“So Far Only Those Who Really Need the Foreign Language Study It”

What Teachers Think About Giving up the USE in English in Russia
Irina Sycheva | 08 August 2020
“So Far Only Those Who Really Need the Foreign Language Study It”

Was this idea abandoned in vain or is the school really not ready for this exam?

The Ministry of Education abandoned the idea of ​​introducing a compulsory Unified State Exam in a foreign language. It was previously planned to make it mandatory along with Russian and mathematics from 2022. “Pravmir” talked to the teachers of the English language and found out what they thought about the exam in a foreign language.

Elizaveta Paremuzova, English teacher, trainer-methodologist, specialist in assessing the effectiveness of educational processes, developer of educational and methodological materials says:

Firstly, this project has not yet been adopted. In education, as in any other field, anything can happen with a 180-degree turn for a variety of reasons at the very last moment.

Secondly, if adopted, it will be a positive decision.

I know that the prospect of introducing a compulsory USE in a foreign language really caused both the discontent of parents and the great alarm of teachers. And the fact that people were heard makes me happy.

The system of teaching foreign languages ​​in Russia is not ready for such a step. It still cannot provide all students in our country with the necessary knowledge, skills and abilities. It is necessary to invest very seriously in the professional development of teachers, and to change a lot in general. Therefore, I tend to see this suggestion as a manifestation of rationality.

Because if this exam were introduced in 2022, it would be an unrealistic goal.

We have such a large country and such different educational contexts that it is unreasonable to introduce a unified exam in a foreign language to obtain a certificate of secondary education.

I strongly disagree with the opinion that due to the absence of a compulsory USE in a foreign language, children will not have an incentive to learn it. Because the need to pass an exam in order to graduate from school is not a sufficient external motivation for mastering a foreign language. The motivation will be to study a foreign language in order to enter some college.

It is also important to understand that if we don’t take it in 2022, it doesn’t mean that we won’t decide to do it in 2024, for example.

There is still a draft law that has not yet been adopted, which states that in 2022 we will not take the English language exam throughout the country. And it’s very good. This academic year was ruined, it is not clear what will happen next year, how it will pass.

This decision, in my opinion, is not about the value of the subject. It seems to me that the value of a subject in public policy is not determined by the presence or absence of a mandatory exam for it.”

Teaching English in Schools Is in a Deplorable State

An English teacher at a gymnasium in St. Petersburg (asked not to be named) says:

In my opinion, the fact that they decided not to include the exam in a foreign language in the list of compulsory USE is a justified measure. It was a hasty decision.

The situation with the teaching of this subject not only in the regions, but also in many schools of large cities is deplorable. There are no teachers, there is no division into groups (the class is divided only if there are 25 people in it), children have no motivation, they do not see the need for this subject.

Still, the quality of teaching is, perhaps, in the first place. Therefore, my colleagues in St. Petersburg, who previously worked in the regions, immediately said that this was an untenable idea.

In my opinion, the introduction of a compulsory exam would not give an additional incentive to learn a foreign language, would not change the situation. Whoever needed it will continue to study it. After all, there is no exam yet, and many students learn the language, and very seriously. So, the opinion that “without an exam there will be no motivation” is in not true, I think. The stimulus is not in the exam.

I do not know if the school will be ready in the future for the introduction of a compulsory exam in a foreign language. But there is no and cannot be equal sign between the exam and knowledge. Out of my 38 students, 20 took English this year, but only two didn’t study it properly.

The country is not ready at the moment. Before testing something, you need to teach it. At the same time, personally, I would not be afraid of the exam, all my students and students of my colleagues at the school where I work, would pass it calmly.”

The Exam Can Stimulate Language Learning

Irina Matveeva, English teacher from Irkutsk, says:

In my opinion, a compulsory English exam would stimulate children to learn it. They would be more conscious and serious about the fact that they need to prepare, listen carefully, complete all the tasks, because they will have to pass the exam and there is no getting away from it.

It would really be stimulating.

I would prefer there was a USE in English at two levels: basic – compulsory for everyone – and profile – for those who need it to enter a university. This is logical.

When they started talking about the introduction of the Unified State Exam in a foreign language as a compulsory one, it was said that this would require large investments. We need some additional materials, courses for teachers, an increase in the number of hours, methodological support in order to bring schoolchildren to the level necessary for passing the exam.

Now, when a decision that has not been taken is canceled, it means that the state does not want to spend money on it. At least for teachers it looks like this.

On the other hand, it would be a hard decision. Because it would be very difficult for the students of an ordinary school to pass the exam. But it would be a conscious need, some kind of pressure from the outside, which would make schoolchildren take more efforts to learn English.

Now it is clear that this will not happen. And those who really need it will continue to be interested in the language.”

Translated by Alyona Malafeeva

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