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One Test to Rule Them All

In Japan, that test is supposed to be TOEIC, the Test of English for International Communication, which turns 30 this year. The Japan Times has a two-part series on the test, starting with a brief history.

Today, people in more than 90 countries take the TOEIC about 5 million times a year. South Korea is the only other country sharing Japan's enthusiasm for the test. About 80 percent of TOEIC test-takers live in Japan or South Korea. Elsewhere it remains largely unknown. For example, a recent survey showed that the TOEIC was the least known test of English proficiency in Germany, with only 2.8 percent of schoolteachers having even heard of it.

I had no idea that it was a made-in-Japan test and that the vast majority of test-takers are Japanese and Korean (which shows you how much I know).

The last paragraph caught my attention:

Yoshida was unable to speculate on TOEIC's future in Japan, but the IIBC chairman's blog provides a clue. Watanabe believes that every junior and senior high school should adopt the test for the good of the nation, writing, "Just imagine what it would be like if TOEIC spread to junior high and high schools all over Japan. The results would astonish people around the world. Japan would rise like a phoenix from the ashes, and Japanese women and men would begin to play more important roles on the international stage."

Where to start with this? Imagine if Japan could stun the world with its TOEIC results. They might be able to have the second largest economy in the world and be a leader in high technology. Oh, wait, that already happened without the test. I suppose I can't blame Watanabe for thinking big, but I'll be impressed when they fix the utterly broken approach to teaching English in school.