Why Are English Language Proficiency Exams Important?

This article aims to describe the level of English proficiency in the Philippines and why it is important to change the curriculum based on global standards such as APTIS, TOEIC, IELTS and TOEFL. In order for you to understand it, please read on below.

In the essay, “Pliant like the Bamboo” by I.V. Mallari, Filipinos are said to have the gift of language. We are good communicators. We are hired abroad because of our ability to communicate in a multi-cultural environment. More than 14 million Filipinos were able to speak English, and we were recognized globally. However, Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand have improved their English literacy rate while our level of English proficiency is declining.

As a curriculum developer, it is necessary to have a preparatory year aside from the K+12 Basic Education Curriculum. The Preparatory Year must be based in the English Proficiency Exams such as TOEIC, TOEFL, APTIS, and IELTS because many of the countries in Europe, Middle East, and Asia are now changing their curriculum in English. For example, an international school in Thailand includes in their Transcript of Records the students’ TOEIC scores for the companies to choose the most qualified graduates and place them in the positions that they deserve.

The research conducted by President Melva Diamante of Southville Foreign University and the General Manager of Hopkins International Partners, Inc., Mr. Rex Wallen Tan found that the average English proficiency score of a Philippine college graduate is 630 based on the Test of English for International Communication (TOEIC). This score is lower than the competency requirement for taxi drivers in Dubai. Given the scenario, the government is looking into revising the curriculum for college students to improve the quality of our graduates. CHED Chair Commissioner, Prospero De Vera pointed out the importance of taking more seriously the industry-academe-government partnership to address the trends worldwide.

But before we do the so-called curricular reforms in the Philippines, please try to reflect and answer the following questions:

1. How can schools and universities nationwide improve the level of English proficiency of the students to globally compete with other countries? 

2. Why should we adopt CEFR and TOEIC in the Philippines? Or can we have other tests like APTIS, TOEFL and IELTS, among others?

3. What major steps shall we make in order to achieve the language proficiency based on the global standards?

When I was in the Middle East, I was part of the Curriculum Development Committee that evaluated a proposal made by a prestigious university in Canada. Our committee was tasked to develop the English Curriculum for Preparatory Year based on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR). The British Council, the Oxford University Press, the Educational Testing System (ETS), and the Cambridge University Press were our partners in the design and development of the English curriculum because our graduates are expected to study further in the United Kingdom and/or to work in multi-national companies like ARAMCO, SABIC, among others.

In 2016, I went to Asia. I was encouraged by my dissertation adviser to go to Thailand to immerse and personally experience the educational milieu in Asia. Now, Thailand is working hard to increase its language proficiency. My students were familiar with the TOEIC exam because it was integrated into their English curriculum. They are required to take it every semester so that they could have higher TOEIC scores. Their real TOEIC scores in the final year of their degree programs are shown in their Transcript of Records.

My immersion with multi-national companies made me realize that there is a need to adopt the CEFR. It is essential in measuring the level of proficiency among our graduates and employees. However, taking the CEFR and developing a curriculum based on it is not an easy task. The Philippine Government and the Commission on Higher Education must conscientiously implement the National English Roadmap to make it successful. However, there will be challenges. Here are some:

1. Planning & Budgetary Requirements. The budget for laboratory equipment, classroom security devices, computers, and internet connections must be included in Strategic Planning.

2. Facilities and Equipment. There is a need for reliable WiFi and internet connection. Each classroom must be equipped with a computer, LCD, or smartboard.

3. Curriculum & Assessment. There is a need to decongest the curriculum (if possible, adopt the Oxford, Cambridge, Pearson, & British Council curriculum, including books and instructional materials). There is also a need to device authentic assessment tools to determine the level of proficiency-based on the CEFR. In some cases, curriculum developers mirror/mimic the APTIS, TOEIC, IELTS, TOEFL, and English Cambridge Exam to expose the students.

4. Admission Requirements & Graduates Quality Standards. The selection process must be valid and reliable. In most countries, they use English proficiency exams such as APTIS, TOEIC, TOEFL, IELTS, etc.

5. Teachers’ Training. There is a need to train teachers and curriculum developers for this kind of curriculum, along with language specialists.

6. Mindset & Attitude. Many will be skeptics about the adoption of the CEFR, but ASEAN countries have adopted it to address the issues in globalizing Higher Education.  

If our neighboring countries have already adopted the use of English proficiency exams and CEFR, the Filipinos who are pliant like the bamboo must be willing to accept the changes. It is not only about English proficiency. It is finding the right graduates for the right jobs and positions.

References:

  1. Cabigon, Mike. (November 14, 2015). State of English in PH: Should we be concerned? Retrieved from https://opinion.inquirer.net/90293/state-of-English-in-ph-should-we-be-concerned.
  2. Domingo, Katrina (February 9, 2018). PH lacks English standard ahead of BPO shift to artificial intelligence. Retrieved from (https://news.abs- cbn.com/business/02/08/18/ph-lacks-english-standard-ahead-of-bpo-shift-  to-artificial-intelligence.
  3. Morallo, Audrey (February 8, 2018). Filipino graduates’ English skills lower than target for cab drivers in Dubai, study says. Retrieved from https://www.philstar.com/headlines/2018/02/08/1785840/filipino-graduates-english-skills-lower-target-cab-drivers-dubai-studysays#yaAZ1LCyLWjZxmmb.99
Cite this article as: Alvior, Mary G. (September 13, 2019). Why Are English Language Proficiency Exams Important? [Blog Post]. In SimplyEducate.Me. Retrieved from https://simplyeducate.me/2019/09/13/why-are-english-language-proficiency-exams-important/

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