Considerations in Developing and Using CAT to Assess Students’ Proficiency in English as a Foreign Language in Indonesia

The new English curriculum for Secondary Schools in Indonesia is a competency-based curriculum (CBC) requiring students to acquire ability in accomplishing tasks adequately, to find solutions, and to realize them in real situations. The curriculum instructs the school to assess the student’s English competencies continuously. The English competencies that must be acquired are abilities of the students in using English as a means of social and interpersonal communication (Pedoman Khusus Model 3 Bahasa Inggris, 2002). Thus, the assessment of the students’ English competencies definitely deals with the four English skills. Such objectives can be achieved if the quality of education system as a whole, believing that competency is trainable, is guaranteed. Teachers, as one of the crucial factors of education system, must be qualified as they play a crucial role in achieving the school objectives.

This means that the graduates of teacher training colleges (TTCs) must be competent in the field having thorough knowledge of English and skills in English; they should be communicatively competent not only in formulating grammatically correct sentences, but also in using to speak, listen, write, and read. English proficiency is required for they would be models for their students. Being teachers of English, they must be able to impart their competence to learners, meaning that they should possess language competence to a greater degree than that expected of their students. Besides conducting good teaching-learning activities supported by good learning facilities and resources, to ensure graduating students’ English proficiency, a test should be administered.

Unfortunately, a standardized test which measures their English proficiency is not nationally but institutionally administered. Such a test varies in ensuring the English proficiency of the graduating students because the institutional English proficiency test is administered without any supervision from an independent body. As a result, graduates of TTCs often vary in their English competency; even many of them are not proficient enough to become teachers of English (Sadtono, 1995). Considering such a condition, a proficiency English test focusing on the general knowledge or skills prerequisite to teach English in secondary schools, or exit from TTCs should be administered. Such a test should be administered independently so that a national standard of proficiency for teachers can be measured. However, administering a national English proficiency test is expensive and cumbersome as well. A solution to the problem is the application of computer adaptive tests (CAT).

Given the rationale, application, and advantages of individual, standardized proficiency test using CAT on students with learning English difficulties in regular schools should be well considered as a positive development in language assessment practice. Students with learning English difficulties in regular schools in this paper refer to specific category including students at risk (Friend and Bursuck, 2002: 27) and students with low motivation. Indonesian students learning English at TTCs have limited experiences in using English as a means of communication. Many of them even are not exposed to English outside the class activities so that they are more likely than others, who are exposed to English both in and outside the classrooms, to fail in school.

In other words, they are students with limited English learning experiences. Including in the students at risk is “slow learners,” whose English progress is slightly below average but who do not have a learning disability or who are not mentally retarded. Students with low motivation are the ones who may not have intrinsic motivation in learning English. They usually have to join the English department because of their parents’ wish. Besides, they are usually not sure with the benefits of learning English.

Name : Ignatius Harjanto, Davy Budiono

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