Shanghai leads the mainland in an international standardized test of English language proficiency, according to the British Council’s inaugural white paper on mainland test takers’ IELTS performance.
The white paper, released last week, shows people on Chinese mainland have been making progress in their ability to listen, read, write and speak English in the past five years.
People who took the IELTS Academic test showed the least progress in speaking English. The test takers’ total score from the four-part test are below the world average, with the largest gap in the speaking category. The white paper also showed mixed development of English skills in various areas on the mainland.
Shanghai, which achieved respective total scores of 5.87 points and 5.95 points in the academic and training categories, led the mainland in the listening, speaking, reading and writing tests. Its universities and high schools also had the best results.
Barry O’Sullivan, head of assessment research and development at the British Council, said Shanghai stood out against the other provinces and cities because it is an international city, where students have a better environment and stronger motivation to learn and use English.
The average score of Shanghai test takers in reading is higher than the world average, and their listening and writing scores are on par with the world average. Shanghai’s speaking score is, however, below the world average.
The city’s Fudan University topped other universities on the mainland with the highest average IELTS scores. Fudan students’ reading, listening and writing scores exceeded the world average but their speaking scores were below it.
According to the white paper, all the test takers said self-motivation was the most important factor for them, while those with IELTS scores higher than 7 points credited their high school teachers for playing an important role.
The white paper also found that the English teachers on the mainland had mixed capabilities in reading, writing, listening and speaking. They were weakest at speaking English.
Chinese authorities are working to address these issues. For example, they will release the Chinese Standards of English by the end of the year. It will outline English students’ proficiency at nine levels.