In recent years, the popularity of international certification exams in English has increased in Kazakhstan. In the modern world, certificates of knowledge of the English language are necessary both for studying and living in English-speaking countries, and also for a successful career abroad. Various language centers offer preparation services for obtaining the most prestigious certificates, such as First Certificate in English (FCE) — a test of proficiency in British English for intermediate students on an absolute scale of English levels, Certificate in Advanced English (CAE), Certificate of Proficiency in English (CPE), TOEFL and finally IELTS.
IELTS stands for International English Language Testing System. The IELTS exam is specially designed for people who need to study their English language skills for educational, professional or immigration purposes. This test also assesses a person's communication skills across four language skills — listening, reading, speaking and writing.
The IELTS system was developed by the examination committee of the University of Cambridge in cooperation with the British Council and IDP Education Australia, the largest educational organization in Australia. At the moment, there are more than three hundred centers for the preparation and conduct of IELTS exams in more than a hundred countries. The exam is held several times a month in such centers, and the results are known two weeks after the date of the exam. Students and graduate students usually take the so-called academic IELTS exam, and those who plan to work or permanently reside in English-speaking countries usually prepare for the General Training IELTS exam.
Since IELTS is an international testing system, its developers adhered to the lexical and syntactic norms accepted in English-speaking countries. All applicants are invited to pass the same listening and speaking tests, but the sections in which reading and writing skills are tested differ depending on the chosen module of the exam — general or academic.
Thus, the IELTS exam consists of two parts — written and oral. The written part is divided into tasks that test listening, reading and writing skills, while the oral part tests the test-taker's speech skills and is a short conversation with the teacher on general topics. All written assignments must be completed on the same day in one examination session. The oral portion of the test must be completed within seven days before or after the written examination.
Correct answers in the IELTS system are graded on a 9-point scale, with each section of the test assessed separately. Then the results are summed up, the arithmetic mean is calculated. The final result can be rounded to half a point. It should also be borne in mind that an IELTS test result is valid only for two years from the date of its receipt, that is, such a certificate can only be used in the short term.
In this regard, the question arises: will the IELTS certificate be in demand in Kazakhstan? To answer this question, we need to consider the following points.
Thus, the need for students and specialists in obtaining international certificates for further education or work abroad was noticed by both the heads of many metropolitan and regional universities and private entrepreneurs. And since demand, as you know, creates supply, there is no shortage of language centers that offer preparation and even administration of exams such as IELTS. This is undoubtedly a positive moment, because a person planning to immigrate or go to study in another country, in most cases, will turn to such a center to obtain an international certificate. Which, however, does not mean that such an exam cannot be passed without preparation: it can be quite successful. However, even a person who demonstrates the highest level of language proficiency runs the risk of taking an IELTS test with a low or even unsatisfactory result. The reason for this failure, undoubtedly, lies in the characteristics of testing and psychological characteristics of the individual.
Psychologists have shown that people with a logical type of thinking get higher scores on tests than people who are prone to creative or panoramic analysis. In the same way, if a person suffers from, say, impaired attention, and it is precisely this disease that in most cases does not allow for testing with a high result, this does not mean that such a person has a low level of intelligence or cannot learn a foreign language. And, finally, in a test situation, the internal tension of any person increases many times over, which, naturally, interferes with concentrating on the task. In addition, the test as a form of measuring knowledge does not allow checking and evaluating high productive levels of knowledge related to creativity, that is, probabilistic, abstract and methodological knowledge.
In addition, it is necessary to take into account the fact that the education system in Kazakhstan is significantly different from the English or American, where children are taught to take various tests practically from kindergarten. It has been scientifically proven that a person who is not used to working with the so-called multiple choice tests (multiple choice tests) runs the risk of choosing the wrong answer, even if he knows the correct answer perfectly. In Kazakhstan, children are taught to answer directly posed questions, and not to put a tick in front of one of the four answer options.
That is, it is quite obvious that Western tests (personality or language) for their correct application in our country need a serious revision — cultural and psychometric adaptation. But it is impossible to adapt the test for knowledge of a foreign language; one can only prepare for such a test. This is what numerous language centers specializing in preparing for IELTS exams and other international certificates are doing: they do not teach English, but teach to take tests in English.
However, it's fair to say that not all exams are the same. And if TOEFL and IELTS are diagnostic exams (relatively speaking, «came and passed»), then Cambridge exams such as FCE, CAE, CPE, BEC are higher level exams. Preparing for them takes a long time (for example, the CPE exam preparation course is at least 216 academic hours, while the maximum possible number of academic hours spent on IELTS preparation is only 120), and certificate applicants do not.... just learn to mechanically get tested, and improve your language skills. In addition, the final cost of the preparatory course and the IELTS exam itself is significantly lower than the similar cost of CPE, and this largely explains the popularity of IELTS in Kazakhstan.
