Beijing education authorities are moving to limit the influence of English, one of the three “major” subjects for college entrance exams, in an education reform plan announced yesterday.

From 2016, the total score for the English test — one of the three majors along with Chinese and mathematics — will be lowered from 150 to 100 in college exams held in Beijing. Instead, the extra marks will be used for Chinese and comprehensive tests. There are no changes for the mathematics scores.

The move is being described as one of the series of measures to relieve the burden on children, but the issue of English — and parents forcing kids to learn the language — has been a subject of heated debate over the past several years.

The Beijing Education Examinations Authority said senior high school students can sit for English tests twice in a year. If they get perfect marks in the first year of senior school, they can skip it for the next two years. The scores will be valid for three years.

The Beijing Education Commission also announced that English classes will be dropped for students in Grade 1 and 2.

In east China’s Shandong Province, English listening test will be dropped from next year’s college entrance exams.

In 2005, China allowed regional education authorities to decide if they wanted to include English listening test in their college entrance exams. Six provinces dropped it altogether that year.

The use of English as a language came into prominence in the 1980s following China’s reform and opening up policy. It became the “passport” for promising jobs in the future and the chance to study abroad. Since then, English, Chinese and mathematics have become “major” subjects, with English tending to dominate the other two.

So much is its influence that it becomes a common sight to see parents enroll toddlers to English language schools when they could barely even speak. Many Chinese parents prefer sending their children to attend English training programs rather than have them learn classic Chinese.

College graduates applying for post-graduate programs are all required to sit for an English exam even if their subjects of choice are Chinese literature or organic chemistry.

But a research by the Shanghai International Studies University showed that fewer than 5 percent were capable of holding conversation in English.

key words
高考ɡāo kǎo: college entrance exams
英语考试yīnɡ yǔ kǎo shì:English test
取消qǔ xiāo:cancel