Now that all things in Greece are going to the dogs and everything looks to get out of hand day by day, talking about exams seems to be a joke since fewer and fewer students show interest in learning a foreign language but most crucially those able to pay in order to learn are becoming scarce and this is because we all had considered knowledge a passport to a permanent position while all those in high positions making knowledge once mandatory now they are under- evaluating it through their immoral actions.
However, now that we have seen the other side of the coin and sorting out is applied in all parts of our society, when justice is so passionately required and declared, it’s time to rethink and reload to reconstruct and renovate at all levels, at any cost until fairness, quality and equality come to the front and talking of English, in the English education field too.
In a chaotic situation where there is no control there are several English examinations where there are no standards, as each organization sets their own rules in order to pass or fail a candidate.
Formats and passing scores vary while the level of difficulty of each exam seems like day and night which is obvious when the same candidate sitting two to three exams under the same preparation may pass the one, barely fail the second and fail the third.
This may be a matter of luck; mood or timing someone may say but I would insist, might it not be a matter of scoring and passing criteria? Might it not be a matter of level of difficulty of each exam and its format?
In days where newcomers sharing same origins and same methods with long existing ‘players’, battling over labels, have made their appearance and sworn enemies of the past have become alliances having you for years to eagerly support the one or the other, while others once deported are about to re- enter the arena, you may now come to realize how naïve you were when speaking about real and equal knowledge as just knowledge seems to have never been the case.
How come all English examinations (unfortunately equally charted on the ASEP list) although they follow the set European framework they have different passing scores but they are still considered equal to each other?
Maybe because they are not really equal to each other, I would add but once accepted by the ASEP (God knows under what circumstances and which criteria ASEP accepts or rejects exams, while there is nobody to evaluate ASEP’s evaluations!) they are there to choose from and of course to pay for, as if you have not realized it yet, English education in Greece does not really deal only with knowledge but money too and now that money has come to an end we should at least ensure that only real knowledge and really high standards in respect of fairness and quality are to be applied through English testing.
How does it sound when exams of identical format but different title may be partly accepted or rejected by the Ministry of education and ASEP and how do ‘experts’ from both departments come to their conclusions? Does it make any sense to you? And who are those deciding and setting the rules so differently?
How come there are associations of teachers once functioning as a wholesome body now being divided in half, fighting with each other like fierce dogs supporting specific exams on their parts while trying to vanquish each other through the ASEP list and keeping language schools and teachers under a state of custody? Is this ethical? Does this reflect any educational, scientific or human standard? The answers are yours.
How logical is it that a so called state English exam with the endless support of state English teachers is administered privately when it should be administered by the state and thus incorporated in the school curriculum from the very beginning in order to stop extra curricular English lessons existing, as its very eager state supporters so desperately declare?
We as teachers should demand a standard and fixed scoring scale for all English exams administered in Greece, where all organizations are obliged to issue past papers, clear exam performance declarations are offered, passing scores are based on the overall performance of the candidate, where a candidate who may fail a part does not fail the whole exam and, the part of speaking can be also rescored in case of failure and above all, all four skills are tested.
It is unacceptable that a student may pass an English exam with a 50 to 55% score while another may need 60 to 75% for the same CEFR level? So, who sets the passing scores and criteria? Why their demands vary so much?
But still we are to blame as we came to exchange success and fame with money, selling our souls since there are organizations ready to offer up to 30% of the students’ fees to the school or the teacher who will prepare students for their exam.
Moreover, if a candidate is to re sit a part of an exam for free, shouldn’t that be applied by all organizations in order to dispense justice and fairness among candidates especially when they all have different financial backgrounds?
How come someone is certified as an advanced or proficient speaker and thus user of the language when speaking is an optional part in an exam or much worse when reading and listening are never directly tested in another?
How normal is it to grant a teaching license only to a few examination candidates where again formats, passing scores and levels of difficulty vary to a huge extent and what are the criteria defining which exam is to grant a teaching license at C2 level since all existing exams are considered equal to each other?
If someone wants to teach in the private sector, s/he should attend a course on didactics and pedagogy and get the license after successfully passing the exams. This does not seem to be of any interest to the Ministry of Education.
So, the question is not who sets the rules but who really rules.
That is why we should take action instead of being a silent part of this educational gambling exchange where all games are played on our students’ backs, raising our voices and urging the Ministry of Education, ASEP and the English exam organizations to be clear and play fair.
To do so, (no matter how utopian this may sound) we should compose a unique English teaching language organization where all Foreign Language Schools and teachers across Greece will cast off the exam labels they so far bear and follow a unique policy fighting for equality, fairness, clearness and real quality testing standards, abstaining from any vested interest of theirs.
It is so simple; we just have to ‘untie’ ourselves and start sorting things out at last.
I have no intention to offend or accuse anyone but rather reflect on ELT reality in Greece. I have personally prepared students for several English exams but I am still worried and concerned about fairness and equality, as this is my motto in life.
English teacher, consultant and author
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Ο κος Εμμανουήλ Χρήστος είναι καθηγητής της Αγγλικής, αρθογράφος στην εφημερίδα ’ELT News’ και συγγραφέας βιβλίων που αφορούν την διδασκαλία της Αγγλικής γλώσσας. Η πολύχρονη διδακτική του εμπειρία στη προετοιμασία υποψηφίων σε επίσημες εξετάσεις πιστοποίησης της Αγγλικής, η συνεργασία του με εκδοτικούς οίκους ξενόγλωσσης εκπαίδευσης καθώς και η συμμετοχή του ως εξεταστής προφορικών σε επίσημες εξετάσεις πιστοποίησης της Αγγλικής, σε συνδυασμό με την Πανεπιστημιακή του κατάρτιση αλλα πάνω απ’ όλα το πάθος του για την Αγγλική Γλώσσα, τον καθιστούν έναν άρτιο επαγγελματία και έναν εν γένει ευσυνείδητο δάσκαλο.