A Classroom Teacher Analysis of the 2012 Chilean National English Test

Analysis of 2012 National English Test - BookCoverPreview

Why this book? This book is written by a teacher of English, for teachers, worldwide. It deals with questions of interpreting test results, washback, and the inevitable, preparing for international exams, regardless of type.

Yet beyond these considerations, there is the historical aspect. In today’s globalized world, it seems we forget things that happened only a decade ago. Thus, we repeat the mistakes of the past, unnecessarily. This book plays a role in remembering what we have done in the past, especially in English Language Teaching, Testing & Learning.

Yet, is this book able to make a contribution? Does it provide new knowledge, new insights? Despite the general feeling that socioeconomic factors explains everything, I believe this book has something new to say, the ability to shed a fresh light, from a different, closer perspective than what we have been provided thus far. I am talking about the view from the classroom, the teacher’s “unheard voice” to what has been left unsaid…

Yes, the public, worldwide, is often led to believe that poor children can’t learn. They go to poor schools, with weak teachers, with low hopes and low self-esteem, hopeless and helpless. Yes, I know this is what worldwide is often the case for the underprivileged masses.

The Minister of Education, here in Chile, said, (I paraphrase in my own words): The situation here in Chile is that learning English is a socioeconomic privilege.

SIMCE Ingles 2012 - Mineduc - Ministra Schmidt

What does this mean?

To be frank, it’s a virtuous cycle for the rich, on the one hand, and a vicious cycle for the poor, on the other. In other words, the more money your parents have, the more likely they will send you to a school where they teach English. A school where teachers are of high quality, teach English in English, starting from the earliest days of Pre-kindergarden, for 10 – 12 hours a week, or even bilingual, studying all subjects in English.

The reverse is true if you are poor. You begin to learn English later, at age 11-12, in 5th grade. The gap already exists, a 6 year gap, and it will never close if you are poor.

As a result, there are only two options:
1. Stop teaching English to the poor.
2. Replicate the practices of the successful schools.

Whatever the decision, don’t make excuses. Either way, you can either choose to be hopeless and helpless, and give up, making excuses for yourself every day until you die.

There’s another way, another option.

The other option is to stand tall and fight the good fight, overcoming all obstacles in your way. In my 12 years of living and working in Chile, I have never felt like I was living in a country of quitters.

Chileans are winners, fighters by nature, with the blood of great warriors running through their veins. These are people descended from men who would jump off of ships surrounded by the enemy and fight to the death. These are people who dig holes miles and miles down into the very bowels of Hell itself to rescue 33 miners, to be born again, a rebirth, these 33 miners who the entire world thought were long dead.

Yes, this is my Chile. We do not quit, because we don’t know how to quit. No one in Chile will quit, lay down, and feel sorry for themselves.

Not in this country, not in a country built upon the courage, the blood, the sweat, and the tears of over 200 years of vigorous struggle against all obstacles. Neither the shaking of earthquake, the devastating storm, nor the ravages of war has ever managed to tame the Chilean people. The English language will not bring Chile to its knees, when more formidable foes have been unable to conquer the Chilean soul.

This is Chile we are talking about, and in this country, everyone is able to learn English, the rich and the poor.

This Chilean national struggle, against the obstacle of learning English, the one language most important for the economic future and wellbeing of everyone, is at the same time the same the story of every nation on Earth who must meet a seemingly unconquerable challenge, an unbeatable foe.

The story of the Chilean National English Test is a global story, one which involves everyone who faces their destiny bravely against seemingly impossible odds.

Now you know why I write this book. This book is for everyone who must struggle to achieve their goals, world wide…

Where Are We in 2012?

The results: 186.000 students in 3rd year of high school were tested. Only 18% were able to pass the test at or above level A2 on the Common European Framework scale (CEFR). Put another way, 82% of the students tested failed the test.

A Tremendous Gap Between Rich and Poor

83% of the 20% richest students passed the test, while only 0,8% of the 20% poorest students passed. This means that in the poorest segment, only 8 out of every 1000 students passed the test.

According to the type of school, whether private pay, government subsidised, or municipal / public free school, 81% of the students attending private pay schools passed the test, while only 7% of students in public schools pass.

Government subsidised schools had the highest increase on the 2012 test. The National English Test (Simce Inglés) was first implemented as national policy in 2010. The results of that year were a pass rate of 11%. The 2012 result, therefore, is an increase of 7% in the passing percentage.

Click here for Test Results


About profesorbaker

Thomas Baker is the Past-President of TESOL Chile (2010-2011). He enjoys writing about a wide variety of topics. The source and inspiration for his writing comes from his family.
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