However, this does not in any way imply that an international English language exam preparation program (such as IELTS or CAE) can be used as a core curriculum in a higher education institution. At least this is absurd.
The program of teaching a foreign language in higher education should be drawn up taking into account modern requirements for teaching foreign languages and trends in the development of continuous language education, the goals and objectives of the course are determined taking into account the real possibilities. and the needs of students in the use of a foreign language in various spheres of communication, including social, academic and professional. Such a program determines the content and forms of control at various stages of training, consistent with the stated goals and objectives and ensuring both the management of the educational activities of students in the course of studying the course, and the strengthening of the degree of their preparation. educational autonomy. And the IELTS format implies preparation for a specific exam. People prepare for IELTS not in order to improve their level of language proficiency, but solely to obtain a certificate that subjectively certifies one or another level of language proficiency.
Deepening and expanding international cooperation in various spheres of public life requires a modern graduate of a higher educational institution to have a practical knowledge of a foreign language. Proficiency in English as the language of international communication helps to realize such aspects of professional activity as timely acquaintance with new technologies, discoveries and trends in the development of science and technology, establishing contacts with foreign firms and enterprises, that is, it provides an increase in the level of professional competence of a specialist.
The main objective of the English language course at the university should be the practical knowledge of the language by students. In other words, in acquiring such a level of communicative competence that would allow them to use English in their field of professional activity, in scientific and informational activities, in direct communication with foreign partners, for self-education and in many other cases.
At the same time, the development of reading skills is also a mandatory and leading component of the educational process. This is due to the following reasons. Familiarization of specialists with foreign experience in any field of activity is carried out mainly through print channels (publications in the media and scientific journals, bulletins, patents, technical and other documentation, etc.). The ability to work with literature is a fundamental component of any scientific or informational activity. The independent work of a specialist to improve qualifications or the level of language proficiency is always associated with reading. If in the professional activity of a specialist oral communication in a foreign language is episodic, then reading does not allow those skills and abilities that were developed during their studies at the university to fade away, and, if necessary, helps to restore them relatively quickly.
The IELTS-based course, in turn, teaches you to work with certain texts in a certain format and according to a certain scheme. So, all materials for the test for reading the general module are selected from newspapers, magazines, advertising booklets, official documents, instructions and other reliable sources that a foreigner will inevitably have to deal with in an English-speaking country. Such tasks test the ability of the test taker to understand and use this or that information. The written assignment in this case consists of two parts. First, the test taker composes a short (at least 150 words) letter in which he asks a question or explains something, and then writes an essay (at least 250 words) on the given topic. The purpose of this task is to test whether the test taker can discuss certain problems, communicate or request information, express and prove their point of view.
The IELTS academic test materials are intended for undergraduate and graduate students who will study in an English-speaking country. All texts of the academic module are selected in books, newspapers and magazines and have an artistic or journalistic orientation. The writing part also consists of two tasks. As part of the first task, the test taker must compose a short (at least 150 words) description of the proposed figure or table, and the second task is an answer to any question in the form of an essay (at least 250 words). the words).
It is quite obvious that in the case of IELTS, it is not about developing and improving the skills of understanding and reading texts, but about assessing the skills already acquired in working with texts based on materials selected and adapted by the test developers.
Do not forget that learning a foreign language is not only practical, but also has educational and educational goals.
The educational role of the English language as the language of Lingua Franca  is associated, first of all, with the ability to join with its help to sources of information, timely access to which is practically closed due to ignorance of this universal language, with the mastery of skills of working with scientific, journalistic and artistic literature, with the expansion of the general and professional outlook, with the ability to communicate with foreign colleagues, with an increase in the culture of speech, etc. This determines the status of the English language as a discipline contributing to the humanization of the educational process.
The educational potential of the English language course is realized in the willingness of the university to contribute to the establishment of intercultural (in the broad sense of the word) ties, to treat the spiritual values of other nations with understanding and respect.
The full implementation of educational and educational goals directly depends on the successful solution of practical problems, in connection with which the latter are considered a priority.
The organization of the educational process in English assumes the maximum consideration of the needs, interests and personal characteristics of the student. Thus, the student acts as a full participant in the educational process, built on the principles of conscious partnership and interaction with the teacher, which is directly related to the development of the student's independence, his creative activity and personal responsibility for the effectiveness of learning. The IELTS format provides for the implementation of specific tasks in a clearly specified time frame, interaction with the teacher in this case is reduced to a minimum, the personal characteristics of the students are not taken into account, the creativity does not develop: the main thing is to complete this or that task correctly, in the right form and on time.
