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Teaching English in Global Contexts - A Wikibook published by the students of L530 class
Pages and Files
4. ELT Curricula
5. ELT Standards
6. Critical Incidents
5. ELT Standards
Table of Contents
China ELT Standards: Danoff
Korean ELT Standards: Dash
Japan ELT Standards: Hoch
Japan ELT Standards: Liu
Korea ELT Standards: Park
Thailand ELT Standards: Sannes
Taiwan ELT Standards: Tsai
Qatar ELT Standards: Wiechart
Spain ELT Standards: Worcester
China ELT Standards: Danoff
In this paper I give a broad overview of the 2003 Chinese English Language Standards published, for students and teachers. The Standards have specific things students should be able to do from when they start studying English in grade three of elementary school through grade twelve of senior high school. I comment briefly on all the levels, but focus on three and four, because those correspond to the students I teach. I also outline what is expected of English language teachers. Throughout I offer short comments and reflections of the Standards, noting especially their specificity and pliability.
Keywords: English Language Standards, Teaching English in China, English Students in China
The 2003 Chinese English Standards (国家课程标准专辑 Guójiā kèchéng biāozhǔn zhuānjí) outline the government’s approach and expectations of English education for students and teachers. They are available online in Chinese, published by Being Education. Unfortunately I could not find a professionally translated English version. To explore them, I used Google Translate to translate them into English (
The computer translation is not perfect, so at times I have interpreted and modified the language to make it more comprehensible. This
is an imperfect approach, and it would be better if an individual fluent in both languages did a comprehensive translation.The standards are designed for all Chinese schools, but they are flexible to account for variations in different schools and areas.
The design followed the laws of language learning and the different ages of student’s physical and mental development needs and characteristics. They also take into account our large population, vast territory, and unbalanced economic and educational development. The national English curriculum standards are designed to be flexible and open. (Being Education [BE], 2003 part 1, design ideas section, para. 1)
Bob Adamson, author of the book
, characterized the standards as follows:
A selective appropriation of pedagogical approaches from inside and outside China.
A structured approach to grammar, based on Soviet approaches in the 1950s.
Vocabulary as a benchmark of competence, expressed quantitatively.
English Language as a vehicle for moral, patriotic & international education.
An increasingly sophisticated process of curriculum development. (personal communication, April 15, 2010)
The standards are broken into four parts: the Foreword; the Curriculum Objectives; the Content Standards and the Implementation of the Proposed Standards, each of which is broken into sections and sub-sections. The second and third parts outline requirements for students; while the fourth part does the same for teachers.
National English education begins at grade three, and the student standards are broken into nine levels, which students are to complete until the conclusion of senior high school. Each level corresponds to a grade as follows:
Level 1 - Elementary School Grades 3 – 4
Level 2 - Elementary School Grades 5 – 6
Level 3 - Junior High School Grade 7
Level 4 - Junior High School Grade 8
Level 5 - Junior High School Grade 9
Level 6 - Senior High School Grade 10
Level 7 - Senior High School Grade 11
Level 8 - Senior High School Grade 12
Level 9 - Special requirements for students in select schools focused on foreign languages. (BE, 2003 part 1, design ideas section, para. 2)
Part 2 has the broad goals for each level, and the in the first section of part 3 they have specific speaking listening reading and writing language skills to perform. These are a key component of the standards, that "the student 'can do something' specific at all levels." (BE, 2003 part 1, the basic idea section, para. 2) For levels 2, 5 and 8, the ends of primary, junior and senior high school respectively, they have "knowledge of language", "emotional attitude", "learning strategies" and "cultural awareness" requirements (BE, 2003 part 3, knowledge of language section, para. 1). The fourth part broadly outlines how teachers should implement the standards.
Part 1 The Foreword
National primary and secondary school curriculum areas of language learning syllabus.docx]]
The first part states the overall goal of the standards. It is extremely broad, extending far beyond the fundamentals of English, using the language as a gateway to new cultures and ideas.
To inspire and train students interested in learning English so that students build self-confidence, develop good study habits and form effective learning strategies to develop self-learning ability and spirit of cooperation; enable students to master certain basic knowledge of English and listening, speaking, reading and writing skills, develop a fairly comprehensive language proficiency; train students in observation, memory, thinking, imagination and innovative spirit; to help students understand the world and Western cultural differences, broaden their vision to foster patriotism, form a healthy outlook on life, and lay a good foundation for their life-long learning and development. (BE, 2003 part 1, course nature section, para. 3)
For the purposes of this paper, I will explore the language skills of levels 3 and 4, corresponding to grades 6 and 7, and the requirements to be completed at the end of junior high school (level 5), as the students I am currently teaching at Anqing Foreign Language School, in Anqing, Anhui, China are in grades 6 and 7.
Parts 2 and 3 Curriculum Objectives and Content Standards
Part 2 has the broad goals for levels 3 and 4.
Level 3 - For English learning performance and initial positive self-confidence, can:o Understand the discourse on familiar topics and short stories.
Exchange information with teachers or classmates on familiar topics (such as schools, family life).
Refer to examples or write simple sentences using pictures.
Take part in a simple role-playing and other activities.
Try to use the appropriate learning ways to overcome learning difficulties.
Be aware of cultural differences existing in language communication.
Level 4 - With a clear understanding of their learning needs and goals for learning English showed strong self-confidence, can:
Establish daily communication scenario understanding dialogue and story.o Exchange of information naturally on familiars and offer simple suggestions.
Read short stories.
Write notes and simple letters.
Could try to use different educational resources, from the oral and written material to extract information, expansion of knowledge to solve a simple problem and describe the outcome.
Learn from fellow students in learning to help overcome difficulties.
Can reasonably plan and arrange learning tasks, and actively explore ways for their own learning.
Learning and everyday communication in foreign cultural differences can be noted.
Transitioning from level 3 to 4 sees gradual improvements in the four skills as well as a slightly deeper understanding of foreign culture. The first section of part 3 specifies the distinctions in the two levels in the four skills, including:
Listening: Go from learning about tone's effects and discourses on familiar topics to understanding simple stories or other discourses at almost normal speed.
Speaking: Move from performing brief communications in spoken English to make several rounds of conversation.
Reading: Increase recognition from 40,000 to 100,000 words.
Writing: Improve from using basic grammar in simple sentences to completing short text segments.
The critical parts of all the achievements in the four skills for each level is that they illustrate explicitly what the students should be able to perform. More general outlines of development come in the subsequent sections. Following the language skills come the "Knowledge of Language", "Learning Strategies", or "Cultural Awareness" components in sections 2 to 5 of part 3. Levels 3 and 4 are not mentioned there, so I will look to level 5, where students are supposed to be after completing Junior High School. I have summarized the different components of the three sections.
Knowledge of Language
Voice - Aware of and use basic tones and pronunciations appropriately for different situations.
Glossary - Know some idioms and how to spell words after hearing them.
Syntax - Understand and master the description of human and material means of expression; as well as describe the initial control time, location, location, means of expression.
Function - Use interpersonal communications effectively, including greetings, farewells, thanks and presentations.
Topics - Familiar and can converse on individual students, family, school life, daily life, hobbies, habits and customs, science and cultural topics.
Cognitive - Literate in multiple mediums and able to use multiple methods to extract meaning.
Control - Direct their own English learning, defining goals for themselves, aware of their own progress and explore English outside of class.
Communication - Use multiple approaches to communicate in English, not confined just to the words and language itself.
Resources - Utilize different English resources including internet, video and audio.
The final section on "Cultural Awareness" is a list of customs, practices, common expressions and other parts of foreign cultures the students are to know. The most intriguing part is that the reason for learning them is not just to communicate with foreigners, but also to "deepen [their] understanding of Chinese culture." As someone who has learned lots about my own culture by living in another one, I find this idea particularly clever. Additionally, considering China's historical "ambivalent addiction" (Danoff, 2010, p. 1) with some in govenrment who have been vehemently opposing and others just as passionatly supporting the English language, this point is a good way to appeal to those against studying English in schools.
Part 4 Implementation of the Proposed Standards
The fourth part sets the standards for teaching English, broken into four sections, which I have summarized.
Adapt approach to different abilities of students, laying the foundation for life-long language study. Including encouraging students to use English boldly willing to make mistakes.
Create a democratic, liberal and harmonious atmosphere, engendering positive associations with English in students.
Instead of only imparting knowledge, teachers should utilize a "task-based" teaching approach where students have to use English as a thinking tool to finish activities.
Involve students in the learning process, so they have a say in their learning objectives and can self-evaluate as they progress.
Teach English language and cultures simultaneously, expanding the students cultural horizons utilizing technology and extracurricular activities.
Follow the time guidelines for high frequency and effective English instruction.
Evaluation should be useful for students to know themselves and to establish self-confidence; help students reflect on and control their own learning process, so as to promote the continuous development of language ability.
Focus on formative evaluation of students to develop the role of assessment for students in daily performance of the learning process, and assess the achievements as well as reflect the feelings, attitudes, strategies and other aspects of development.
Note that the diversity and flexibility of evaluation methods teachers should pay attention to the age of the student characteristics and learning style differences in appropriate evaluation methods.
Gather feedback and adjust the evaluation methods and lesson plans to the needs of students.
Summative assessment should pay attention to examine the student's comprehensive ability to use language, including all four language skills.
Have an optional 3 or 6-year evaluation of the special nature of English language teaching.
Evaluation should focus on practical results and, at the same time, not take up too much actual teaching time.
At all levels of assessment should be based on the student's level and curriculum objectives.
Curriculum Development and Resource Utilization and Educational Materials
These sections outline broad principles for developing curriculums and resources. In addition to the textbooks, it encourages teachers to explore things like radio and television programs; multi-media CD-ROM's, newspapers, magazines, internet resources, wall charts and more.
