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Fortunes of the world’s English language learners revealed

On Learning and Thinking Part 2

Fortunes of the world’s English language learners revealed

Duncan Raynor
A global analysis of results from the world-renowned University of Cambridge ESOL exams gives new insights into the performance of English language test-takers in Thailand.

Duncan Raynor
The newly-released figures are based on 1.75 million results from learners of all ages in 135 countries who took one of the range of Cambridge ESOL exams in 2005.
The results below are pass rates for Thai test-takers by comparison with other countries in Asia and Europe, and are for general English language qualifications, from KET (Key English Test) which is at elementary level, to PET (Preliminary English Test) and FCE (First Certificate in English), which are intermediate level, up to the advanced CAE (Certificate in Advanced English) and CPE (Certificate of Proficiency in English).

Full tables of results for Cambridge ESOL exams taken in 2005 can be found at www.cambridgeesol.org
  KET  PET FCE CAE CPE
Argentina   84% 87% 81% 77% 75%
Bangladesh  77% 88% - - -
Brazil     82% 80% 75% 63% 61%
France    78% 82% 69% 72% 72%
Germany     94% 94% 88% 77% 76%
India    86% 91% 61% 85% -
Italy     75% 82% 80% 71% 65%
Japan    60% 57% 36% 39% -
Malaysia  93% 93%  87% 91% 91%
Mexico    81% 78% 70% 65% 61%
Myanmar (Burma)   91% 84% 74% - -
Netherlands  - 95% 86%  85% 83%
Norway - - 85%  79% -
Portugal    85% 89% 83% 70% 69%
Russian Federation 89%  86% 78% 72% 75%
Singapore - - 81% - 77%
Sri Lanka    78% 60% 55% - -
Thailand    71% 63% 64% - -
Vietnam  79% 72% - - -

But why do particular standards and levels of achievement in English language matter? With countries across South East Asia all competing to attract overseas investment, the standard of English of the young professional population has become more important than ever before. And that means increased pressure on both the quality of the teaching profession as well as the learners themselves.
The newly-released figures are based on 1.75 million results from learners of all ages in 135 countries who took one of the range of Cambridge ESOL exams in 2005. The results shown are pass rates for Thai test-takers by comparison with other countries in Asia and Europe, and are for general English language qualifications, from KET (Key English Test) which is at elementary level, to PET (Preliminary English Test) and FCE (First Certificate in English), which are intermediate level, up to the advanced CAE (Certificate in Advanced English) and CPE (Certificate of Proficiency in English).
Standards of English language are rising around the world, and at the same time, so is the demand for higher levels of English in the range of professional careers and in the workplace in general. This new environment means greater awareness and scrutiny of the kinds of qualifications being used to prove ability, and the importance of certificates which can act as a ‘gold standard’ for employers and educational institutions throughout the world. Good quality exams also support teaching and act as a means of raising standards in the classroom.
Cambridge ESOL - a not-for-profit organisation and a department of the University of Cambridge and part of one of the world’s leading educational assessment organisations, the Cambridge Assessment group - has an important responsibility in upholding standards on a global basis. It uses its Research & Validation operation and ongoing work with international partners on common standards to create forms of assessment which are recognised as a crucial entry requirement by thousands of universities and colleges worldwide. Major international employers - such as Cable & Wireless, GlaxoSmithKline, KPMG, Nestlè, Sony and Siemens - regard Cambridge ESOL examinations as a standard for assessing the English language skills of recruits.
Michael Milanovic, Chief Executive of Cambridge ESOL, said: “Standards of English language are rising around the world, and at the same time, so is the demand for higher levels of English in the range of professional careers and in the workplace in general.
“This new environment means greater awareness and scrutiny of the kinds of qualifications being used to prove ability, and the importance of certificates which can act as a ‘gold standard’ for employers and educational institutions throughout the world. Good quality exams also support teaching and act as a means of raising standards in the classroom.
“Cambridge ESOL has an important responsibility in upholding that standard, through its major research and validation operations and ongoing work with international partners.”

