30 May 2015

VELC--a possible alternative for TOEIC

This too was posted to www.eltinjapan.com, about an English proficiency test normed specifically to Japanese university students.

VELC--a possible alternative for TOEIC
VELC has been developed as an English proficiency test for Japanese university students (normed to a large population of such EFL learners), unlike the TOEIC. I have excerpted the abstract from the article's online PDF. VELC stands for 'Visualizing English Language Competency'. It takes about 70 minutes to administer a version of the test to a group, while the TOEIC takes about 3 hours.



The authors have developed a new competency test to make visible the English-language skills of Japanese university students as much as possible. The test divides the two sections of listening and reading into three parts each, measuring listening ,(vocabulary (L1), connected speech deciphering (L2), and listening comprehension (L3) along with reading vocabulary (R1 sentence structure awareness (R2), and reading comprehension (R3). Equating data from trial testing of approximately 5000 Japanese university students, using a Rasch model, makes it possible to compare scores on the same scale no matter which of multiple forms the test takers used. The test’s coefficient of reliability is higher than 0.95, and its multiple correlation coefficient to TOEIC scores is 0.82. Feedback on results is provided through a Web-based e-Portfolio that can be described as a record of an individual’s English-language ability. Students also can use this test to ascertain changes in their own English-language abilities by taking the test periodically. As a result, it can be expected to see a variety of uses that have not been possible with previous one-time testing.

TOEIC is not a very good test for university students in Japan

Note: this has also been published at the sister site, www.eltinjapan.com. However, because the issue is how TOEIC is a mismatch for university students, it is being published here too. 

TOEIC is not a very good test for university students in Japan

First, there are a lot of questions about how both TOEIC and ETS are run. But let's ignore those for now. The real issue is whether or not TOEIC proves a very good match for university students. Is it a good English proficiency test? Problems with TOEIC include:

1.  It's too long. It's easy to get behind the audio during the listening test, and it's hard to concentrate and keep on pace to finish the reading test. About 3 hours are required to take the test, much of it concentrating intensively on the test problems.   

2.  It lacks practical communicative tasks--especially ones that require any real production, such as speaking or writing.

3.  Its main focus is business and business traveler English, so it is schematically outside of the experiences and immediate needs and interests of university students in Japan.

4.  It's  too much an EFL literacy test: half the test is 'reading', and the other half, the 'listening' parts, require reading as well (e.g., Parts 3 and 4). 

5.  It's a norm-referenced test that basically puts inexperienced 18-22 year olds in direct competition with older, more experienced company and government workers for their 'level of attainment' in the tested group. 

6.  It's hard to analyze students' scores in order to come up with a better study plan for them. Many Japanese students think that their reading skills far exceed their listening ones. But at the lower proficiency levels (the bulk of the students here), the more typical pattern is for them to do much better on the listening sections of the test than the reading ones. However, it is difficult to devise a better study plan for them. It seems, though, for example, lower level learners might more quickly boost their scores by concentrating on the parts that they can master more quickly--which are probably Listening Part 3 and Reading Part 5. 

7.  Studying old tests and pseudo-TOEIC questions might help produce test-wiseness in the students, but these prove time and again to be horrible ways to help students learn English. What is needed is better-thought-out exercises and activities that help students learn, revise, and review the typical English that they need to take the TOEIC. The main thing taking practice tests does is reinforce failure and under-achievement. 

Perhaps these issues also hold in places like China and South Korea too, so it is little wonder then that governments and institutions in Asia are seeking to develop language proficiency tests that might fit national cultures better. It is also understandable why some might want to develop a better language proficiency test for young adults, such as university students typically aged 18-22.

01 April 2015

To University of Fukui: Stop starving the cats who live on campus. 福井大学に対する嘆願書:キャンパス内の猫を飢えさせるのは止めてください!

To University of Fukui: Stop starving the cats who live on campus. 福井大学に対する嘆願書:キャンパス内の猫を飢えさせるのは止めてください!

To University of Fukui: Stop starving the cats who live on campus. 福井大学に対する嘆願書:キャンパス内の猫を飢えさせるのは止めてください!

Why this is important

Starving the cats is not a humane solution to the issue of cats on campus. It is not even a solution. The solution is to allow and cooperate with the volunteers who want to finish spaying and neutering the cats. Then the cats can be properly fed and cared for. The ones who are suitable can be adopted. The others will live out their lives and actually keep new cats away from campus.


私は日本の福井市の福井大学の准教授です。福井大学の文京 キャンパスでは、猫たちが小さな集団を作って暮らしています。現在キャンパスには12匹の猫が暮らしていると推測しています。ほとんどの猫はキャンパス内 で生まれましたが、迷子になった猫と捨てられた猫もこの集団に加わっています。





こ れは解決法とは言えません。本当の解決法は、すべての猫に不妊手術を受けさせること、猫を迎えてくれる家庭を見つけること、キャンパス内の猫の数を健全な 数に保つことです。キャンパスに残った猫たちが新たな猫がキャンパスに来ることを防いでくれます。多くの学生および大学職員は猫が好きであり、キャンパス で猫を見かけるのを楽しみにしています。大学当局が承認してくだされば、猫の世話をボランティアで引き受けてくれる人も出てくるでしょう。



Additional background explanation:

I am an associate professor at the University of Fukui, Fukui City, Japan. The Bunkyo Campus of the university has a small colony of cats on it. I estimate that there are now 12 cats living on campus. Most were born here, but strays and abandoned cats have added to the population.

From three years ago, some people at the College of Engineering were feeding a family of cats in that part of the campus (the southwest corner). But they were not doing spaying or neutering. So the population quickly grew to over 10 cats.

For the past 6 months, I have been spaying and neutering all the cats on campus and also at a near-by colony just southeast of campus. There are still 3 cats that need to be spayed or neutered.

However, the university opposes my activities. They are ordering me to stop feeding, spaying, neutering, everything.

Their proposed solution to the issue is that the cats should starve.

This is not a solution. The solution is to complete the spaying and neutering, find homes for those that are adoptable, and maintain a healthy population on campus. The cats that remain will keep new cats from coming onto campus. Many students and members of the faculty like the cats and enjoy seeing them on campus. Some would volunteer to help take care of the cats if the university administration would approve.

Sign the petition at the link below:


15 March 2015

Fukui professor arrested over female graduate student’s murder

Japan HEO blog wouldn't normally post this here, except we are at the University of Fukui, and also in the same faculty (College of Education and Regional Studies).


Fukui professor arrested over female graduate student’s murder


An associate professor at a national university in Fukui Prefecture was arrested Saturday on suspicion of killing a female graduate student under his tutelage, police said.


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