Students protest language aptitude test requirement

‘FAKE’ COURSES::Professors and students criticized the tests, saying they do not help students become more fluent and ‘do not fit’ the goal of education

By Rachel Lin and Jake Chung  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

Sat, Sep 08, 2018 - Page 3

A group of National Chengchi University (NCCU) students yesterday called on students across the nation to protest against school regulations requiring foreign-language proficiency exams.

The Supreme Administrative Court last month ruled that requiring students to take proficiency exams before they may attend remedial courses exceeds the parameters of university autonomy.

However, while NCCU in January abolished the foreign-language proficiency requirement, more than 100 universities in Taiwan still enforce such a requirement, said plaintiff Lai Yi-ling (賴怡伶), a graduate of the university.

Student Rights Association leader Hsu Jen-yu (許人友) told a news conference that the association has launched an “abolish zero-credit courses” movement.

Universities should not offer fake courses, nor should they mandate arbitrary graduation standards, NCCU student council leader Chen Po-han (陳柏翰) said, adding that universities should return to offering regular courses to better enhance students’ English-language abilities.

“It is illogical to impose a rule that students may not attend remedial courses unless they have failed an exam,” Lai said.

In 2016, Lai sued NCCU for refusing to issue her diploma because she had not provided a language proficiency test score.

The court last month ruled in favor of NCCU, but said that university regulations demanding that students take foreign-language proficiency exams before they can attend remedial courses exceeds the parameters of university autonomy.

“Universities are given autonomy so they would be able to offer better education,” said lawyer Chen Yi-tsung (陳易聰), who is representing Lai pro bono.

Current regulations “do not fit the goal of education,” Chen Yi-tsung added.

While the ruling seemed to be in the university’s favor, it has nonetheless pointed out the logical fallacy behind language proficiency tests, so it actually favors students, he said.

Hopefully, the majority of universities would observe the court ruling and return to the essential tenets of education, Lai said.

NCCU Department of Sociology director Huang Hou-ming (黃厚銘) said that the tests, originally intended to promote globalization, have become vapid and funnel students toward either British or American English.

While the case was an individual incident, the ruling says that university autonomy must remain rational, NCCU Department of Law associate professor Chen Chih-hui (陳志暉) said.

Determining student capabilities is a university’s task, and ensuring that students meet the standard is the true function and goal of universities, and should not be contracted to outside companies, Chen Chih-hui said.

NCCU Department of Radio and Television professor Kuo Li-hsin (郭力昕) said that he harbors no ill will toward the English language — having studied in the US and the UK for his master’s and doctoral degrees — but examinations do not allow students to become more fluent.

Exams instead make English a superior language to which people should aspire, a common reaction in post-colonial nations, Kuo said.