Students attend class at the Jing'an Education College Affiliated School in Shanghai. Photo: AFP
Students attend class at the Jing'an Education College Affiliated School in Shanghai. Photo: AFP

China’s Education Ministry is working on a national English ability assessment scale and a national English test to establish a uniform standard of assessing Chinese people’s English skills.

The new assessment scale’s structure has been finalised and will be implemented next year, according to Lin Huiqing, a deputy minister in the Education Department. The related English test will be rolled out by 2020, according to a report in the Qianjiang Evening News on Sunday.

The new scale establishes a hierarchy of nine different levels of English users. Levels one and two correspond to primary school level. Levels three and four are equivalent to middle and high school, respectively. Levels five and six will be required for tertiary education.

College students majoring in English will need to reach level seven, while “high-end English professionals” must achieve level eight or nine.

In order to conform with international standards, the Chinese scale will correspond with established English evaluation systems abroad, according to Liu Jianda, the deputy principal of Guangdong University of Foreign Studies. Widely accepted international English tests including IELTS, TOEFL and Cambridge English exams are expected to be integrated into the new system.

China has nearly 400 million English learners, according to Lin, from the Education Ministry, in a speech he made about plans for a national English test in April of last year.

Many of these have over 10 years experience of learning English but still fall short of meeting China’s increasing demand for English talent, she said, adding that this is partly due to absence of a structured English education system covering different stages and the lack of unified standards in assessing English ability.

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