmanship.

Thanks for the amplification and perspective.