Meanwhile, the implementation of the main goal of teaching English involves solving a whole range of educational tasks, namely:
– the formation of English-language skills of oral and written communication — such as reading original literature of different functional styles and genres, the ability to take part in a professional conversation, express an extensive register of communicative intentions, master the main types of monologue and dialogical speech (in compliance with the rules of speech etiquette) and the main types business writing, as well as the skills of listening and translating the submitted data, both orally and in writing;
– knowledge of language means and the formation of adequate language skills in such aspects as phonetics, vocabulary and grammar;
– Ability to use a dictionary and reference literature in English;
– knowledge of the national culture, as well as the culture of doing business in English-speaking countries;
– the ability to conduct an independent creative search.
The success of solving these problems is ensured by a variety of teaching methods and teaching techniques, among which the most effective are team (group) types of work, creative projects, reader conferences, round tables. and discussions, data analysis of business actions, work with relevant journalistic materials, and so on. For the primary and secondary consolidation of the skill, pair work is recommended (language exercises, deterministic dialogues in various communication situations with the rules of speech etiquette, comparison of points of view on various problems). In a word, everything that cannot be fully provided within the framework of the course of study in the IELTS format.
After completing the study of the English language under such a program in a Kazakhstani university, the specialist must have the communicative competence necessary for the Russian-language study activities and creative comprehension of foreign experience in the field of his specialization, as well as for business and professional communication. In addition, a graduate of a higher education institution must:
– master all kinds of reading of original simple pragmatic texts and texts on a wide and narrow profile of specialties;
– understand monologue and dialogical speech by ear in the spheres of everyday and professional communication;
– be able to participate in a conversation, expressing the required amount of communicative intentions and observing the rules of speech etiquette;
– master the basic types of monologue statements, including the basics of public speech, such as oral communication, report, presentation;
– be able to convey information in writing, expressing the necessary range of communicative intentions;
– compose annotations, annotations and annotations;
– write personal letters;
– fill out forms, questionnaires and write a resume;
– write business letters (including memos, cover and recommendation letters, letter of request and response to it, letter of complaint and response to it, letter of order and response to order);
– prepare memoranda and reports;
– be able to carry out adequate written translation from English into the native language of simple texts in the specialty (business letters, documents and journalistic articles);
– have a lexical minimum of at least 4000–5000 educational lexical units of a general and terminological nature;
– have grammatical skills that ensure communication of a general and professional nature without distorting the meaning in written and oral communication;
– have listening and speaking skills typical for neutral speech and ensuring successful general communication in various spheres of everyday oral and professional communication;
– be able to use dictionaries and reference books in English;
– have an idea of the culture and traditions of the English-speaking countries.
While the IELTS curriculum, with a maximum of 120 academic hours, is nothing more than a highly specialized exam preparation course designed to give a very cursory assessment of basic language skills.
The control of teaching English at each stage of training is usually carried out in the form of written or oral testing and an oral examination, when the quality of the skills and abilities formed and their compliance with the student's level of training are checked. The forms of control reproduce the situations of reading, speaking and writing, which are most typical for various types of everyday and business communication in the field of trainees' specialization.
The main forms of monitoring are oral questioning, individual and group presentations, reports, written tests, written creative assignments, etc. The purpose of the exam, which completes the English course at the university, is to check the student's readiness to use English (the degree of proficiency in the necessary types of speech activities) in professional activities and everyday life. For this, in the format of the exam, situations of reading, translation and oral communication are reproduced, which are most typical for different types of professional activity.
The IELTS exam format, in comparison with the regular exam format, allows, as noted above, only to assess the level of proficiency in some language skills within the IELTS curriculum.
From all of the above, we can conclude that higher educational institutions of Kazakhstan, of course, can organize training courses in the IELTS format for students, but such courses should be introduced no earlier than 2 years before graduation, such courses should in no case be partially or completely replace the traditional English course, and passing the IELTS course, as well as passing the IELTS exam, should be optional. Moreover, in cases where the course and the subsequent exam in the IELTS format are organized at the expense of a higher educational institution, it would be advisable to require from students wishing to study in such a course and pass the exam, letters of recommendation from leading teachers in English and, possibly, permission of the Department of English.
Otherwise, the quality of teaching in English and the level of language competence of graduates may significantly decrease. This is especially true in Kazakhstan, where, for a number of reasons, most graduates of non-linguistic universities (both capital and regional) demonstrate an extremely low level of English proficiency.
Foreign language and professional knowledge are the foundation of the future”. That is, it is quite obvious that when developing a curriculum in English as the language of international communication, one should first of all think about the ultimate goals of such a program. You should not pursue prestige and fashion: this is inappropriate when it comes to educating future specialists.
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