chapter  35
18 Pages

Which test of which English and why?

ByBrian Tomlinson

All over the world, learners of English are being tested on a variety of English they do not and never will speak. They are being tested on British English or American English and not on the Singapore English or Brazilian English or the International English that they speak. Based on my experience in over sixty countries, I would say that many of these learners are being tested because administrators, teachers and parents take it for granted that testing is useful and necessary. In many cases the learners are gaining very little from a negative experience and the testers are gaining little more than useful illusions. Many teachers argue that testing is imposed on learners by testers because it benefits the testers more than it does the learners. This view has been captured by British poets. For example, Michael Rosen’s ‘The Ballad of Roger Ball’ (Rosen 2007) in which ‘Roger was a lefty’ who ‘taught slow learners’ but one day, when ‘resting’, saw the future, ‘It said: Testing.’ Roger uses ‘marking, grading, figures, tables, checking, assessing, goals, labels’, closes two schools, fires 14 teachers and ends up as an Education Consultant ‘as ever useful to the system’. And Brian Patten ends his poem ‘The Minister for Exams’ (Patten 1996):

Q1. How large is a child’s imagination? Q2. How shallow is the soul of the Minister for Exams?