SIDEBAR
Cambridge ESOL provides qualifications for learners at all levels and in all contexts, all linked to the Common European Framework of Reference. The Main Suite of examinations offers general English at a range of levels from the elementary Key English Test to the very advanced Certificate of Proficiency in English. Business English Certificates cover the same range of language skills but with an emphasis on English for business use. Cambridge Young Learners English Tests assess the English of Primary learners aged 7 to 12.
In Thailand, improving the quality of teaching is critical to improving standards of English in the country. Cambridge ESOL has begun to run workshops for teachers and has also recently launched a new benchmark teaching qualification for English teachers in order to give opportunities for professional development among English teachers in Thailand. The Teaching Knowledge Test or TKT is a new teaching qualification focusing on the core professional knowledge needed by all teachers of English as a second language and relevant to teachers at all stages in their careers, whatever their background and teaching experience, and is ideal for teachers who need to enhance their knowledge and skills and for people aiming to enter the teaching profession.
More information on TKT and the Cambridge ESOL certificates can be found at www.cambridgeesol.org.


On Learning and Thinking Part 2

Ann R. Schechter
Special Education Teacher at Lanna International School

Learning Styles- Part 2

As we discussed previously, a learning style is the preferred way a person takes in and processes information. Visual learners learn by seeing, auditory learners learn by hearing and kinesthetic learners learn by doing or touching. Everyone uses all three modalities, but one or more styles can be dominant for each of us. We may favor one approach for one assignment, and another for a different task. Typically, we also prefer different approaches as we go through life.
More often than not, one approach is forced upon us at a given age. For example, in the early grades, information is presented to us kinesthetically. Learning takes place through games, artwork and manipulatives. (Remember modeling clay, cut and paste, and Unifix blocks?) In the middle grades, lessons rely heavily on visual input through books, maps, diagrams and colorful bulletin boards. In high school and college learning takes place by lectures, which force us to sink or swim, and adapt as best we can.
So how can we best learn using the preferences we have? There are a number of strategies for each category.
For the visual/verbal learner:
• Write out sentences and phrases that summarize key information from lectures and text books.
• Make flashcards of vocabulary words and key concepts that need to be memorized. Key words placed in visible places around the room can also serve to improve memorization.
• Write explanations of information presented as diagrams and pictures in the page margins.
• When learning mathematical or technical information, particularly problems involving a sequence of steps, write out each one in the way you understand it.
• Type up notes on the computer and print them up for review.
Visual/nonverbal learners benefit from:
• Highlighting key words and phrases in bright colors
• Using flashcards with pictures or short words, which quickly recall a mental picture
• Color coding information in textbooks using highlighters of contrasting colors
• Transforming the information and concepts in your notes into diagrams and charts
• Learning mathematical or technical material by using charts to organize information. With tasks involving sequential steps, diagram each step or isolate it within a box.
• Using the computer to organize information in spreadsheet form, or to create charts and diagrams.
If you are an auditory learner, you can:
• Discuss and review material with a group or study buddy
• Read from text and notes out loud where you won’t be disturbed.
• Tape record lectures to be reviewed later. Be sure to use the pause button to avoid taping irrelevant discussions. If you set the counter to 000 at the beginning of each session, you can jot down the count of a particularly difficult concept and locate it for review later.
• Make use of books on tape
• Talk your way through mathematical processes and technical information
• State problems and ideas in your own words
And for those learners who are tactile/kinesthetically oriented:
• Be actively engaged in taking in information. Ask questions when appropriate, write notes, draw diagrams of the information to be learned.
• Take notes, and sit near the front of the classroom, to prevent distraction.
• Walk around when studying at home, and read material out loud
• Learn a complex task by writing each step on a flashcard, using words or symbols. Then arrange these in order on a table.
• Use highlighters to emphasize important concepts
• Write down information when reviewing
• Get creative! Make a model of an important concept. Spend extra time in the lab working with the procedure you are learning. Go to a museum or historical site. Take a field trip.
• Take breaks to walk around during tasks that require long periods of sitting.
Remember that there is no single “best” way to learn. Each of us should choose what works best for the task at hand. But if we are aware of our own learning style, we can choose and implement the best strategy to get the job done.
Next week, we will observe how a teacher of an introductory Thai course plans and makes use of the four learning styles in her classroom.