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Top Chinese university scraps English requirements – media

English fluency is of “little practical value for many people,” a lawmaker said earlier this year

Femle students pose for graduating photograph at a university in Xiangyang, Hubei province, China on 3th June 2015 © Getty Images / Jie Zhao/Corbis via Getty Images

Xi’an Jiaotong University, one of the top public research universities in China, has confirmed that it has removed a requirement for students to undertake a mandatory College English Test (CET) to join or graduate from the institution.

The university, located in the northwestern province of Shaanxi, took the step as a debate rages about the practical benefits of learning English for large sections of China’s students, the South China Morning Post reported on Friday.

The move is a “normal measure made by the school according to current developments,” the publication said, citing comments from the university’s academic affairs office. Xi’an Jiaotong, which is considered to be among the top 5% of universities in China, added that English courses based on CET requirements will remain on the curriculum.

Plans to reduce requirements for students to learn English have been gathering pace for several years. National People’s Congress deputy Tuo Qingming said earlier this year at a legislative session in Beijing that fluency in English has “little practical value for many people.”

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Tuo added: “For a considerable number of people, learning a foreign language is only for admission to higher education. What they learn is actually exam-oriented. They will seldom or never use foreign languages in their work or life.”

However, Yu Xiaoyu, a linguistics expert at the University of Hong Kong, cautioned against the move to reduce English language requirements. He argued that proficiency in one of the world’s most-spoken languages is an advantage in the employment market.

“What hasn’t changed is that much of the job market for university graduates still considers English to be beneficial, so there’s a high chance that students with higher English proficiency, especially those who can prove it, will come across more opportunities,” Yu said, according to the South China Morning Post on Friday.

Yu also stated his belief that the current CET curriculum does require reform. It is possible, he argued, for a student to score highly in the test without being able to suitably communicate in English, and that “we shouldn’t interpret the university’s decision as a sign that they’re attaching less importance to the English language.”

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