The materials chosen should have a developmental and expansion, scientific, ideological, fun, flexibility and openness, consistent with the students age characteristics, psychological characteristics and cognitive level of development. Over time the materials used should be evaluated to ensure they are helping students achieve pre-set teaching goals.
Certain areas of the teaching Standards particularly stand out to me. The attention to a students emotional attitude towards English is intriguing (BE, 2003 part 4, evaluation section, para. 4). It seems difficult to say how exactly this can be achieved, but it is important for teachers to keep in mind and work to engender. Additionally, the hope to encourage a lifetime of study of English, instead of stopping after high school is difficult, but an invaluable ideal to work towards (BE, 2003 part 4, teaching suggestions section, para. 1). I believe this should be the goal for all teachers across all subjects.
Finally, I think involving the students in the class objectives and evaluations is imperative for them to take ownership over their own English learning (BE, 2003 part 4, evaluation section, para. 11). It was one of many times here that reminded me of a phrase from Jacobs and Farrell’s 2001 article on a paradigm shift in second language education, requiring “a tolerance for messiness and ambiguity” for new approaches to be implemented (p. 4). Especially considering China’s diversity and ambitions, a heavy dose of tolerance by all teachers and students will be needed for these important suggestions to be implemented.
Like all countries, there is a gap between what the Government plans and what is done in schools. As I was writing this paper on a train from Shanghai to Hefei I discussed the standards with a high school student, and in his opinion, all that mattered was the test. His oral English was abnormally good, even though he was not tested on spoken English. He practiced alone when riding his bike; which, ironically considering his comments, fits in with the goals of the Standards.
Overall I feel the Chinese English Standards are on the right path in their design and implementation, especially since they allow for different schools and teachers to implement them according to their own situations. Going forward, if the Education officials listen to their own advice to teachers of gathering feedback and adjusting to new developments, China's already high English level will rise exponentially.
I would like to thank Dr. Faridah Pawan, Dr. Bob Adamson, Dr. Jill Ann Robbins, Dr. Wenfeng Wang and Dr. Agnes Lam for taking the time to assist me as I completed this paper.
Bejing Education. (2003, February 23). Guójiā kèchéng biāozhǔn zhuānjí. (Google Translate, Trans.). Retrieved from
Danoff, C.J. (2010). English Language Curriculum in China. Unpublished paper, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN, USA.
Jacobs, G.M., & Farrell, T.S.C. (2001). Paradigm Shift: Understanding and Implementing Change in Second Language Education. The Electronic Journal for English as a Second Language, 5. Retrieved from
Korean ELT Standards: Dash
In developing the English guidelines in the 7th National Curriculum, the Republic of Korea laid out a detailed system that includes everything from explicit objectives to “accomplishment standards” to even specific vocabulary and phrases. For middle school students (grades 7-9), the government has laid out four major objectives:
1) Understand the necessity to communicate in English.
2) Effectively communicate in daily life and about general topics
3) Understand diverse foreign information in English, and put it into practical use.
4) Through English education, appreciate diverse cultures and introduce our culture in English. (National School Curriculum: English, 2010, p. 3)
For the purposes of this assignment, the author will concentrate on Objective 2, “effectively communicate in daily life and about general topics.”Anchor] The methods for implementing and evaluating Objectives 1 and 4 are much more nebulous in the curriculum than Objectives 2 and 3, whose terms of fulfillment are much more in line with the material in the KNC. To accomplish the stated objectives, the KNC provides explicit guidelines for “Language Functions” and “Communication Activities” (NSCE, p. 4), “Language Materials” (p. 5), “Accomplishment Standards” (p. 6), “Teaching/Learning Methods” (p. 17), “Evaluation” (p. 19), “Subject Matter” (p. 21), “Examples and Functions of Communication” (p. 22), “Vocabulary” (p. 40), and “Linguistic forms” (p. 69).
In order to teach students to “effectively communicate in daily life and about general topics,” the curriculum attempts to take a balanced and integrated approach to speaking, listening, reading, and writing (NSCE, p. 4), as opposed to former national curricula which tended to focus more on receptive skills. Within each skill and grade level, the curriculum lays out specific “accomplishment standards,” which detail the kinds of classroom activities expected. With regard to Objective 2, the stated accomplishment standards are as follows (pp 10-15):
1. Understand accents and intonations
2. Understand main points of conversations about daily life
3. Understand daily life conversations in past, future, and present
4. Understand details of those conversations
5. Understand order of events
6. Understand situation and relationship of speakers
7. Carry out tasks in conversations of daily life
1. Describe surrounding objects and daily people
2. Exchange information with people
3. Talk about main ideas
4. Talk about events in order of occurrence
5. Talk about cause and results of short stories
6. Talk about experience or plans
1. Read short story about daily life and understand main idea and summary
2. Understand charts about daily life
3. Understand stories about individuals’ lives
4. Understand details of story
5. Understand cause and result in short story
1. Write answers to factual questions about self
1. Listen and understand speech or conversations about familiar subjects in general topics
2. General topics (GT) – understand main idea and summary
3. GT – understand intention of speaker
4. GT – Understand details
5. GT – understand interconnection of situation
6. GT – understand cause and result
7. GT – understand speakers attitudes or emotions
8. GT – carry out task
1. Describe person one admires
2. Explain objects, etc. related to daily life
3. Answer questions about conversations about general topics
4. Relate speech or conversations to familiar subjects in general topics
1. Read and understand short story about general topics
2. Understand main idea in story about general topics
3. Understand writer’s intention
4. Understand the details
5. Predict following story
6. Compare and contrast different opinions in a story
1. Write a diary in simple sentences
2. Write short intro to one’s family and self
3. Read a dialogue and make up questions
4. Write short letter introducing one’s family, school, etc.
1. Listen to speech or conversation on general topic and understand the situation
2. Understand 1.’s main idea
3. Understand 1.’s details
4. Listen to part of speech and guess the situation
5. Understand cause and result
6. Understand speaker’s attitudes or emotions
7. Carry out long command
1. Summarize speech or conversation
2. Explain simple picture or chart about a general topic
3. Read instructions on daily necessities and talk about them in correct order
4. Role play
5. Talk about feelings or thoughts
6. Talk about one’s opinion re: familiar topic
7. Through interaction, carry out a simple task
1. Story about General topic – understand details
2. Advertisement – Understand details
3. General Topic (GT) – Understand writer’s intention
4. GT – Understand cause and result
5. GT – Understand story’s atmosphere
6. GT – Predict following story
7. GT – Guess conclusion
8. GT – Understand rhetorical organization
1. Write a diary about thoughts and feelings in daily life
2. Listen to speech or conversation about daily life and write down necessary information
3. View object, picture, or painting and write thoughts or feelings
4. Read a book or watch movie, and write short description of impression
The accomplishment standards detailed by the KNC incorporate a wide range of activities in order to fulfill the stated objective of “effectively communicating in daily life and about general topics.” The listening segment entails listening to conversations and speeches about daily life and topics and basic comprehensive tasks of intonation, main ideas, details, case and effect, the situation, emotions, etc. The speaking section ranges from descriptions, role plays, summarizing, explanations, and conversations. The reading section’s tasks basically mirror the tasks in the listening section. The writing section includes diaries, written dialogues, explanatory essays, and writing about one’s home and personal life. These tasks seem quite comprehensive and useful as a whole in possibly accomplishing the stated objective, but without understanding the methods of teaching and evaluation, they do not say a lot. The manner in which the teachers are expected to manage their classrooms and the criteria on which to judge the students are crucial to integrating the accomplishment standards into fruitful CLT classrooms that elicit “effective communication. If one does not examine how the teachers are to implement these activities, it is difficult to gauge what these tasks are meant to accomplish.
Teaching Methods and Evaluation
To meet the demands of effective communication in daily life, the Korean classrooms have putatively abandoned old teacher-centered, primarily audio-lingual and drill-based methods (although not completely). The KNC calls for classrooms to be “student-centered… where students can actively participate, and teachers can cooperate with them” and to have “lively interaction between teachers and students” (NSCE, p. 18). This reinforces the notion of effective communication. English language is not positioned as a skills-based subject, but one in which students and teachers interact in attempts to make meaning in ideally more relevant situations. Furthermore, “Speaking education should focus on communication activities to enhance fluency and precision, and guidance should increase language ability to be applied in real circumstances” (p. 18). Again, the focus is on real circumstances instead of ersatz situations created by teachers or textbooks. The KNC emphasizes flexibility in choosing the material and difficulty level within classrooms as well. It recognizes that not all schools have the same resources, and to adjust the level of classes accordingly. Furthermore, to ensure the classes match the level of the students, it encourages the development of new “main and supplementary textbooks” and the possibility to reorganize the class material to coincide with the levels of the students (p. 19). According to CLT principles, all of these are crucial to enabling students to truly engage the language.
Evaluation methods as laid out by the KNC seem to be quite fluid and attendant to the individual needs of the students. There is not a rigid standard on which to peg the students. Instead, the KNC asks teachers to “Establish the evaluation goal according to the educational stage’s performance” and “after diagnosing the student’s level, apply appropriate teaching methods” (NSCE, p. 19) Students are not expected to conform to a preconceived idea of what they should know, but instead are assessed at their current level and expected to show improvement. The KNC talks of holistic approaches to teaching and the development of “portfolios, self evaluation, and inter-evaluation” (p. 19). The accomplishment standards seem to give enough leeway to achieve these goals, as they do not focus so much on skills-based activities, but on ways in which students can build from pertinent events or topics and construct their own forms of expression. By building a portfolio and including the students in their own evaluation, it allows the students to have agency in their own development. Through assessing the students’ abilities before determining the class standards and giving teachers the flexibility to adjust classroom goals, the evaluation methods allow the students to determine for themselves what “effective communication” means at their current state of English knowledge. The evaluation methods do include performance testing which must “clarify the objective, contents, types of evaluation questions, and grading standards” (p. 19) before the tests, but the tone of the rest of the stated methods implies that the grading standards should be built on the basis of the students’ needs and abilities, and not imposed without teachers considering what the students can achieve.
