Vested interests in the test world

Regarding the May 4 editorial “Test problems here and abroad“: The fraudulent visa application problems caused by a couple of criminal schools on the other side of the planet is just a tempest in the TOEIC cup with scant or zero relevance to foreign-language education in Japan.

In the United Kingdom, it may be worth big bucks to smuggle would-be immigrants into a country under false pretenses for the social and medical benefits, but as for Japanese people attempting illegal immigration to Europe, too few of them study abroad in the first place, let alone consider emigrating.

Might this be just a profit-motivated campaign by a rival exam sales company to clear U.S.-based testing services out of its home turf?

The TOEIC, IELTS, STEP are all just as good and bad as each other. All have the same bottom line — sales. (But with expensive security comes lower profits.)

What is really needed is a fundamental rethinking of the foreign-language education system here instead of diatribes against one of the hundred Hydra-headed, profit-motivated exam companies. Exams in themselves are nothing, especially in the context of Japan’s foreign-language teaching system. It is a world of vested interests. Expensive textbooks are designed to carve out a status quo to sell more textbooks and to profit from bureaucratic school boards controlled by noneducators, whose main agenda is to cement their own status and benefits.

Most schools have more office staff and cleaners than teachers, but only the latter have their every movement dissected and put under the microscope for society to scoff at.

If Japan wants to speak English, then why not initiate a nationwide bilingual education system from grade one, invest properly in foreign experts to teach and train competent teachers, and disallow textbooks in spoken communication classes? All related tests should be spoken not written, live not scripted, and something to enjoy not defraud.

david john
chikushino, fukuoka

The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.

  • Firas Kraïem

    The IELTS is administered jointly by Cambridge University and the British council (a registered charity operating under royal charter), organisations whose non-profit status seems much less doubtful than that of ETS, the American testing industry behemoth.