• STEP tour dates, Fall 2008

    STEP writers and editors hit the road in October and November for a
    series of presentations aimed at English teachers, writers, EIKEN
    examinees, and the international education community. Dates include:


    Ryugaku Journal World Fair

    (Nagoya, Osaka, Tokyo)

    October 10, 11, 13

    JALT 2008

    October 31 - November 3

    NAFSA Bi-Regional Conference (Honolulu)

    November 12-14

    Japan Writers Conference (Nagoya)

    November 29-30

    Fulbright Study in the U.S. Annual Outreach Program

    (Sapporo, Sendai, Fukuoka, Okinawa)

    October 11, 25; November 8, 14-15)

    Details are available at the event websites. Please note that some sites are in Japanese. (The above links are provided as a convenience; the inclusion of any link does not imply endorsement of the site by STEP.)

  • AFELTA conference attracts capacity audience in Tokyo

    English-language test developers and researchers from the Asian region gathered in Tokyo on November 30 and December 1, 2007, for the 10th annual Academic Forum on English Language Testing in Asia (AFELTA).


    The program, organized by the Society for Testing English Proficiency (STEP), featured a keynote address by the renowned Dr. James Dean Brown of the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Dr. Brown presented a paper entitled “What Do L2 Generalizability Studies Tell Us?” to a capacity audience at Arcadia Ichigaya.


    Afterwards, representatives from AFELTA member organizations gave presentations addressing the conference theme, “Something old, something new: revising and developing language tests in Asia to meet the needs and challenges of the 21st century.”


    To commemorate the forum’s 10-year anniversary, the program concluded with a symposium featuring Dr. Brown and a panel of testing professionals and moderated by Dr. Kensaku Yoshida of Sophia University. Joining Dr. Brown on the panel were Dr. Yang Huizhong of Shanghai Jiao Tong University; Dr. Randy Thrasher of Okinawa Christian University and president of the Japan Language Testing Association (JLTA); and Jamie Dunlea, content specialist at STEP and a member of the EIKEN Can-Do List project. The discussion topic was “A common framework for testing language proficiency in an Asian context: theoretical and practical implications.”


    Each panel member made a brief presentation on the topic and then joined the audience of over 100 in a lively question-and-answer session.


    Eight organizations participate in AFELTA: the National College English Testing Committee (Shanghai); the Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority (Hong Kong); College Entrance Examination Center (Taipei); the Language Training and Testing Center (Taipei); the Society for Testing English Proficiency, Inc. (Tokyo); the Korea English Language Testing Research Association (Seoul); the Center for Educational Measurement (Philippines); and the Singapore Examinations and Assessment Board (Singapore).


    The forum has been held in Shanghai, Hong Kong, Seoul, Taipei, and Tokyo.


    Recent conferences have featured keynotes from leading names in the field. In 2004, for the 7th AFELTA forum in Shanghai, the National College English Testing Committee welcomed Dr. Lyle Bachman of UCLA and Dr. Liz Hamp-Lyons of the University of Nottingham. The 8th annual conference in 2005, hosted by the Hong Kong Examination and Assessment Authority, featured Peter Skehan of the Chinese University of Hong Kong and Dr. Christine Davison, Associate Dean for Research at the University of Hong Kong. For the 2006 forum in Taiwan, the College Entrance Exam Center and the Language Training and Testing Center welcomed Dr. Bernard Spolsky, professor emeritus at Bar-Ilan University in Jerusalem.


    According to the AFELTA constitution, members “work to develop language testing expertise through academic exchanges, cooperation in scientific research, and exchange of information.” The annual conference gives members a chance to interact and share their expertise with local educators and the general public.

  • STEP gives presentation at NAFSA 2007 Annual Conference

    More than 100 delegates took part in a STEP-sponsored international education session on the opening day of the 2007 NAFSA conference in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Entitled "Japan Steps Forward: Awakening a New Generation of Japanese Students to the Dream of Study Abroad," the session featured presentations by education leaders from Japan and the United States.


    In his opening comments, Samuel M. Shepherd, session moderator and president of the National Association of Japan-America Societies (NAJAS), spoke about the growing need for U.S. colleges and universities to consider alternative English tests for international admissions, particularly for Japanese students. Shepherd is also the former Executive Director of the Japan Fulbright Commission. The first presenter, Michael Todd Fouts, chief editor at STEP, spoke about the history and design of the EIKEN Test in Practical English Proficiency, Japan's national English test since 1963. According to Fouts, EIKEN is unique among English tests because it is both widely administered – to 2.5 million examinees annually – and an "open" test, meaning that examinees keep their test booklets for use as study materials. EIKEN also includes a compulsory speaking test. Fouts explained how these factors, along with recent efforts by the Japanese education ministry to encourage study abroad, are contributing to the growth of EIKEN as an admissions qualification outside Japan.


    The session’s focal point was a research presentation by Tom Tsurutani, director of international education at the University of Hawaii’s Kapi'olani Community College (KCC). Tsurutani spoke in detail about an ongoing study in Hawaii to examine correlation between EIKEN and the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL®), the leading U.S. college admissions exam. Tsurutani reported that the study, which began in 2004 and has involved 600 international students from 25 countries, has found a strong correlation between EIKEN and the TOEFL® test, suggesting that EIKEN is a viable alternative. Tsurutani pointed out that the rationale for the study was KCC'S desire to broaden access for international students. EIKEN is offered at over 15,000 test sites in Japan, including most of the country's high schools, making it more accessible and familiar than other tests.


    The final speaker, Masaru Yamada, president of the Federation of Education and Language Consultant Associations (FELCA), described recent developments in Japan's study abroad field. Of particular interest is a test being developed by the Japan Association of Overseas Studies (JAOS) that will provide certification for Japanese study abroad counselors. Yamada reported that prospective counselors will be required to know, for example, that EIKEN test results can now be used when applying for colleges and universities outside Japan. It is believed that this will encourage more Japanese young people to consider studying abroad.