Can the Standards be Realistically Met?
While the Korean National Curriculum, in attempting to allow students to “effectively communicate in daily life and about general topics,” seems to take a healthy approach in its classroom activities, teaching and evaluation methods, there are still some problematic aspects to the achievement of this standard. “Effective communication” is a very subjective goal, and the definition of the term will vary from province to province, teacher to teacher, and even between teachers and students. This subjectivity of this standard is both a strength and a weakness. Although it does not impose unrealistic standards on students (at least the way it is written), it also poses a difficulty in aligning teachers’ notions of effective communication with students’. A large number of students are further trained in private academies, potentially causing a large gap in the abilities of the students. The ability of teachers to manage this gap and provide “effective communication” to the individual levels of all students is crucial. Assessing the students in this situation can be difficult as well. Does a teacher reward lower-level students who show great improvement more than upper-level students who show little improvement? How do you explain this to the students and parents? If one looks at the disparities between regions of Korea, between students within school, and the abilities of teachers, one can easily envisage how the ambiguity of this standard raises new difficulties in English education.
Furthermore, the new teaching methods outlined by the KNC contradict traditional teacher-student roles within the nation where classes are largely teacher-centered. By shifting to student-centered classrooms with “lively interaction,” the curriculum asks the teachers to radically reposition their relationships to the students. If teachers resist this aspect of the curriculum, the ability of the classroom to fulfill the standards could easily crumble. Without a student-centered classroom, it is much more difficult for students to have the opportunity to construct their own ideas of how to “communicate effectively in daily life.” The activities in the accomplishment standards are not necessarily student-centered tasks. They could still be implemented in a manner that does not engage the students in meaningful ways, where the teacher simply checks off if the student produces the “correct” form of communication in daily life. Also, as many teachers have voiced uncertainty over CLT methods and their own ability to speak communicative English effectively (see Li, 1998), the instructional foundation of this standard could easily be undermined. This is further complicated by the large class sizes in most schools. Combining high levels of student-teacher interaction, CLT, and standards relative to the ability of the individual students may seem a herculean task to many teachers. The KNC has built a system that, as written, appears to be a fairly strong in its ability to implement CLT in a manner that can achieve its objectives. However, it also fails to recognize how logistical and cultural/historic differences may complicate the realization of its standards.
Finally, although the curriculum calls for students to be able to construct meaningful language according to their own level, the curriculum also provides a wealth of pre-approved vocabulary, modes of communication, and “linguistic forms” for the teachers and students to draw from which are not drawn from authentic texts or situations. The vocabulary restrictions are fairly modest, decreeing 7th graders must learn 170 new words, 8th graders 280 more words, and 9th graders 390 new vocabulary words over the course of the year. This in itself should not be too exhausting, but the KNC then goes to provide a list of 2315 different words from which to choose (NSCE, pp. 43-68). There is also an extensive list of types of words that do not count (cognates, derivations, synonyms) (p. 40-42). Here, the crux behind objective 2 is widely ignored. Students (and teachers) are not allowed to decide for themselves what words are “relevant for effective communication in their daily lives;” they must conform to pre-set assumptions about what “effective communication” really is.
Possibly even more contradictory to the objective of effective communication than the vocabulary list are the recommended “functions of communication” (NSCE, pp. 22-40) and “linguistic forms of communication” (pp. 69-76). The “functions of communication” section provides examples of phrases for fulfilling certain conversational functions such as “proposing and inviting” and “accepting a proposal” (p. 28). Although many of the phrases provided in this section are quite useful and necessary (e.g. “Would you like to...” or “All right.”), they are presented in a decontextualized manner that may lead to rote lessons that can easily fail to find a way to tie these phrases into the lives of the students. They are not meaningful parts of a dialogue, but part of a laundry list of terms to be digested. Effective teachers can tie these meaningfully into their lessons, but again there is a glut of teachers uncomfortable with CLT and sometimes wholly untrained in pedagogy (in the case of imported Native Language Teachers). They may easily fall back on these lists as objects to be memorized without regard to context.
The “linguistic forms of communication” is potentially the least helpful section with regards to CLT. More than just common phrases, this is seven pages of sentences wholly unrelated to anything: “The problem is where to get money (from);” “He seemed to have been ill (for some time);” “I heard the child sing” (NSCE, p. 71). The directions for this section are not very explicit, but the implication is that students should learn the grammatical forms within the list. While these sentences may potentially be heard in the daily lives of people, they are not tied to any stories or authentic situations/context whatsoever. There seems to be a real danger for the possibility of emphasizing a grammatical syllabus over a communicative syllabus. It would be difficult to integrate this section into a classroom that values the objectives, and teaching/evaluation methods outlined above. More than any other part of the curriculum, this part seems to contradict the stated connections between the standards and methods it espouses.
The objective to “effectively communicate in daily life and about general topics” is fully within the grasp of the curriculum as it is written. The classroom activities and the teaching/evaluation methods all fit together in a way that could help achieve this goal. There are some possible setbacks to its realization, however. Large class sizes, traditional teacher-student roles, and variability amongst regions, teachers, and students all pose logistical problems. Furthermore, the curriculum provides material that could easily lead to a shift away from meaningful, authentic communication and toward old methods of rote memorization and grammatical learning. Despite these drawbacks, the core design of the standard and its stated manners of implementation make its fulfillment a real possibility in many classrooms.
Korea Institute for Curriculum and Evaluation. (2010).
Li, D. (1998). "It's always more difficult than you plan and imagine": Teachers' perceived difficulties in introducing the communicative approach in South Korea. Tesol Quarterly vol. 32, No. 4. pp. 677-703.
“The National School Curriculum: English.”(2010)
Although this assignment focuses on “ELT Standards,” the Korean National Curriculum (KNC) details broad “Objectives” (p. 3) and more detailed “Accomplishment Standards” (p. 10). As the “Accomplishment Standards” listed in the KNC are more akin to a detailed list of classroom activities, the author will treat the broader “Objectives” as synonymous with the term “standards” which this assignment is meant to focus on. Hopefully this will clear up any terminological confusion.
Japan ELT Standards: Hoch
As mentioned in my curriculum description, compulsory education in Japan is from Grades 1-9, and the curriculum standards (gakushu shidou youkou, “teaching standards”) set by the national government are applicable to all public schools in Japan. Public schools must use government-approved textbooks, though each municipality can choose from numerous publishers. These textbooks contain all of the standards, even though the order of appearance may vary from one publisher to another.
While Daniel covers the 5th and 6th grades, I am covering junior high school (grades 7-9) under “the Course of Study for Lower Secondary School” shown in the English translation of the EFL standards on the MEXT (Ministry of Education,
Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology) website.
The URL is:
. I would also like to note that Grades 1-3 of junior high school that they mention are equivalent to Grades 7-9th in the American education system.
As with the elementary school (5th and 6th grade) standards, there seems to be more focus on oral communication. The overall objectives are:
To develop students' basic practical communication abilities such as listening and speaking, deepening the understanding of language and culture, and fostering a positive attitude toward communication through foreign languages. (MEXT, 2003)
As mentioned in my curriculum description assignment, there is no mention of written language (reading or writing) here. Objectives are then broken down to four basic areas of language activities:
To accustom and familiarize students with:
(1) listening to English and to enable them to understand the speaker's intentions etc. in simple English.
(2) speaking in English and to enable them to speak about their thoughts etc. in simple English.
(3) reading in English and to enable them to understand the writer's intentions etc. in simple English.
(4) writing in English and to enable them to write about their thoughts etc. in simple English. (MEXT, 2003)
The 3-year standards are listed first, and they are further broken into each grade level. Contents are divided into two large categories, Language Activities and Language Elements, each followed by how it should be treated. In addition to the basic skills in oral and written language, the highlights of Language Activities include:
: To listen to questions and requests, and respond appropriately.
: To speak correctly about one's thoughts and feelings to the listener.
To carry on a dialogue and to exchange views regarding what has been listened to or read.
: To understand the writer's intentions in messages, letters, etc. and respond appropriately.
: To take notes and write impressions, opinions, etc. about what has been listened to or read.
To write correctly about one's thoughts and feelings to the reader.
Language activities also list situational uses including fixed expressions are often used (greetings, phone calls, shopping etc.) and those relevant to students’ lives (home life, regional events etc.).
In these language activities, the following language elements are to be chosen accordingly:
1. Speech sounds (pronunciation, stress, intonation etc.)
2. Letters and symbols (upper/lower-case letters, punctuations etc.)
3. Words, collocations and idioms (<900 basic wds, basic collocations/idioms etc.)
4. Grammatical items
-Sentence patterns Subject + Verb
Subject + Verb + Complement
Subject + Verb + Object
Subject + Verb + Indirect Obj. + Direct Obj.
Other sentence patterns (There is/are etc.)
Basic restrictive uses of the relative pronouns
-Verb tenses etc. Present, past, progressive, present perfect, future
-Comparative forms of adjectives and adverbs
-Adjectival use of present/past participles
-Present/past tenses of passive voices
Distinctive Aspects of these standards
Overall objectives show several distinctive aspects:
1. No mention of written language
2. Emphasis on understanding language and culture
3. Nurturing “positive” attitude toward communication in English
As for 1, it may reflect a view of language learning based on the fact that oral language precedes written language in L1 acquisition. When I was in school, what Krashen calls “learning” dominated EFL education; it was a “conscious process that involves studying rules and vocabulary” and learned like any other subjects with memorizing, exercises and drills (Freeman & Freeman, 2004). Yet, it seems as though they are starting to lean toward more natural acquisition of the language. Or it may be due to long-standing criticism that many Japanese students have poor oral communication skills even after 6 years (grades 7-12) of English education. In the recent decades, there has been a strong demand for those who can orally communicate in the business world and the global community, and these objectives also respond to the demand.
