Faculty of Education

Faculty of Education
Faculty of Education

Chinese English Language Education Forum

Demystifying Chinese English language education: A closer look at assessment and testing programs in China

November 19, 2015
Mezzanine Classroom (B245)

Every year in China today, around 20 million people prepare for and take English language examinations at the tertiary level alone – more than half of the entire population of Canada. This is, by far, the largest test-taking population of its kind anywhere in the world. Given this extraordinary and unique context, this forum sheds new light on English language education in China, with a focus on its testing and assessment systems. The three speakers will provide an overview of the Chinese English education system at the junior secondary, senior secondary and tertiary levels, using empirical evidence. The discussant will then highlight recurring themes, and comment on the directions which English language education in China, including testing and assessment, may be moving in the future.



Luna YangLuna Yang
Doctoral Candidate, Beijing Normal University
Manxia DongManxia Dong
Doctoral Candidate, Shanghai International Studies University
Hongling LiHongling Li
Lecturer, Chongqing University


Liying ChengDr. Andy Curtis
President, TESOL International Association, Professor, Graduate School of Education, Anaheim University, Co-Editor of English Language Assessment and The Chinese Learner

Presenter Abstracts

First Key Stage of Academic Success: a High-stakes Test Use in Junior High School by Luna Yang, Beijing Normal University

In the pyramid of Chinese education system, grade nine students face the major challenge to be enrolled to senior high schools, based on their performance on a nation-wide test for the first time every June. It is the very first key stage for academic success in their life. At this stage, the students are streamed into different levels of vocational schools, senior high schools, and key senior high schools. Only those who are enrolled by the top key senior high schools can have a better chance to go to university after three-year learning.

The high-stakes test is designed in alignment with national English curriculum standards, by different examination authorities at the provincial, regional, and district levels with various formats. What does the score mean? How the various admission authorities use the test scores for its intended purposes and avoid unintended use of test scores become a critical issue. This presentation illustrates intended (unintended) test use through two cases, featuring developed and less developed cities in Chinese context. Although the test is proposed to be achievement in nature, it provides little information for teachers and students. Reforms are undergoing in China to explore how to decentralize large-scale tests to gain more knowledge on achievement and non-achievement factors that account for the differences at students’ performances, so as to better inform teaching and learning.

Single-log Bridge over the Gulf: Chinese Gaokao by Manxia Dong, Shanghai International Studies University

China is the birthplace of examinations with a history of more than 3000 years. Since then, examinations have played a vital role in the Chinese education systems. Every student is faced with hundreds of examinations as soon as they start school. Among all these examinations, the National University Entrance Examination (Gaokao in Chinese) is the most significant and influential high-stakes test for selection and admission purposes with approximately 10 million test-takers each year. In China, Gaokao is not just an academic test, it has become a cultural phenomenon, a booming industry, a mobilization-in-mass social activity and even a political issue, and it attracts nationwide attention from all walks of life even including China’s top leaders. It not only determines test takers’ career choices and life styles, but also be related to their family’s happiness and honors, their teachers’ bonuses and promotions, their schools’ prestige and developments, and educational fairness. This talk will focus on the English component of Gaokao test battery, called the National Matriculation English Test (NMET). Based on the results of my questionnaire survey from more than 3000 high school students, I will demonstrate a picture about what senior high school English teaching and learning look like and share some understanding of the washback effects of NMET on senior high school English teaching and learning.

Assessment Reform in Chinese University by Hongling Li, Chongqing University

The College English Test (CET) has been the most influential large-scale test for Chinese college students, which is closely related to their English-learning motivation, scholarship, diploma, and future employment. The CET training markets and CET-related publications have been the lucrative industries of potential 18 million clients in China. Therefore, for decades, the vital role of CET for college students has determined the assessment policy in Chinese English as a Foreign Language (EFL) teaching and learning. However, in recent College English reform, formative assessment has been highlighted by Ministry of Education of the People’s Republic of China (MOE of PRC). Documents (2007, 2014 & 2015) issued by MOE of PRC required the incorporation of formative assessment into the original summative College English assessment policy and assessment reform has been unprecedentedly stressed. These documents have changed and would tremendously change the nature and role of assessment in Chinese college EFL teaching and learning. This talk will illustrate Chinese assessment reform from one large Chinese University involving assessment reform, project-based learning and feedback from the perspective of students. I hope this talk will bring you into a real world of English teaching and learning in this large Chinese university.

Chinese English Language Education Forum