Conference Discusses Future of English Language Testing in the Arab World

Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, 25th April 2013: Leading international thinkers in English language teaching and assessment have gathered in Riyadh with local experts to discuss the best methods for improving the standard of English language training in the Arab world.

{jcomments on}The “English Language and Translation Forum” hosted by the Prince Sultan University on the 24th and 25th of April was the first English Language Teaching (ELT) forum held by the University, aimed at increasing the quality of English amongst Arab students. The Conference was supported by the British Council and delegates included experts in the field from within the Kingdom and around the world.

The Conference reinforced the importance of equipping Arab learners with excellent English language skills, as the region’s economies become increasingly globalised. Embedding quality English language training into education systems has been a priority of regional governments who understand the link between graduates with strong English skills and the ability of economies to thrive in a competitive, international market place. Improving the English language capabilities of school and university leavers also has wider socio-economic impacts in Arab countries, where graduates with effective English skills are more likely to find meaningful work, and enjoy higher salaries. 

As governments in the region pour unprecedented funding into their education systems, many students want to upgrade their educational level and future prospects by learning English.  This calls for English language teaching and assessment methods to stay innovative and responsive, says Professor John De Jong, Senior Vice President of Standards and Quality at the world’s largest education company, Pearson, and Professor of Language Testing at Amsterdam’s VU University. 

Professor De Jong was a leading presenter at the English Language and Translation Forum, using the opportunity to explain the benefits of the Global Scale of English (GSE) to delegates. The GSE has been developed by Pearson to provide a comprehensive and robust global benchmark for English proficiency. The scale has been in use for a number of years as a reliable scoring system for Pearson’s trusted English test, PTE Academic™. But Professor De Jong explained the advantages of the GSE across a range of uses.

The GSE offers a standardised, numeric scale from 10 to 90 which can measure English language proficiency more precisely with reference to the widely known and employed Common European Framework of References for Languages, or CEFR. The GSE is a benchmark for English language proficiency that can be related to other English language tests and national examinations as well as a measure of the level of English needed for a range of academic and professional purposes. The GSE has been academically validated, and when linked to instructional content can be used as a benchmark for English language courses offering a truly global and shared understanding of ELT course levels.

Professor De Jong is confident the GSE will help improve the quality of English language education in the Middle East as it allows for a more comprehensive and detailed understanding of a learner’s English language ability and progression. He says: “The intention of this scale is to encourage the profiling of learners, rather than merely classifying them by levels, as the CEFR tends to do. The GSE is more useful for students and instructors because it provides them with the information to understand English language proficiency more precisely within a CEFR band, and to monitor learner progress within course levels, as well as allowing them to make informed choices about teaching and learning goals to improve their English”.

Using the scale to determine the English language level of learners will have significant benefits for English language education in Saudi Arabia and neighbouring countries. Professor De Jong says:

“Pearson is excited to see the changes the Global Scale of English can make to the learning outcomes of English students in the Middle East. Using this scale will mean we can accurately pinpoint the very specific listening, reading, speaking and writing capabilities of a learner, and provide them with a much more accurate and detailed learning plan than ever before. The GSE is less prone to misinterpretation, meaning the course or level the student is studying will be a much more accurate reflection of their learning needs. Ultimately, this should improve the results of English language students in the region, and we all know the far-reaching impacts good English language skills can have on an individual’s future, and the collective benefits this can have on communities”.

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