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Tuesday, 8 April 2014

ENGLISH TESTS & SKATEBOARDS













People such as me, who trained to be teachers of the English language, are well used to universities requiring certain levels of linguistic proficiency. In simple terms, if a student from Malaysia wishes to study in the UK, the US, Canada or Australia, s/he has to be able to demonstrate competency in English. Typically the skills of speaking, reading, writing and listening are assessed via language proficiency examinations.

For several decades past, there have been two major players in examining academic English: TOEFL and IELTS. TOEFL is an American system; IELTS is based mainly on British and Australian English. TOEFL gives a range of scores while IELTS uses nine Band Descriptors (Band 1 represents a complete beginner; Band 9 represents a native English speaker or equivalent). KYUEM has traditionally used IELTS as its external English benchmark. The minimum university IELTS requirement is a Band 6.5 and KYUEM students usually perform considerably better than that.

However, the world of education is seldom static, and we must always be conscious of developments and trends. Over the past few years, a challenger to the IELTS/TOEFL hegemony has emerged: the Pearson Test of English, or PTE. I am quite familiar with the test personally, having observed its recent development and have taken note of the fact that it has become increasingly accepted by most of the world’s major universities. This week (Wednesday, April 9) we are welcoming a local representative of Pearson’s to see if the PTE offers an attractive alternative for KYUEM students. If this is indeed the case, I will be updating everyone in due course.


The other event of note this week is that KYUEM has become a “skateboard-free zone.” This has not been a sudden decision or one that I have taken lightly. I do not like to impose rules on students unnecessarily, or to restrict their freedom of choice. However, the skateboard has proved to be a risky form of entertainment or means of personal transport on college premises. Quite simply, our roads and walkways were never ever designed for skateboard traffic, and the risk of injury to the non-skateboarding fraternity is too great. The fact that small numbers of KYUEM students use a skateboard only strengthens my argument. Students must take their skateboards home this weekend, or hand them in to Student Services for safe keeping until the end of the semester. I’m sorry the dedicated minority will have to abandon their sport, but the safety of the majority must always take priority. Most of us manage to get to class (including all the teachers and myself) on foot. It’s not unreasonable to expect the same of everyone else from now on.

Note: So far, no comments in Malay have been posted on the blog. As a result, I imagine that it is only being read in English. If you wish to continue reading the blog in Malay, will you please add a comment on the latest Malay page? If no comments appear by Friday, April 11, I will assume the Malay translation is no longer required. 

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