Localization of the English Public Speaking Course in China's EFL Curriculum

By Wan, Jiangbo | Asian Social Science, January 2013 | Go to article overview

Localization of the English Public Speaking Course in China's EFL Curriculum


Wan, Jiangbo, Asian Social Science


Abstract

English Public Speaking has been introduced into China's tertiary curriculum only very recently. Although similar to its Western counterpart in many ways, a number of crucial elements of this course have yet to be localized. Apart from being a communication course, it is intrinsically an EFL course which builds upon and extends other courses in the EFL curriculum. Accordingly, the teaching objectives and content should be localized and adapted to China's status quo and students' need. Then this article moves on suggesting some localized methods to instruct small classes as well as large classes. It suggests that the formative assessment be used to best elicit students' reflection and progress and that a combined measure of quantitative-and-qualitative assessment, teacher-and-student assessment be used to achieve the best backwash. Last but not least, the article also introduces the potential research areas that can be explored in the years to come.

Keywords: English Public Speaking course, localization, EFL curriculum, teaching objectives, methods of instruction, formative assessment

1. Introduction

The course of English Public Speaking has entered the arena of China's tertiary education only very recently. Many teaching practitioners have been using textbooks or copying directly the teaching objectives, the chapters, methods of instruction, etc., from its equivalent course of western countries, only to find that it does not perfectly meet the requirements of China's tertiary curriculum or the demands of our students. After teaching and researching in this field for 5 years, the author calls on localizing the course and reorienting its teaching objectives, course design and assessment.

2. Historical Overview

It was recorded in year 1924's "Curriculum Guidance" of the English Department, Peking University, that Professor Yang Yinqing taught "Debating" and "Public Speaking" to English majors (Xu, 1989, p. 52), but these courses vanished as fast as they appeared - ever since then the English Public Speaking course has been absent from China's EFL curriculum for over 70 years.

In China's current EFL curriculum, the English Public Speaking course is a new arrival compared to most other courses. As far as this study has found, the first English Public Speaking course in tertiary education after the founding of the People's Republic of China was offered in 1991 by Su Xunwu in Heilongjiang University (Su, 1997), and from 1991 to 1999 there were only two more universities in China mainland offering this course, namely Beijing International Studies University and Beijing Foreign Studies University (Wang, 2009). The number grew very slowly between 2000 and 2005. According to Ren Wen, there were less than 20 universities offering the course during this period, but by year 2011, the number rockets to over 200 (Note 1). See Figure 1.

The causes of this sharp increase are multifold. First, the accelerative trend of globalization and the booming of China's economy in the past decade have pushed China to the center of the world stage, and more urgently than ever China needs to communicate with the rest of the world. Known as the official world language, the English language is taught in China as a most important foreign language, and cultivating students' English communication skills has been prioritized in the 2007 College English Curriculum Requirements (CECR) issued by China's Ministry of Education. (Note 2).

Second, the growing rate of English Public Speaking courses in China's tertiary education is related to the growing popularity of English public speaking competitions in the past 16 years. Among mushrooming English public speaking competitions at collegiate, provincial, regional and national levels, two nationwide competitions - the 21st Century Cup National English Public Speaking Competition initiated in 1996 and CCTV Cup National English Public Speaking Competition (now known as FLTRP Cup National English Public Speaking Competition) initiated in 2000 - have played a leading role and exerted a powerful influence on China's EFL curriculum, triggering researching and teaching interest of English Public Speaking in the TESOL circle (Lü, 2009; Wan, 2011; Wu, 2009), because before mid-1990s, public speaking, even in Chinese, was almost a virgin land to modern Chinese people and was not encouraged as it is today. …

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