More reform from the Stone Age

Earth to Abe, Earth to Abe: Requiring the TOEFL test for university entry — or exit — will do diddly squat to enhance Japan’s global competitiveness. It’s just more harebrained “reform” from the Stone Age: If students need better skills, let’s mandate another test!

Having taught TOEFL to Japanese students for over 10 years, I can attest that the speaking section of the test will ingloriously sink about 90 percent of high school or university students. This is partly because it requires mental and linguistic flexibility as well as the ability to cohere and express ideas — precisely the kind of skills that the Japanese education system has never cared to equip students with. Most people involved in English curricula don’t have the slightest idea how to teach or learn speaking.

Speaking skills aside, students may get a score of 45 just through multiple-choice questions for academic reading and listening, but of course such skills won’t improve workforce competence.

No global business partner cares if you can read passages on plate tectonics if you can’t string a simple sentence together.

In their parallel universe, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his dinosaur education team are free to condemn students to more useless cramming. But as a teacher who works hard to help a selected few to actually pass the test and acquire some real-life skills, I don’t care to join their backward attempts at a farcical internationalization.

nicolas gattig

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.