2 and 3 also reflect the geographical and historical background of Japan, as it has been criticized for its isolationism. It also shows Japan’s attempt and commitment to being a better member in the global community, hopefully having learned not to repeat certain historical events like leaving the League of Nations together with Germany in pursuit of fascism.
Regarding contents, it is worth noting that the current standards have less rigid grade distinction than the previous version of 1989, which listed specific standards under each grade level (MOE, 1989). The current version sees the 3 years as more of continuity rather than segments as seen in their wording “The following language activities should be conducted over three years” and “Items to be considered throughout the three grades.” These standards also put more emphasis on self-expression and relevance, which is a transition from emphasis on receptive skills prevalent decades ago. In “Treatment of the Language Elements”, it says:
b) For (3) 'D Grammatical Items', care should be given that the treatment does not center on differentiating between terms and usages. Rather emphasis should be on the teaching of actual usage. (MEXT, 2003)
Still, under this new mask, the notorious “grammar-oriented” approach is still apparent. The original document of standards is still heavily loaded with detailed grammatical items which can restrict more natural language learning/acquisition. It is highly questionable how “actual usage” can be emphasized by those many teachers who were taught and trained to teach English based on grammar and “learning” view of English education. In order to stay true to the overall objectives of nurturing “positive attitude toward communication through foreign languages,” change must first happen in teacher (re-)education.
Another thing I noticed in “Language Elements” was “contemporary standard pronunciation.” How do we determine “standard,” especially when we have EFL teachers from many countries of inner-circle and outer-circle (Higgins, 2003)? Lastly, this is not regarding the standards, but the format of the document is hard to follow, as with the website (both Daniel and I have experienced difficulty with navigating and finding what we need at their site). Compared with the original document in Japanese which is more readable, the English translation needs more visually-appealing organization and reader-friendly wording.
The Course of Study for Foreign Languages. (2003). Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology. Retrieved March 21, 2010 from
Chugakkou Gakushu Shidou Youkou [Teaching Standards for Junior High School]. (1989). Ministry of Education (former name). Retrieved March 21, 2010 from
Freeman, D. and Freeman, Y. (2004).
Essential Linguistics: What You Need to Know to Teach Reading, ESL, Spelling, Phonics, and Grammar. Portsmouth, NH, Heinemann.
Higgins, C. "Ownership" of English in the Outer Circle: An Alternative to the NS-NNS Dichotomy. TESOL Quarterly, Vol. 37, No. 4 (Winter, 2003), pp. 615-644.
Japan ELT Standards: Liu
For years Japan has been one of the global leaders in the international scene. It is, however, one of the slowest to begin its compulsory English education in public schools. English became an optional curriculum as part of the subject named “Integrated Study” in public elementary schools in 2002 based on individual school choice (Butler, 2004). The number of hours that English lesson is delivered and the types of activities that students do greatly depends on the willingness of local board of education and the resources available to them. One region could expect to have English lesson taught by a native English teacher on a weekly basis while another would only have English lesson a few times a year. Two textbooks called English Note I and II published and recommended by Japan’s Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) were introduced in the 2009-2010 school year. Nevertheless, since English is only optional in elementary school as of now, it seems like no pre-arranged government approved textbook will be in place until it officially becomes a compulsory subject in the 2011-2012 school year nation wide for 5th and 6th graders.
What learning objectives and content should be taught to elementary school students? The Elementary and Secondary Education Bureau under MEXT is responsible for establishing curriculum standards. It also makes sure that students’ general and career guidance, overseas Japanese children’s education, and the provision and authorization of textbooks are all well taken care of at all levels (MEXT, 2003). The Bureau announced the current curriculum standards in March, 2003 under The Course Of Study for Foreign Languages. It further made some revisions on April 21, 2009 (MEXT, 2009).
Due to various differences in areas such as budget, local support and human resources from one municipality to another, the current level and quality of English education at elementary school level varies considerably. Also, English education, as mentioned previously, is not yet a compulsory subject. The amount of formal language studying such as grammar, writing and reading are restricted to maintain at the lowest level possible. Consequently, communication, interest in foreign languages and cultural understanding are the primary focus. According to MEXT, the overall objectives are as follows:
To form the foundation of pupils’ communication abilities through foreign languages while developing the understanding of languages and cultures through various experiences, fostering a positive attitude toward communication, and familiarizing pupils with the sounds and basic expressions of foreign languages.
Because of the already heavy study load and pressure being put on Japanese students, I understand MEXT’s initial effort on its foreign language education by creating a positive impression for elementary school children that, instead of feeling worried, learning a foreign language is fun and useful. In an attempt to achieve the objectives, foreign languages, English in this case, should be taught through introduction of foreign cultures in the form of communication. Through cultural understanding and communication, students are expected to become familiarized with basic English sounds and expressions without any formal study of the written form of English that should be introduced when they enter junior high school.
Despite of the fact that English curriculum could be implemented into the regular curriculum of any grades in elementary school based on individual school decision, these standards are only applicable to 5th and 6th grade students. The content are carefully set according to the objectives mentioned in the previous section.
1. Instructions should be given on the following items in order to help pupils actively engage in communication in a foreign language:
(1) To experience the joy of communication in the foreign language.
(2) To actively listen to and speak in the foreign language.
(3) To learn the importance of verbal communication.
2. Instructions should be given on the following items in order to deepen the experiential understanding of the languages and cultures of Japan and foreign countries:
(1) To become familiar with the sounds and rhythms of the foreign language, to learn its differences from the Japanese language, and to be aware of the interesting aspects of language and its richness.
(2) To learn the differences in ways of living, customs and events between Japan and foreign countries and to be aware of various points of view and ways of thinking.
(3) To experience communication with people of different cultures and to deepen the understanding of culture.
Lesson Plan Design & Handling The Content
In this section, a more detailed explanation of instruction on lesson plan design and content is discussed. For instance, in the handling of the content, one of the standards that needs to be considered is as follows:
E. When giving pupils opportunities to experience communication in the foreign language, teachers should mainly set the communication situations and functions listed in the following examples:
[Examples of Communication Situations]
(a) Situations where fixed expressions are often used
・ Having meals
・ Asking and giving directions etc.
(b) Situations that are likely to occur in pupils’ lives
・ Home life
・ Learning and activities at school
・ Local events
・ Childhood play etc.
[Examples of Functions of Communication]
(a) Improving the relationship with a communication partner
(b) Expressing emotions
(c) Communicating facts
(d) Expressing opinions and intentions
(e) Stimulating a communication partner into action
Again, it is clear that what MEXT is trying to achieve is to develop communication competence in English from an early age. Instead of introducing the traditional grammar-translation method of learning English to young children, teachers are expected to use real life scenarios as much as possible. This is to increase children’s interest in learning a foreign language and to avoid from making children feel intimidated in the early stage of language learning about studying a new subject. Being able to express ideas about one’s own background such as self-introduction and about his/her daily life is always an entertaining and useful start to learning a new language. It is definitely one of the important features that language learners wish to learn to speak in a new language.
MEXT has noticed this and also realized Japanese people’s incompetence in communicative English in general, thus it attempted to design standards that emphasize on English communication. It, however, fails to address and promote the use of English in real life properly. For example, it suggests that teachers should set the communication situations that are likely to occur in students’ daily lives when they are given an opportunity to practice oral English, but it forgets to take into account that students are very unlikely to have any chance to use English in such situations as shopping and home live even though they occur often in their daily lives. This attempt might work just fine if they are fortunate enough to have native English teachers or speakers residing in the neighborhood. But what happens if there was no one whom they could practice using the new language around them? Not only would children disregard the usefulness of learning a foreign language, but also they would not appreciate the value of being multilingual in a homogenous society such as Japan.
Distinctive Aspects of the Standards
Despite of the English version of ELT Standards being short and over-generalized, other than the use of English in daily life discussed above, there are still a few distinctive aspects that are worth mentioning. First of all, as the Japanese ELT standards only apply to 5th and 6th grades, the standards that teachers of 1st to 4th grades should follow remain uncertain. In handling the content for 5th grade, the MEXT’s Standards list that “[c]onsidering that pupils learn the foreign language for the first time, teachers should introduce basic expressions about familiar things and events and engage pupils in communication activities where they experience interactions with one another” (p. 3). With the popularity of eikaiwa (English conversation school) and pervasiveness of Assistant Language Teachers (NSTs) across the country, most likely children would have been exposed to basic English before 5th grade. By merely looking at the Standards for 5th and 6th grades, it looks like there is continuity in terms of content taught from 5th grade to 6th grade (p.4). Teachers teach English to 5th grade students as if it’s their first encounter of English and then gradually help students to build up their English knowledge as they enter 6th grade. Nevertheless, the reality is that the content might be too easy for most students. How appropriate the level of material taught is and how engaging and interested students feel when learning things they have already known are things MEXT should consider in their next Standards revision before English officially becomes a required subject in elementary school in 2011.
