China's English: A History of English in Chinese Education

By Bob Adamson | Go to book overview
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7 Integrating with globalization, 1993 onwards

Despite the political uncertainties of the late 1980s, economic reforms such as the Open Door Policy continued unabated, which ensured that the trends towards pedagogical developments in the English Language curriculum that stressed communicative competence remained in place. The new curriculum that appeared in 1993 was marked by major innovations that took seven years to materialize for various logistical reasons, so the genesis lay in events that pre-dated the Tiananmen Square incident and the curriculum development was hindered but not stopped by the political turmoil.

The Open Door Policy increased people's dealings with English speakers and was a further significant boost to both the status and role of English. The development of international trade and the tourist industry led to the creation of well-paid jobs for translators and interpreters. Language study also became a form of entertainment, popularized by the increased access to electronic goods and to various forms of mass media in English produced either domestically or imported from overseas. There were increasing opportunities for foreign travel for business, study and, latterly, tourism. More educational institutions were able to import native-speaker teachers, initially at tertiary level and then increasingly at secondary level. China hosted international events such as the Asian Games in 1990 and the International Women's Conference in 1995, put in bids for the Olympic Games (failing in the attempt to win the 2000 Games, but winning the 2008 Games to be held in Beijing), and achieved entry into the World Trade Organization in November 2001. By the turn of the century, English had become a prerequisite for university entrance and for many posts in the civil service. Taxi drivers in major cities had to pass proficiency tests.

An interesting phenomenon that emerged in the late 1990s was Li Yang's 'Crazy English' learning method, which employs various techniques to overcome reticence in speaking English, such as chanting exhortatory slogans. Participants in 'Crazy English' classes are encouraged to 'speak as loudly as possible', 'speak as quickly as possible', and 'speak as clearly as possible'. Li

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