Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has announced that the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) would be adopted in Japanese education. Considering Japan’s focus on international personnel development, TOEFL could be one of the scales to assess whether Japanese people are competent enough with English to communicate with people from other countries.
But it still leaves doubt. Do the scores really testify to a person’s communication skills? When it comes to the TOEIC (Test of English for International Communication), this doubt becomes stronger as many companies have declared that many new employees with high TOEIC scores lack English communication competency. Both the TOEFL and the TOEIC are paper-based tests, so even if the test-takers have feeble English communication skills in practice, they may still attain high scores.
In addition, too much emphasis on scoring makes people, particularly young students, lose sight of the true purpose of taking English tests. Other scales for estimating how much learning they have accumulated could prove helpful. Learning English is not simple because it differs completely from Japanese. Still, learning English can be enjoyable if students are correctly guided.
There is a Japanese saying: “What people like, they will do well.” Relying purely on paper-based test scores risks turning learners off English altogether if they fail to fulfill their targets, or if their marks are inferior to those of classmates. The government and educators first must take steps to bring out learners’ interest in English.
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.