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Enrollment in English recovers

Updated: 2014-12-29 07:39
By Luo Wangshu and Su Zhou (China Daily)

Rumors that language would be dropped from gaokao proved to be unfounded

English training classes from K-12 levels seem to have recovered from shrinking numbers last year, following plans to reform the national college entrance exam, or gaokao, educators said.

"Last year's draft policy on reforming the gaokao might have seemed to be taking English out of the exam, and some parents and students took that to mean that the language was no longer important, which caused a slight drop in our enrollment," said Lyu Tengfei, director of the high school English training department at Xueersi, a Beijing training organization under the Tomorrow Advancing Life Education Group.

"This year, our recruitment has tended to recover, nearly reaching the enrollment level before the rumors saying that English will not be as important in the gaokao," Lyu said.

In September, the State Council released details of gaokao reform, saying that only three subjects - Chinese, math and English - will be tested during the exam, a departure from the previous gaokao in which six or more subjects were tested.

Two opportunities are allowed for taking the English test, one in January and one in June. Students are given the opportunity to select the higher score as their gaokao English test result.

Pilot programs for the change will begin this year for 10th-graders in Shanghai and Zhejiang province. Once these students enter college in 2017, the reform will be expanded nationwide.

The reform - unlike the rumors last year saying that the gaokao would reduce the scale of English and add weight to Chinese - reiterated the importance of English in the exam.

Yang Si, a 10th-grader in Shanghai, resumed private English classes this year after the gaokao policy was released.

"I stopped private English tutoring last year to allocate more time to other subjects, to achieve better gaokao results, since everybody said that English would be sidelined in the exam," Yang said, adding that she will instead set aside more time for English in the next few years.

"I know it's very pragmatic, but it's gaokao. I just want to get the best outcome possible," the 16-year-old said.

Lyu from Xueersi said that parents have gradually understood the importance of English in the exam again.

"We used to focus on textbooks. But after the news of the new policy, we adopted a one-year English training program, particularly to nurture listening, reading and writing skills," Lyu said, adding that the reform is a positive effort to encourage students to pay more attention to practical ability.

Tao Ran, deputy director of the middle school education brand Youneng of New Oriental Group, agreed.

He said that the new policy emphasizes practical skills such as listening, reading and writing.

The gaokao, which has assessed students' academic performance and somewhat determined their future for nearly four decades, has received widespread criticism in recent years. The importance of English has always been a popular topic of the criticism.

Last year, many media reported that the gaokao would reduce the emphasis. Some even said that English would be taken out of the required subjects for the exam.

The news severely affected the English training market, especially the after-school training channels that targeted higher gaokao results.

"There has been no increase in enrollment in the classes for middle school and high school this year (seventh and 10th grade). It has been decreasing to some point," Tao said.

He believes the rumors of English no longer being important severely affected clients' attitudes toward the subject.

"People have always tended to focus on negative news, though these were rumors," he said.

However, Tao believes there will be no dramatic change in the capital's English training market in the next three years since the policy will not be implemented in the city until then.

Contact the writer at luowangshu@chinadaily.com.cn

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