Secondly, it is important to note that “[h]omeroom teachers or teachers in charge of foreign language activities should make teaching programs and conduct lessons” (p.2). Based on my knowledge, no homeroom teacher teaches English on his/her own without assistant from, in most cases, an ALT. Furthermore, homeroom teachers are supposed to take the lead role to conduct English lessons since ALTs do not possess Japanese teaching license thus cannot teach as main teachers. In reality, however, ALTs are usually the ones who plan and conduct lessons with little or no help from homeroom teachers. Since English education will not become mandatory for another year, there is no trained Japanese teacher of English existing in elementary schools. Homeroom teachers, especially older ones, who are responsible for designing lesson plans and conducting lessons have become very panicked because they do not have any formal training of teaching English nor do they have sufficient English proficiency to teach English effectively (Butler, 2004). In addition, though a bit outdated, Butler’s study reveals that the majority of Japanese homeroom teachers perceived their English level to be lower than the minimum level necessary to teach English under the current ELT Standards (2004). Therefore, there is a long way to go for English education in elementary school to become effective. Not only does pre-service English teacher training need to be implemented, in-service teachers also need to be supported and receive proper training.
Last but not least, “[w]hen giving pupils opportunities to experience communication in the foreign language, teachers should focus on the foreign language sounds and use letters of the alphabet and words as supplementary tools for oral communication, in effort not to give too much burden to pupils” (p.2-3). This is to say teaching the written form of English is not encouraged because oral communication is the primary focus in elementary school. I found it interesting because Japanese students learn the sounds and forms of romaji (alphabet) as part of their Japanese curriculum in the 4th grade. Besides Hiragana, Katagana and Kanji, romaji (alphabet) is often used in Japanese language. Beyond 4th grade, children are expected to be able to write their name and words they have learned in romaji. Although the pronunciation might be slightly different from English, the written form is exactly identical. With the long history of Japanese people having trouble pronouncing proper English sounds, it might be better off for children to learn the linguistic differences between Japanese and English in both oral and written form (not in sentences, but words). After all, one of the standards to be considered in instruction is for children “[to] become familiar with the sounds and rhythms of the foreign language, to learn its differences from the Japanese language, and to be aware of the interesting aspects of language and its richness” (p.1).
To introduce English from the communication point of view seems to be a doable approach. After all, unlike subjects such science, a foreign language should be learned in a fun way as a form of communication tool. Nevertheless, how appropriate the content level of new textbooks English Note I & II are and how well the collaboration between homeroom teachers and ALTs can be achieved will not be clear until they are actually put in use next year. What MEXT can do now is to start planning adequate ELT training for both pre-service and in-service teachers and recruit better qualified ALTs from English speaking countries.
Butler, Y. G. (2004). What level of English proficiency do elementary school teachers need to attain to teach EFL? Case studies from Korea, Taiwan, and Japan. TESOL Quarterly, 38 (2), 245-278.
Ministry of Education, Culture, Science and Technology, Japan (2003). Elementary and Secondary Education. Retrieved March 26, 2010, from
Ministry of Education, Culture, Science and Technology, Japan (2009, April 21). Course of Study Guidelines. Retrieved March 26, 2010, from
Korea ELT Standards: Park
English language teaching has been a consistently debatable and hot issue in Korea many years ago. As the world is getting smaller and English become prevalent and popular, Korean people are eager to have fluent English skills. That causes English fever in Korea and many parents are very sensitive on their children’s English education. There are numerous private institutes for English, and many young children go abroad to study English. In general, Korean parents do not believe in power and efficiency of public English education, and this is why many children are suffered from excessive English learning from outside of school. However, the Ministry of Education has a high level of the National School Curriculum of English, and English language teaching (ELT) standards as well.
The ELT standards are belonged in the National School Curriculum of English, and they indicate from Elementary Third grade to High School First year. First and second grade of elementary school level are not shown because there are no curriculum for the grades which means the graders are not learning English from schools, but it is unclear why the standards for the second and the third grade of high school are not displayed in the curriculum. In this paper, the standards for the Elementary school level will be mainly discussed and the target groups will be from the third grade to sixth grade in elementary schools. The standards are separated by each grade, and the explanations for standards are divided into four parts in general English skills which are listening, speaking, reading, and writing. In each skill, the standards indicate what is to be accomplished and expected through the English education in schools, and they are stated so clearly that anybody can see the goals of English education by grades and what students can learn.
The objective of English education in elementary school level is very clearly shown that:
a) Acquire interest in English.
b) Build confidence in basic use of English.
c) Build a basis for basic communication in English in everyday life.
d) Understand foreign customs and cultures through English education.
(The National School Curriculum: English, 2010, p3)
Before the objective part, the curriculum explains the characters of English education, and the characters are reflected in the objective. One of the distinctive characters is that “English education in elementary school level should consider the character of an elementary school student” (NSCE, p. 2). It is said that elementary students have huge curiosity, and they do not have strong long-term memory or concentration (p. 2). To consider the characteristics of elementary students, it is very good idea that makes them have interest in English and confidence in basic use of English. This is a basic but critical objective of teaching English to the young students. Moreover, the curriculum said that from the elementary school level, the ability to understand and express basic language with English native speakers should be focused on because it is the basis of communication (p. 1), and on the third objectives of English education, it is very evidently pointed out. Moreover, the last objective reflects the ultimate goal of English education that young students grow and develop understanding and tolerance toward foreign cultures from early ages.
As mentioned earlier, the standards parts are divided into four parts by grades and they are explained for each language skill. This is a very clever idea because children in an elementary school show very diverse ability and intelligence by age and grade, so it is important to be subdivided. For example, the standard for elementary third grade is focus on training of the basic of English, such as alphabet, and tried to show interests on English, but the standard for sixth grade is to teach more profound and academic area of English. Moreover, the standards seem to pursue more profound and deep teaching of English. For the comparison by grades, the standards for listening skill will be mainly discussed.
For elementary third grade level, the standards for listening skill are like that:
1) Discern the sound, stress, rhythm, and intonations of English.
2) Listen and understand vocabulary about familiar objects.
3) Understand commonly used expressions such as greetings.
4) Act according to commands of simple sentences.
5) Listen to a sentence and find the appropriate picture.
6) Listen and understand short and simple songs or chants.
7) Listen and understand simple and easy games.
8) Listen and understand basic conversations about personal daily life. (NSCE, 2010, p.6)
Each is adequate for the level and interest for third grade. For example, songs or games in English lesson are good to have interest in English at first. The distinctive point is that one standard emphasizes on phonetic features of English like number 1) “Discern the sound, stress, rhythm, and intonations of English” (p. 6). In the speaking skill, there is a standard that “students should pronounce the stress, rhythm, and intonations of English correctly” (p.6), and this also highlights on phonetic features of English. However, there is no mentioning about phonetics in other grades’ standards. This is because that pronunciation of English should be importantly emphasized from the early age. The native-like pronunciation is easier to acquire when students are younger, so the stress of phonetic feature is shown the third grade’s standards. Another noticeable feature in third grade is that there is no mentioning about writing skill, but this seems to not proper because the third graders also need to learn how to write in English. It seems unfair that it is not mentioned about writing skill in the third grade’s standards.
As for fourth grade, six standards for listening skill are provided that:
1) Listen and understand simple conversations about daily life.
2) Listen and understand simple speech about surrounding objects and people.
3) Listen to one or two sentences giving a command, and follow the command.
4) Listen to simple conversations, and understand where and when they occurred.
5) Understand simple role play.
6) Listen to simple and clear explanations, and carry out task. (NSCE, 2010, p.7)
While the standards for third grade pursue mostly basic and interests of English, the standards for fourth grade seem to pursue more advanced ones. For example, if simple and easy games are used for improving for listening skill in third grade, more complicated one, which is role play, is used for listening skills. However, the levels of fourth grade’s standards are likely to be increased dramatically because students may feel difficulties when they learn to listen simple conversations about daily life from vocabulary about familiar objects. The gaps between two levels seem to be inadequately high.
For fifth grade, following standards are shown that:
1) Listen and understand simple sentences of the past.
2) Listen to simple dialogue and understand the main idea.
3) Listen to simple speech or dialogue and understand the situation.
4) Understand simple telephone conversations.
5) Listen and understand explanations about pictures and objects.
6) Listen to simple explanations and carry out task. (NSCE, 2010, p. 8)
It is very interesting that the standards emphasized on telephone conversations from the fifth grade. Telephone conversation is essential to learn as English speakers, and it requires some different language skills. Studying simple sentences of the past can be a good material for reviewing because it can not only strengthen English skill, but also make up for children’s weak long-term memory. Moreover, the level gap between the fourth and the fifth grade are not as high as the one between the third and the fourth grade. The flow of English teaching seems to be similar even though it is obviously getting higher.
For sixth grade, 8 standards are shown that:
1) Listen to simple speech or conversations, and understand the main idea.
2) Listen to simple speech or conversations, and understand the details.
3) Listen to simple speech or conversations, and understand the order of the events.
4) Listen to what will happen and understand it.
5) Listen and understand simple conversations about asking reasons and replying.
6) Listen and understand simple speech or conversations about contrasting objects.
7) Listen to simple speech or conversations about daily life, and understand the intention or objective.
8) Understand simple telephone conversations. (NSCE, 2010, p. 9)
The standards of sixth grade are obviously most advanced compared to other grades. Each standard is for learning English used in daily life which is very practical. The standards care of not only the advanced part of English learning, but also the details of it, such as learning asking reasons and replying. If a student learns and studies English on the right path, the sixth grade’s English class will not be very hard.
The Distinctive Aspects of the Standards
The most noticeable aspect of ELT standards for elementary level is that most focuses are on practical communicative skills of English, and it is not Korean traditional ways of ELT. Usually, school’s English education was mainly focused on grammar and reading, and the education was conducted only for taking exams. However, there is no anything about grammar in the standards which can be considered unconventionally. Rather than focusing on grammar, the standards of elementary level focus on developing interests in English first for each student and having broad viewpoints about foreign cultures as well as actual communication skills. When I learned English from public education for first time, I learned only grammar, vocabularies, and how to solve problems in exams, not how to “listen and understand simple conversations about asking reasons and replying” (p.9) like current sixth grade in elementary schools. This is very prominent and positive changes of ELT in Korea.
