The Chilean National English Test: Misunderstanding the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR)

What is CEFR and Common Reference Levels?

by Aysun Güneş
Source: Aysun’s Blog: Language Teaching Tips

After a long holiday, I’ll kick off with some information about CEFR and levels. Actually, I first saw the definition years ago, but started teaching accordingly in September,2011. Since we started teaching according to CEFR, we have had a common description of the language and the levels which enables us to create a learning environment accepted by many countries.

Here is the definition:

“The Common European Framework provides a common basis for the elaboration of lan- guage syllabuses, curriculum guidelines, examinations, textbooks, etc. across Europe. It describes in a comprehensive way what language learners have to learn to do in order to use a language for communication and what knowledge and skills they have to develop so as to be able to act effectively. The description also covers the cultural context in which language is set. The Framework also defines levels of proficiency which allow learners’ progress to be measured at each stage of learning and on a life-long basis.

The Common European Framework is intended to overcome the barriers to communi- cation among professionals working in the field of modern languages arising from the different educational systems in Europe. It provides the means for educational adminis- trators, course designers, teachers, teacher trainers, examining bodies, etc., to reflect on their current practice, with a view to situating and co-ordinating their efforts and to ensuring that they meet the real needs of the learners for whom they are responsible.

By providing a common basis for the explicit description of objectives, content and methods, the Framework will enhance the transparency of courses, syllabuses and qual- ifications, thus promoting international co-operation in the field of modern languages. The provision of objective criteria for describing language proficiency will facilitate the mutual recognition of qualifications gained in different learning contexts, and accord- ingly will aid European mobility. “

According to this definition, common reference levels were set. These levels are a bit different from the previous ones which we know as -beginner, elementary intermediate and advanced. Instead of the previous levels, now we use A, B and C levels. Here is the levels and their definitions:

“Table 1. Common Reference Levels: global scale

Proficient User C2
Can understand with ease virtually everything heard or read. Can summarise information from different spoken and written sources, reconstructing arguments and accounts in a coherent presentation. Can express him/herself spontaneously, very fluently and precisely, differentiating finer shades of meaning even in more complex situations.

C1
Can understand a wide range of demanding, longer texts, and recognise implicit meaning. Can express him/herself fluently and spontaneously without much obvious searching for expressions. Can use language flexibly and effectively for social, academic and professional purposes. Can produce clear, well-structured, detailed text on complex subjects, showing controlled use of organisational patterns, connectors and cohesive devices.

Independent User B2
Can understand the main ideas of complex text on both concrete and abstract topics, including technical discussions in his/her field of specialisation. Can interact with a degree of fluency and spontaneity that makes regular interaction with native speakers quite possible without strain for either party. Can produce clear, detailed text on a wide range of subjects and explain a viewpoint on a topical issue giving the advantages and disadvantages of various options.

B1
Can understand the main points of clear standard input on familiar matters regularly encountered in work, school, leisure, etc. Can deal with most situations likely to arise whilst travelling in an area where the language is spoken. Can produce simple connected text on topics which are familiar or of personal interest. Can describe experiences and events, dreams, hopes and ambitions and briefly give reasons and explanations for opinions and plans.

Basic User A2
Can understand sentences and frequently used expressions related to areas of most immediate relevance (e.g. very basic personal and family information, shopping, local geography, employment). Can communicate in simple and routine tasks requiring a simple and direct exchange of information on familiar and routine matters. Can describe in simple terms aspects of his/her background, immediate environment and matters in areas of immediate need.

A1
Can understand and use familiar everyday expressions and very basic phrases aimed at the satisfaction of needs of a concrete type. Can introduce him/herself and others and can ask and answer questions about personal details such as where he/she lives, people he/she knows and things he/she has. Can interact in a simple way provided the other person talks slowly and clearly and is prepared to help.”

Because of some drawbacks in Turkish Educational System, most of our students coming to university are A level students.

What about your students?

Aysun

Source:

http://www.coe.int/t/dg4/linguistic/Source/Framework_EN.pdf

**

Hi Aysun,

Here in Chile the CEFR is known, but not understood as well as it should be by educators in the ELT profession. Most people, unfortunately, including the media (and thus the public at large – who are informed by the media – who are informed by educators) still think of English levels in terms of Basic, PreIntermediate, Intermediate, Advanced.

As a result, actual advances in learning shown by the A1-A2-B1-B2-C1-C2 CEFR Reference levels (a total of 6 levels) went undetected and unreported in a national English test applied to 240 thousand students in the 11th grade (3rd year high school).

Obviously, a large amount of money was wasted, with the public and the profession and the students – utterly misinformed. I wrote a book about it: “The Chilean National English Test”, http://amzn.to/Nlwjjp available at Amazon, where I go into the details.

