On September 8, 2022, the Taipei Times ran a story titled “Standardized English proficiency test to be prepared for universities: official.”
Why is a new English proficiency test needed for Taiwan?
As per the Bilingual 2030 policy, for bilingual benchmark institutions (also referred to as beacon bilingual universities and colleges) “by 2030, at least 50 percent of all sophomores in the university or college should have achieved at least CEFR B2 level English proficiency in listening, speaking, writing, and reading” (p. 14). Of course, tests are needed to measure whether such benchmarks have been achieved.
However, the arguments against the currently available international English proficiency tests are that (a) the content does not reflect the language students develop in EMI programs (for example, TOEIC testing general English) and (b) the cost of the tests is too expensive.
According to the Taipei Times quoting Department of Higher Education Director-General Chu Chun-chang, “this has led to student complaints and even lawsuits over content deemed unsuitable for college students.” Thus, a new, locally developed test has been proposed.
It seems the cost issue has more or less been solved, with the newly proposed test developed by the nonprofit Language Training and Testing Center (LTTC) estimated to cost only NTD$1,000.
However, I am more interested in how the first problem—test content—will be addressed. Language isn’t a simple divide between general English versus academic English; academic English is inclusive of countless disciplines, each using language in unique ways.
According to this Chinese-language article from UDN, the plan is to first develop a common test for all subjects (which I don’t see as an improvement over current tests like TOEFL or IELTS), followed by one differentiated by academic fields.
The latter would probably be the most appropriate for evaluating language outcomes of EMI courses, but the time and investment that would be needed to create such a suite of exams seems unrealistic.
I am not saying it won’t happen, but I suspect if it does, it won’t happen for quite some time. It should be interesting to see how this story develops in the future.