Secondly, I feel that the standards for each grade may have lower level than students usually have. It means that since children are exposed to English from young age, they may have more advanced skills of English than the standards. For example, in the reading skill of third grade, there is a standard that “discern the printed alphabet in capital and small letter” (p.7). I am very confident that most third graders know English alphabet already before they become third grade. If the standards are more inferior than children’s actual level, this will cause more private institutions for English because school education cannot satisfy what parents want. Therefore, the standards should be set at higher levels.
Moreover, in the standards, there is no teachers’ job. It is hard to find out what a teacher should do in English class. If I were a teacher and provided this standard to teach, I will definitely confused by what I should do in the class. It would be better to focus on teacher’s job more, rather focusing only the expectations through the ELT.
Overall, I am impressed by the innovation of English public education in Korea. It was extremely different from what I have learned from school. The Ministry of Education in Korea did not ignore the changes of world and accepted the fact that English education should be reformed. If the standards are well-accomplished in the schools, the sufferings of children by excessive English learning from outside of school will be deducted. As it is described in the character parts, the standards focused on more practical communication skills and developing ample views toward new cultures. Then, it is a time for teachers and educators to attain new changes. English is a definitely important language to learn and it is also very important to learn it efficiently and with much interests.
“The National School Curriculum: English.”(2010)
Thailand ELT Standards: Sannes
In my previous paper, I studied the English Language Teaching (ELT) curriculum of Thailand. I lived and taught there for three years, and was interested to find out what the foundation was of the ELT curriculum. However, after studying the curriculum I found out that it was still undergoing transformation and had been for approximately the past 10-12 years.
According to Prapphal (2008) as of yet, there are no official Ministry of Education ELT standards/ benchmarks for Thailand in the Pre-K to grade 12 area (p.140-141). After a long search I was able to find standards for two foundational English classes in a university, but I couldn’t tell if they came from the Ministry of Education or just that particular school. So it is possible that there are no formal goals, standards, or benchmarks for the whole of ELT education in Thailand. Each school/area is setting their own standards, so ELT standards may vary considerably.
Prapphal (2008) also suggested that TESOL ESL standards might be one of several sets of standards/ benchmarks to use as examples to build a framework for ELT teaching standards (p.140-141), so I’ve chosen to use the TESOL standards to review in conjunction with its potential use in the Thai curriculum. There are Pre-K to 12th grade standards, but I’m focusing on the Pre-K to 3rd grade TESOL ESL standards because that is the area I’m currently working in, and it’s the area I’m most interested in.
TESOL is an educational organization with members worldwide. TESOL stands for Teaching of English to Speakers of other Languages. These standards were made during many years with many different peoples’ input. “The ESL standards have been framed around three goals and nine standards. Each standard is further explicated by descriptors, sample progress indicators, and classroom vignettes with discussions. The standards section of the document that follows is organized into grade-level clusters: Pre-K-3, 4-8, and 9-12. Each cluster addresses all goals and standards with descriptors, progress indicators, and vignettes specific to that grade range” (TESOL, ESL standards main page). The goals and standards address using English in communication, for all areas in academics, learning strategies, and using English appropriately and for fun.
The Pre-K to 3rd grade standards provided are primarily for the teachers benefit due to the students’ younger age and abilities, however, if parents wanted to see the standards I’m sure they could be provided with them.
Because of the nature of the goals and standards, I didn’t want to paraphrase them, so here is the first goal and standard exactly for Pre-k-3:
“Goal 1, Standard 1
To use English to communicate in social settings: Students will use English to participate in social interactions
· sharing and requesting information
· expressing needs, feelings, and ideas
· using nonverbal communication in social interactions
· getting personal needs met
· engaging in conversations
· conducting transactions” (TESOL, Pre-k-3 section, 1st goal)
All of these descriptors can be pretty much seen in day to day interactions as children learn to communicate, especially young children who are still learning how to do these things, with or without ESL. They might ask to go to the bathroom, play games with a classmate, ask to trade a toy, tell you about what they did for fun last night, or ask for help. You could also read a book and have a conversation about that book and it would fulfill most of these descriptors at one time.
“Sample Progress Indicators
· engage listener's attention verbally or nonverbally
· volunteer information and respond to questions about self and family
· elicit information and ask clarification questions
· clarify and restate information as needed
· describe feelings and emotions after watching a movie
· indicate interests, opinions, or preferences related to class projects
· give and ask for permission
· offer and respond to greetings, compliments, invitations, introductions, and farewells
· negotiate solutions to problems, interpersonal misunderstandings, and disputes
· read and write invitations and thank you letters
· use the telephone” (TESOL, Pre-k-3 section, 1st goal)
Some of the sample progress indicators may be somewhat beyond the Pre-k and K’s functioning level (i.e. read and write invitations, thank you letters independently, and describing emotions may also beyond them unless you want a basic response, such as “It was scary.”), but I can see how they might work if the students have are 1st-3rd grade, or if the Pre-K and K students have help.
I thought Goal 1 Standard 1 was very thorough. It told what was expected to be learned, told what that might look like in the classroom, and told what that progress might look.
The TESOL (1997) page also provides “vignettes” to more adequately show what each goal and standard might actually look like in a classroom. I found each goal/standard for the different grade levels very thorough and well explained. I didn’t notice anything that seemed to be particularly too strong or too weak about any of the goals or standards. However, I specifically noticed that there was a lot of focus on communication, but that is necessary given the need to learn to communicate in a new language. Communication is a big part of learning a new language especially since that’s what people tend to notice first about you. Focusing on communication can open up lots of worlds. However, in the age of standardized testing, it would be harder to measure communication goals and standards a standardized test. Teacher observation and data, and explanations sure, but since there’s so much focus on tests; I’m not sure how that would work. However, it could also be seen as a necessary trade off as goals and standards that need to be met through communication.
All in all the TESOL ESL standards were very thorough, informative, and helpful. They would provide a great framework and foundation for Thailand’s curricula as it progresses in its curriculum changes and needs to have goals and standards to get ideas from.
These goals and standards can be useful in Thailand because they address communication needs that should be met that are not currently being answered. Without specific goals and standards that are countrywide, each school would be getting different results because each teacher has different expectations and training. Because of the lack of specific English teacher training in a lot of schools, the lack of technology, and the large class size (Wiriyachitra, 2002), teachers need a good framework (with examples) to base their lessons on and they don’t currently have one.
Grammar translation plays a big part in Thai student’s English language learning and the communication aspect tends to fall short. A lot of Thai English language teachers aren’t quite comfortable with English language communication themselves, and yet they are expected to teach it to their students (Roeland, 2008). The TESOL ESL framework deals with that problem by helping provide them with the framework, progress indicators, and examples to help the struggling Thai teacher along (TESOL, 1997).
Thailand is lagging behind in the race when it comes to English language communication; which in turn leads to less money, jobs, and business for the country (Wiriyachitra, 2002). These TESOL guidelines can help the schools pick up the English learning pace and ensure that Thai students are learning the same thing across the country and learning it appropriately. While TESOL does focus on the necessary communication deficits that Thai students seem to have, one shortfall may be that communication is harder to measure on a standardized test. However, I think it is a necessary tradeoff when it comes to helping change Thai students English language communication head in a positive direction.
Praphai, K. (2008). Issues and trends in language testing and assessment in Thailand. Language Testing 23, 127-143
Roeland, P. (2008, March). Ways to improve Thai education: This should be the first government priority. Retrieved from
TESOL (1997). ESL standards for pre-k-12 students. Retrieved from
Wiriyachitra, A. (2002). English language teaching and learning in Thailand in this decade. Retrieved from
http://www.apecknowledgebank.org/resources/ downloads/English%20Language %20Teaching%20and%20Learning%20in%20Thailand.pdf
Taiwan ELT Standards: Tsai
The Ministry of Education of Taiwan announced that the Grade 1-9 Curriculum Guidelines for the elementary school (grade 1-6) and the junior high school (grade 7-9) education in 2003. English as a foreign language is one subject of the Language Arts learning area of the Grade 1-9 Curriculum which start teaching from the 3rd grade to the 9th grade and divided into two- stage: (1) the first stage is at grade 3-6, and (2) the second stage is at grade 7-9. The standards of English teaching and learning were written for teachers and textbook publishers to edit and design teaching materials using in the classrooms. Moreover, the guidelines provide the standards as instructional assessments for teachers to evaluate that whether students achieve goals of the levels or not.
The overall goals of English curriculum for students at grade 3-9:
1. To Foster students’ English basic communication skills, and can be applied to the real daily situations.
2. To develop students’ interest in learning English and methods, and students can learn English spontaneously and effectively.
3. To enhance students for their own understanding of foreign culture and customs, and can compare and respect for cultural differences. (The Ministry of Education of Taiwan, 2003).
The language arts learning area (English) guidelines of Grades 1-9 curriculum for elementary and junior high school education is free to download in original Chinese context at:
, and the following document of the main parts of standard is translated in English by Google language tools
National primary and secondary school curriculum areas of language learning syllabus.docx
The EFL standards for the second stage (grade 7-9):
It is the goal of the Grade 1-9 Curriculum Guidelines to foster students having abilities and applying their knowledge in their lives. Compare to the former curriculum standard emphasized the contents of knowledge and focused on the aim of gaining knowledge, the Grade 1-9 Curriculum Guidelines tended to teach students not only gaining knowledge but also having practical skills and applied abilities. As a result of both the Grade 1-9 Curriculum Guidelines and the former curriculum standard have English as a subject at grade 7-9, I would like to explore the amendment of the EFL standards.