The main cause of the disaster? Misunderstanding the CEFR Reference levels…

Regards,
Thomas

**

Aysun


Dear Thomas,
You are definitely right about understanding CEFR, in order to apply and insert it in our programmes we need to understand its descriptors well. Besides, thanks for your comment and I’ll check the books you recommended :-)

Aysun

**

The Chilean National English Test [Kindle Edition]

Book Description
Publication Date: March 25, 2012

SIMCE Ingles 2010: The development of the national English test in Chile coincides with my story, which is woven autobiographically into the larger story, a test which apparently resulted in only 11% of students able to achieve a passing score. This book will make you laugh, it will make you cry, it will reveal secrets to you that you thought you already knew about tests, test-making, and test-reporting. More importantly, you leave the reading of this book with a renewed sense of confidence in who you are, and what you do…

Product Details
File Size: 157 KB
Print Length: 69 pages
Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
Language: English

ASIN: B007OOW54O

**

The Chilean National English Test: A Personal Journey [Paperback]

Product Details
Paperback: 82 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace (March 26, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 147509809X
ISBN-13: 978-1475098099

**

How to Coach A Debate Team

How to Coach A Debate Team [Kindle Edition]

This book contains all you need to know to successfully coach a debate team. You may need to convince students that debate is a good idea, though. Here are six reasons:
1. Debating ability is a valuable skill.
2. Debate utilizes useful English.
3. It is a unique way to teach grammar.
4. It develops critical thinking skills.
5. It introduces global issues.
6. It develops research skills.

A more powerful reason to coach a debate team is given to us by Dr. Martin Luther King: ““Sooner or later all the people of the world will have to discover a way to live together in peace… If this is to be achieved, man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression, and retaliation…” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. – 1964 Nobel Peace Prize Acceptance Speech

**

The International Baccalaureate [Kindle Edition]

The International Baccalaureate [Paperback]

The global search for high-quality education, embedded in high-performing education systems, has taken on mythical proportions, almost resembling the alchemists’ quest to turn common metals into gold.

It is my hope that the present day search for global education, equitable and providing equality of opportunity for all, shall not cease until the “gold” we seek, has been found.

I therefore dedicate this book to all the educators, researchers, parents and students the world over, who strive to achieve this elusive goal,high-quality education for all the citizens of the world.

In this endeavour, it is my belief that the International Baccalaureate merits a closer look, based on their more than 40 year history of delivering consistently excellent results.

I add that all of the reflections and views in this book are mine alone, unless otherwise noted, and can not be attributed to my employer or any other organization I am affiliated with, past or present. For any errors or oversights, I bear the complete responsibility.

**

Amazon Author Page: Thomas Jerome Baker

Thomas Baker is the Past-President of TESOL Chile (2010-2011). He is the Head of the English Department at Colegio Internacional SEK in Santiago, Chile.

He is the Co-Founder and Co-Organiser of EdCamp Santiago, free, participant-driven, democratic, conversation based professional development for teachers, by teachers. EdCamp Santiago 2012 was held at Universidad Mayor in Santiago.

Thomas is also a member of the Advisory Board for the International Higher Education Teaching and Learning Association (HETL), where he also serves as a reviewer and as the HETL Ambassador for Chile.

Thomas enjoys writing about a wide variety of topics. Thus far, he has written the following genres: romance, historical fiction, autobiographical, sports history/biography, and English Language Teaching. He has published a total of forty four (44) books overall.

The source and inspiration for his writing comes from his family, his wife Gabriela, and his son, Thomas Jerome Baker, Jr.

**

**

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About profesorbaker

Thomas Baker is the Past-President of TESOL Chile (2010-2011). He is the Coordinator of the English Department at Colegio Internacional SEK in Santiago, Chile. He is the Co-Founder and Co-Organiser of EdCamp Santiago 2012 & Edcamp Chile 2013, free, participant-driven, democratic, conversation based professional development for teachers, by teachers. EdCamp Santiago 2012 was held at Universidad Mayor in Santiago. Edcamp Chile 2013 was held at Universidad UCINF. Thomas is also a member of the Advisory Board for the International Higher Education Teaching and Learning Association (HETL), where he also serves as a reviewer and as the HETL Ambassador for Chile. Thomas enjoys writing about a wide variety of topics. Thus far, he has written the following genres: romance, historical fiction, autobiographical, sports history/biography, and English Language Teaching. He has published a total of sixty one (61) books, all available on Amazon http://amzn.to/Qxmoec . The source and inspiration for his writing comes from his family, his wife Gabriela, and his son, Thomas Jerome Baker, Jr.
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