Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Don't panic over TOEIC

Published in the Taipei Times, Nov 11, 2013

It may be true that "Taiwan's TOIEC scores (are) lagging" (Nov. 9) but this does not mean that Taiwan has an English crisis. The "drop" from last year's average score was only three points, not very much for a test with a maximum score of 990, and the average Taiwan score in 2014 was identical to the score in 2010 and is six points higher than the average score for Taiwan in 2008.  As Prof. Chang points out, in at least one country that outscores Taiwan, those who take the test are already very proficient in English. In others, English is very widely used and is often an official language of the country.

Although there is no crisis, we are interested in doing better.  The best single way of improving TOEIC scores, as well as improving nearly all aspects of English language proficiency, is to encourage self-selected pleasure reading in English; study after study has shown that when self-selected reading is included in English classes, there is dramatic improvement in reading, writing, vocabulary and grammar. 

Many of the most important of these studies have been done in Taiwan, by Lee Sy-ying (李思穎), a professor at National Taiwan University of Science and Technology, and her associates Wang Fei-yu (王費瑜) and Hsieh Ming-yi (謝明義), and Kenneth Smith of the Wenzao Ursuline College of Language.  In addition, Professor Beniko Mason of Shitennoji University Junior College in Japan has demonstrated, in a series of studies, that adult students can made substantial gains on the TOEIC simply by reading in English for pleasure, gains that are far superior to those achieved by those taking traditional classes.

Let's invest in libraries with a good supply of genuinely interesting reading material in English, and include time for pleasure reading in English class. This is a modest investment, one that should be considered before we take more drastic and expensive measures.

Stephen Krashen
Professor Emeritus
University of Southern California

original article in Taipei Times: http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/editorials/archives/2013/11/09/2003576453/1


  1. Line 3, (second sentence) refers to 2014 results for TOEIC- how can this be?
    Otherwise, right on the money! Could't agree with you more. ER is the solution.

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