According to the objects of English education, the curriculum guidelines provide competence indicators for all of them. The object 1, language ability: listening, speaking, reading, writing, and comprehensive proficiency. And the object 2: interest in learning English and methods; the object 3: culture and customs. The following tables show the standards for each part of them. English teaching should cover competence indicators of the lists of the compulsory items but the table marked with "*" for selecting challenge and development of students’ learning (The
Ministry of Education
of Taiwan, 2003).
1. Language abilities
· understand the simple songs, verse rhythm, phonological and content.
· able to identify different emotions expressed by the sentence intonation and attitude.
· able to understand the dialogue and simple story of everyday life.
· * is able to identify dialogue or situations and the thrust of the message.
· * easy to understand the general content of films and drama.
· can be learned according to situational use of language classrooms.
· able to participate in simple English class the teacher to guide discussion.
· able to simple English to express personal needs, wishes and feelings.
· able to simple English description of everyday life related to people, events, times, places, things.
· can be according to people, events, times, places, objects for questions and answers.
· * can be in accordance with circumstances, and occasion appropriate to express themselves and communicate with others.
· *to take part in a simple skit performances.
· *able to simple English on the people and culture at home and abroad.
· able to identify the letters written in a continuous body (cursive writing).
· can use a dictionary word pronunciation and significance of inspection.
· can read and charts commonly used in English and Chinese.
· can use appropriate intonation, rhythm reading short, simple stories.
· to understand the thrust of the effect text.
· to understand the dialogue, essays, letters, stories and skits such as the important content and plot.
· from the drawings, icons or context, the context to guess the words or inference.
· *able to identify story elements such as backgrounds, characters, events and outcomes.
· *able to read different genres, different themes of simple article.
· can be prompted to fill in according to a simple form.
· can be combined in accordance with prompt and rewriting sentences, and sentences.
· can write simple greeting cards, letters (including e-mail) and so on.
· can translate simple Chinese sentences into English.
· *timely tips to write a brief paragraph.
· able to familiarize themselves with the key link in the class of 1200 marked the basic words, and can be used in communication in daily life.
· can be relayed another short conversation.
· can understand everyday dialogues, simple stories or broadcasts, and are able to simple words, sentences down the main points.
· can read short stories and simple, short sentences and are able to speak or write its contents to the effect.
· *can read and understand simple daily communication in the letters, messages, greeting cards, invitation cards, etc., and are able to make a brief oral or written response.
· *can read and to fill out a simple form and information.
2. Interest in learning English and methods
· willing to exposure to English movies, songs, radio, books and so on.
· willing to try to read English stories, magazines or other reading materials.
· sentiments around the world interested in the culture, and willing to contact and learning.
· can use the English dictionary.
· understand basic English reading skills, and thus enhance the reading interests and ability.
· for teaching content to take the initiative to review and make summarizing.
· *using a variety of query tools, take the initiative to understand the exposure to English content.
· *initiative from the network, or other extra-curricular materials, search for relevant learning resources, and with the teachers and students to share.
3. Culture and customs.
· *at home and abroad to the summary of English describes the people and culture.
· *able to apply the basic etiquette norms of the international community.
· *from a multi-cultural perspectives, understanding and respect for different cultures and customs.
The writing part of language abilities listed four basic abilities and one advanced ability. It means that in the second stage (grade 7-9), teachers should teach students to learn that how to follow the prompt to fill correct words, phrases, or sentences to a simple form; use conjunctions, such as: “and”, “ but”, “after”, “before” and so on, to combine sentences; rewrite sentences or make sentences with the correct grammatical structure. Students could write greeting cards, letters, and emails with the suitable words and format is also the basic ability in this level of English learning. In addition, understanding the meaning of Chinese sentences or paragraphs and applying the correct form of words, phrases, and grammatical structures to translate into English with the same meaning. Furthermore, the advanced ability in this stage is to write a brief paragraph completely using accurate punctuations and transition words to connect contexts smoothly and clearly (The Ministry of Education of Taiwan, 2003).
The distinctive aspect
The most distinctive aspect of the standards is the reference vocabulary list. When I was an elementary and junior high school’s student, I didn’t get any information of English about vocabulary such as: how many words should I know and what kind of vocabulary do I need to learn and most use in the life? As a student, everything I learned which came from teachers and textbooks. The new EFL standard has the vocabulary list and it is published in public. It is the thing that makes different for students to know more specification of English.
In order to avoid using too difficult vocabulary in English teaching materials of elementary schools and junior high schools and ensuring the connection of English education between two stages without any gap, the curriculum guideline provides a commonly used 1200 and 2000 vocabulary list. The table of the vocabulary list refers to a variety of vocabulary sources to edit the most useful and suitable words for students who are capable of learning and understanding. Students should learn at least 1200 words that are listed on the table with underlines and can be used in listening, speaking, reading, and writing of communication as well before the junior high school graduation. Therefore, the vocabulary list might be a helpful tool for both teachers and students to know the range of words for teaching and learning necessarily (The Ministry of Education of Taiwan, 2003).
The Ministry of Education of Taiwan. (2003). Language arts learning area( English) guidelines of Grades 1-9 curriculum for elementary and junior high school education. Retrieved March 23, 2010, from
Qatar ELT Standards: Wiechart
ELT Curriculum Standards for the State of Qatar as Model for Gulf States
For the previous analysis of ELT Curriculum, I focused upon Saudi Arabia because I was curious about the very highly publicized and quite ambitious Ten Year Education plan recently instituted by the Ministry of Education. Since this initiative is still in the planning stages, no concrete curriculum guides have been developed yet. I was also unable to find any resources online offering insight into the EFL curricula for Bahrain, Kuwait, or UAE. However, the State of Qatar has readily available a very comprehensive and detailed curriculum that would serve as an excellent model for the entire Gulf Region.
Published by the Curriculum Standards Office of the Education Institute of the Supreme Education Council of Qatar, this curriculum applies to all government schools but also seems to be targeted towards "Independent" schools which are granted full or partial autonomy from the SEC. The Foreward to the curriculum guide explains that these standards are a part of the education reform initiative designed to prepare students to be "engaged and productive citizens" (SEC, 2004, p. 5). The curriculum, which was designed through a collaboration of local teachers and international curriculum specialists is intended to "reflect Qatari values and cultures" (SEC, 2004, p. 5) while assuring that the students can "compete successfully in the worldwide economy" (SEC, 2004, p. 9). According to the Supreme Education Council, "the overall aim of the English standards is to enable students to develop skills in English to a level commensurate with that required for entry into the workplace, further or higher education, where English is he medium of communication or instruction”( SEC, 2004, p. 12). Principles of critical inquiry and communicative competence as well as multimodal literacies serve as the foundation for the English standards at all levels from K-12 Advanced. Quite interesting is the provision that "there are no prescribed textbooks or other teaching and learning resources"( SEC, 2004, p. 11). This level of autonomy is progressive and teachers are encouraged to explore a variety of teaching methods, yet are encouraged to provide "a wider range of active experiences" for helping learners "to solve problems, think creatively, enquire, criticise and evaluation" (SEC, 2004, p. 11). Teachers are urged to choose materials which are both culturally relevant and interesting to the learners and to explore a variety of assessment methods. The only chief stipulation is that all students must take the national tests which are based on these explicit English standards.
One of the most striking features displayed throughout the entire set of curriculum standards is the overarching focus upon multimodal and information literacy as a part of language mastery. Similar to the Word Knowledge strand, the EFL curriculum explicitly provides for implementation of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) in all other strands of the curriculum.
According to the SEC Curriculum Guide overview:
The English standards draw on and apply ICT in a variety of ways:
through the use of word-processing software for planning, composing, editing and presenting writing;
as a source of information via the Internet for reading for information—developing comprehension, search and retrieval, synthesizing and summarizing skills;
for email to communicate and learn to control the genre;
as a reference system for dictionaries, thesauruses and spell checking.
ICT also provides shared and independent learning systems, which teachers and students use for:
class or group shared reading and writing using projected texts which can be analysed, marked and manipulated; independent or paired interactive games and activities for practicing, applying, and assessment of skills. (SEC, 2004, p. 19).
The curriculum standards are structured into progressive strands focusing upon vocabulary, listening, speaking, reading, and writing for grades K-9. Grades 10-12 are further divided into Foundational and Advanced strands to accommodate learners' career paths and goals. The foundation standards serve to review and provide mastery of standards introduced in earlier grades while bringing in some new material. The advanced standards further build upon the foundational standards by initiating more complex skills and more integrative critical analyses (SEC, 2004).
Since my primary focus is higher education, I chose to focus upon the standards for Grade 12 Advanced. Expectations for Grade 12 advanced students are English language skills of an "upper-intermediate level equivalent to the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) Competent User level 6" (SEC, 2004, p. 12) or the TOEFL equivalent (550 PBT or 80 iBT).
The English standards are organized into the following categories: Word knowledge, Listening and speaking, and Reading and writing. The recommended content and assessment weighting for Grade 12 Advanced is as follows:
Listening and responding 20%
Speaking to communicate and interact 30%
Reading strategies and responding 20%
Writing strategies and composing 30% (SEC, 2004, p. 322).
As we can see, the weighting involves a slightly heavier focus upon productive language skills. It should be noted that while there are specifically outlined standards for vocabulary mastery, these standards are not separately weighted and are assessed within the contexts of the other language skill strands. Additionally, standards for grammar at this level of instruction are also weaved throughout the strands as it is expected that "Grammar should be taught in context"(SEC, 2004, p. 330). It is further noted that grammar functions and structures are embedded in the speaking standards while being "reflected in the listening, reading and writing standards"( SEC, 2004, p. 330).
