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Students need to learn quick, efficient reading: British professor

2010/03/11 16:54

Taipei, March 11 (CNA) Professor Cyril Weir of the University ofBedfordshire in the United Kingdom said that in order to enhanceEnglish language ability, university students should learn to readquickly and efficiently.

The language professor, one of the architects of Taiwan's GeneralEnglish Proficiency Test (GEPT), recently discussed with Central NewsAgency reporters the development and characteristics of the10-year-old GEPT and its significance in helping Taiwanese studentslearning English.

"One of the problems for students to go to British universities-- all overseas students -- is that they have not been trained toread quickly and efficiently," said the British professor.

The author of "Understanding and Developing Language Tests" and"Examining Reading: Research and practice in assessing secondlanguage reading, " has given workshops and worked as a consultant onlanguage testing, evaluation and curriculum renewal in over 50countries. His first assignment in Taiwan was in 2002 when he helpedthe Language Training and Testing Center (ITTC) design advanced andsuperior tests.

"We have moved to a real-life approach in language testing, " theprofessor said, pointing out that language, once viewed as an"academic subject," is now a "means of communication."

One of the major characteristics of the GEPT is looking at theway people perceive language in real life, he added.

The GEPT, as a new exam, has the advantage of being receptive tomodern developments, and new ideas can benefit students' lives andstudy, Weir elaborated.

Referring to the worldwide issue of whether one should takeinternational rather than national tests, the professor said "if it'san international exam, it becomes a blender. Students have theproblem of cultural interferences if the test is taken in manycountries and it may be biased against people in certain countries."

Although the national GEPT was initiated for internal use, itmeets international standards of quality, Weir said.

"I think the benefit is that it has a very clear idea of whom itis aimed at, " he said.

The GEPT has survived and prospered because Taiwan has thecapability to set up and manage the system, he said.

The GEPT has benefited greatly also from the systematic nature ofits approach, and the Taiwan staff is very well trained in languageability and other aspects, such as psychometrics, he noted.

The British professor suggested that the skills of the TaiwanGEPT staff in language assessment are comparable to those in manycountries and even to those at Cambridge.

For long-term development, the professor stressed the importanceof stability and innovation. Stability is important to maintainreliability in the tests, but "innovation linked to improvement isjust as vital if the examination is to keep up with developments andinsights available from research in the field," he added.

However, he thinks that technologies "are benefits, and a greatdanger" as well. For example, computerized language assessment "is avery indirect way of assessing, and is potentially dangerous, " hesaid.

"While computers can check spelling, punctuation, and grammar inwriting, they cannot assess content and organization," he added.

(by Lillian Lin)Enditem/ pc