The Rationale for the Establishment of the Japan Language Testing Association

The purpose for the establishment of the Japan Language Testing Association is to improve both the theoretical understanding and the practice of measurement and evaluation in foreign language education in Japan. In the field of Japanese foreign language education, there are not many professional organizations that study measurement and evaluation as their central concern. Why do we need to focus on measurement and evaluation now? One of the reasons is that there is a fear that the Japanese foreign language education is not viewing the total picture but focusing attention only on input. Many people who are involved in foreign language teaching have been concerned only with what sort of material shall be taught by what kind of teachers using what methodology. In other words, they have only considered the input side of language learning.

However, it cannot be said that the society is happy with the results of foreign language teaching. There is concern about the ineffectiveness of foreign language teaching and there is even a suggestion that English should be removed from the subjects included in the entrance examinations in order to improve the quality of English education.

Criticism from the society is not the only problem of this narrow view that looks only at the input side of education. There is also the problem that long-term research data has not been collected and such data is necessary to examine the result of the input side of foreign language education.

It is certainly a fact that the reputation of Japanese students’ ability of English is not as good as it should be after 10 years of English education at school (3 years at junior and senior high school respectively and 4 years at university). Besides, the results of international tests such as TOEFL show that Japanese students’ English ability is near to the bottom of the list of countries in the world. The important issue is not the fact that these students have been taught or studied English for as long as 10 years but rather what substantial changes in their performance have been brought about as a result of the instruction. That is to say, it is time to direct our attention to the output of language education. Only then will we be able to decide if the input of foreign language teaching in Japan is appropriate or not.

Looking at the output of foreign language education means dealing with the issues of measurement and evaluation. It is our hope that many people who share our concerns will take part in the Japan Language Testing Association and give thought to the significance of measurement and evaluation and the study and practice of it in Japan. In this way we will be able to contribute to the improvement of foreign language education here.