As I find the explicit inclusion of ICT provisions highly innovative, I have chosen to focus upon the specific standards in the Grade 12 Advanced strand which address this particular principle. Standard 1.7 asks learners to "Determine the meanings and pronunciations of unknown words by using glossaries, technology and textual features such as definitional footnotes or sidebars" (SEC, 2004, p. 324). Standard 1.8 calls for learners to "Extend use of an advanced learner's English-English dictionary and thesaurus in a paper-based format and online" (SEC, 2004, p. 324) and recommends the use of Collins COBUILD (Corpus Concordance) as well as www.dictionary.com to "check pronunciation of words and the part of speech and look at word etymology as part of vocabulary study in order to increase understanding of morphology"( SEC, 2004, p. 325). Initiation of corpus linguistic features into a high school curriculum indicates a solid commitment to full mastery of language.
The focus on multimodality crosses into the Listening and Responding standards via Standard 3.5: "Understand the effect of a wide range of paralinguistic features used by speakers on TV, in film, and in live situations"( SEC, 2004, p. 328) which may be appropriated for seminars, meetings, and presentations. Standard 5.9 has learners "Conduct interviews and act as chairpersons for meetings where the purpose of speaking is to elicit ideas and get others to speak" (SEC, 2004, p. 332). The focus of authentic, participatory listening and speaking situations again illustrates a commitment to learner autonomy and overall motivation as well as the aim of fully preparing students for entry into higher education and eventually careers.
Nonetheless, it is in the Reading and Writing strand that we see the full impact of multimodal literacies in the Qatari curriculum. Standard 6.5 provides for an extension of media and information literacy initiated in the Grade 11 Standards involving advanced usage of Boolean logic and common search engine features for limiting or expanding online research and information management (SEC, 2004). Standard 6.6 calls for learners to “search the Internet for information related to text….Collate by downloading, cutting, pasting etc….” (SEC, 2004, p. 334). Standard 6.7 asks learners to “skim and scan written and screen-based texts for information”( SEC, 2004, p. 334). The standards also provide for responsible documentation of all materials to assure that students are equipped for full entry into English-mediated higher education.
This entire curriculum guide is 388 pages long and is available as a composite zipped file as well as in individual PDF files for each grade level. The layout is functional and easy to use with a clear summary of students’ performance at the end of each particular grade. The Appendices provide an alphabetical list of high frequency vocabulary and target grammar structures and suggest contexts for introducing and reviewing these concepts throughout the progressive stages of language mastery. The excellent layout and high level of usability certainly warrant the attention of other nations who are working to formalize their own EFL guidelines. One notable weakness is the lack of clearly defined measurable progress indicators for these standards. While this situation is somewhat expected given the great amount of autonomy afforded both teachers and learners, it does seem place an undistributed weight upon the national tests based upon these standards.
Nonetheless, the Qatari curriculum provides an excellent foundation for curriculum development in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (as well as other Gulf States). Stated in the Introduction to the Curriculum Standards is the important caveat: "Compared with English and EFL curricula in English-speaking countries, attention to English culture, literature, and society receive less attention" (SEC, 2004, p. 12). A key challenge for implementation of EFL curricula in KSA is the commitment to Saudi and Islamic standards and avoidance of seemingly inherent Western standards. This lack of focus on culture can help to preserve these very important cultural values. In the context of intercultural understanding, students learn about Anglophone communicative culture as a means for operating within it, significantly mirroring the actual status of English in the Gulf. By forefronting the role of ICT in the standards, teachers and students are able to see English as a means of communication and understanding rather than a form of cultural domination.
Supreme Education Council. (2004). Curriculum standards for the state of Qatar. English: Grades K to 12 . Retrieved from
Spain ELT Standards: Worcester
After a long and tedious search, lasting almost 6 months, I had all but given up finding Education Standards in Spain. I had exhausted every teacher that I knew, all of my bosses, and the website for the Ministerio deEducación y Ciencias. I had come up empty handed so many times that I had come to the conclusion that they didn´t exist. I started sending random e-mails to schools in the public sectors, after asking several private schools, asking for the State Standards in English. I finally received a response a week ago from an administrator a public school. He told me that Spain as a whole doesn´t have Standards, but each Autonomous Community has, or should have, their personal Standards; much in the same way that each State in the U.S. has its own version of the ACTFL Standards. He as kind enough to send me a PDF copy of the Standards, written entirely in Spanish, for me to read and study. He sent me the Standards for grades 1-3 in the Primary School, which is what I´m now going to focus on and continue studying in depth to truly understand them.
As in the United States’ ACTFL Standards there are no set Standards for each language studied, there are simply Foreign Language Standards which can be used in any language. While the ACTFL Standards cover 5 areas associated with learning a foreign language: Communication, Communities, Cultures, Connections, and Comparisons; the Spanish Foreign Language Standards cover the four competency areas: reading, writing, speaking, and listening. Unlike ACTFL, where the Standards are the same for grades K-12, the Spanish Standards change slightly depending on the grade level.
The Standards are written almost exclusively for the teachers’ use. Students and parents are given simpler versions of the Standards so that they know what they and their children are studying in school. The major difference between the U.S. and Spanish Standards is how they are given. In Spain, most Foreign Language Teachers are expected to teach other subjects as well, such as math and science, especially at the lower grades. Given this information it makes sense that the Foreign Language Standards would be included with the other Community Standards.
Given that I don’t have Standards in my place of employment, I chose to focus on the standards that are closest to the grade in which I did my student teaching. I chose to focus on 3rd grade in the primary schools, which would be around age eight. I will spotlight the reading standards, because, being a visual learner, these are the activities that I most remember of my student teaching experience. The Reading Standard and Benchmarks are as follows:
Bloque 2: Leer y Escribir.
2.1 Animación a la lecutura
Lectura y comprensión tanto global como especifica de textos escritos diversos, en soporte papel y digital, adaptados a la competencia lingüística del alumnado y relacionados con sus experienceas e intereses, para el desarrollo de una tarea o proyecto.
Lecura de cuentos, comic, y otros tipos de libros o textos (es suporte papel o informatico) adecuados, con el fin de fomentar el hábito lector.
Manejo el diccionario como elemento de consulta.
Uso progresivamente autónomo de estrategias de lectura: contexto visual, conocimientos previos, identificación de información determinada, obtención de la idea global de un texto y deducción del significado de vocabulario y expresiones nuevas.
Lectura de textos elaborados por el propio alumno para comuicarse. Valoración de la lectura de un idioma extranjero como instrumento de aprendizaje.
Block 2: Reading and Writing
2.1 Emphasis on the written Word.
Reading and both overall and specific comprehension of diverse written exts, both paper- based and digital, adapted to the linguistic competencies of the students and related to their experiences and interests, in order to develop in and out of class assignments.
Reading of short stories, comics and other types of books or texts (both paper-based or technological) suitable to the students, with the goal being to promote good reading habits.
Manage a dictionary like a resource element.
Progressively use autonomous reading strategies: Visual contexts, previous knowledge, identify determined information, obtain the overall idea of the text, and determine the meaning of new vocabulary and expressions.
Reading texts elaborated by the student in order to communicate himself/herself.
Value reading in a foreign language as a learning instrument.
Even though these benchmarks are fairly extensive there is only one progress indicator:
Leer, de forma silenciosa y en voz alta, diferentes textos con vocabulario cada vez más extenso y expresiones de mayor complejidad, con ayuda de las estrategias básicas, para obtener información explícita y extraer inferencias directas.
Read, silently and out loud, different texts with increasingly more extensive vocabulary and more complex expressions, with the help of basic reading strategies, in order to obtain explicit information and extract direct inferences. (Consejería de Educación, 2007)
Even though the students are still quite young, the books that they typically use in most school districts have a story that continues from chapter to chapter. The students are given a short excerpt of the story line in which the grammar or new vocabulary are included and students try to use context clues to be able to see what they can infer about the continuing story. Then the students are given a couple of pages of grammar with exercises to practice the grammar and vocabulary. The stories are usually entertaining, about traveling the world, traveling through time or other adventure story. Most of the students in my classes wanted to know what was going to happen next and we usually talked about it trying to infer what could happen in the next segment.
Students are also usually given opportunities in school to read silently while the teacher is working on something or after they finish other activities. Unfortunately very few school libraries have books in the different foreign languages, so students have to go outside of the school to be able to read other books in the FL. As sad as this sounds, this isn´t much different than in the States where most school libraries don´t have books in French, Spanish, or German. Students are also usually given the opportunity to read each other´s stories, in a few classrooms; however this is more work for the teacher and it moves away from the book, so these cases are few and far between.
What struck me as interesting in the Standards as a whole, not just the Reading Standard, is their focus on knowing the “value” of knowing another language, and appreciating it as a different way to see the world and to learn about others. This isn´t placed as highly in the ACTFL Standards, and is sometimes forgotten by teachers and students alike. Some students and teachers take advantage of the fact that they know another language, and thus forget to value its worth in the real world. The other main difficulty with this are the foreigners who come into Spain to teach their first language. Since most of them don´t know a second language, they don´t truly understand the world that becomes open to you when you have access to another language. So by forcing the issue, teachers may make the effort to try to impose this value of education on the students. This isn´t only written in the Foreign Language Standards, it´s included in every Standard the whole way through the document.
In part being able to finally read through at least some of the Foreign Language Standards made me feel a little better, knowing that there are Standards that teachers are instructed to use. However, on the other hand, as I said in the curriculum assignment, most teachers don´t stray too far from the books. So unless the books cover the standards, the standards aren´t usually met. I´m still trying to research how teachers are held accountable for their students’ learning of these Standards, and will continue doing so, until I understand it completely.
Consejería de Educación. (2007). Comunidad de Madrid: Disposiciones Generales. (2007). Madrid, Spain.
Actfl standards of foreign language learning//. (n.d.). Retrieved from
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