National Assessment System of Foreign language Proficiency in the International Conference on Language Testing and Assessment

  Held on the 28th and 29th of November, the International Conference on Language Testing and Assessment, co-organized by the NEEA and Guangdong University of Foreign Studies in Guangzhou, signifies a phased achievement of the China Standards of English (CSE) project. The achievement lays a firm foundation of foreign language testing reform as well as a multi-functional assessment system of foreign language proficiency that is based on the same criteria.

  In response to The Implementation Opinions of the State Council on Deepening the Reform of the Examination and Enrollment System, the Ministry of Education (MoE) sets the aim of establishing a multi-functional national assessment system of foreign language proficiency. The system will provide unified criteria of language proficiency and assessment methods for all stages in language education, which is intended to offer a bridge to life-long learning, and a method for connecting different foreign language education sectors and appropriate assessments of multiple learning outcomes.

  During this conference, subgroup leaders of the CSE project gave a joint keynote speech, introducing the progress and achievements of the CSE project, with a particular focus on innovation. First, The CSE is based on the national context while also having an international orientation. Appropriateness and practicality are ensured through the investigation and analysis of current English levels of Chinese learners together with the consideration of English needs as reflected by national socio-economic factors. The project will prescriptively describe language ability for all stages and types of language learning, teaching and assessment. Second, the project will also specify the direction of reform in foreign language education. The CSE builds on language use and emphasizes the ability to use language to comprehend and express meaning with the aim to foster the communicative competence of language learners. One focus of the CSE is highlighting the development of learners’ cognitive ability. Second, it stresses the important role that language learning plays in thinking. It underscores promoting learner autonomy and cultural awareness, which is part of students’ key English competencies. Third, the construction of a scale on communicative strategies will offer teachers guidance on emphasizing language use and language learning strategies. Fourth, the pragmatic competence scales will promote the teaching of practical language use, cultural awareness and cross-cultural communication. Finally, the scales of interpretation and translation will cover the gap left by many other language frameworks, few of which include scales on translation or interpretation.

  Based on the CSE, the MoE has initiated the development of the National English Testing System (NETS). The NETS will be a series of criterion-referenced tests based on the CSE. With the new test, the MoE will reconfigure the current exams by reducing repeated exams and reforming the test content and form in order to meet the varying needs in graduation, school admission, work and emigration.

  Joining the conference were more than 260 scholars and researchers from universities and research centers all over the world, including over 30 university scholars and research center delegates from the UK, the USA, Canada, Russia, Singapore, Turkey, Vietnam, Indonesia and Nigeria. Apart from the keynote speeches, more than 149 academic presentations were given in 13 parallel sessions, regarding various facets of the construction of a national assessment system of foreign language proficiency, formative assessment, test validity, information technology in assessment and exam reform.

  Scholars from home and abroad affirmed the research done on the development of the CSE and English exam reform, including Professor John de Jong, Program Manager of the PISA 2018 Framework Development at Pearson plc, Professor Nick Saville, Director of Research and Thought Leadership at Cambridge English Language Assessment, Professor Barry O'Sullivan, Senior Advisor at English Language Assessment at British Council, Professor Gui Shichun, Vice President of China's National Foreign Language Teaching and Research Association, and Professor Yang Huizhong, Counselor of the College English Test Committee. Representatives at the conference expressed their earnest hope for the establishment of a modern foreign language assessment system with Chinese characteristics.