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Migration-related Russian Language Tests to be Semi-Automated
The Pushkin State Institute plans to begin remote testing for foreigners needing proof of their Russian language proficiency levels. The test is to be online and a program will assess knowledge levels without the participation of a human teacher, except for the creative writing part; that test is to be written by hand and will need to be scanned and sent the institute.
Those who pass the new online tests will be presented with an official international certificate.
The developers say the methodology is comparable with international proficiency tests in English and other languages. They expect to launch the system in early 2018.
The remote methodology will extend to all tests that are already underway, including testing for school-age children, testing for adults for everyday and business communication, individuals working in the international travel industry, as well as for migrants seeking residency and/or work in Russia.
According to Oleg Radchenko, head of the Center for Linguodidactics, Language Testing and Migration Policy Promotion of the Pushkin Institute, earlier, an institute specialist traveled other countries to pilot the testing process on site. After taking the exam, the specialist returned with all the materials, and they were checked manually. "Now we have an opportunity to provide our local centers in the country and around the world with access to the system that we are developing in our institute. Now a person can sit at a computer and perform all tasks needed for testing. There are tasks for reading and listening as well as tasks related to vocabulary and grammar. Everything is done on the computer, and the computer checks it" Mr. Radchenko said.
According to him, to test speech skills, the user will also not need a teacher: the examiner will respond recorded prompts and specialists will then evaluate the recorded conversation.
A video recording of the test will help to avoid cheating, and at the entrance local observers from the partner network of the institute will determine the identity of each applicant. After the testing is finished, the local center staff will again check the personal data of each applicant.
At the moment in Russia, there are five institutions authorized to conduct official Russian as a Foreign Language tests: Moscow State University, St. Petersburg State University, Peoples' Friendship University of Russia, Tomsk State University, and Pushkin State University with a network of local centers (210 in Russia and more than 60 in the world). Since 2013 the Institute has been a scientific-methodical and information-analytical center for the state program for promoting the Russian language and education in Russian.
The test, known by its Russian acronym TRKI, consists of listening, reading, writing, speaking, vocabulary, and grammar. It is graded on a 100-point system. The minimum passing score is a 60, although this can differ based on the purpose the test taker is taking the test. Developers of the remote methodology note that it covers all levels of language proficiency from A1 to C2 and is suitable for all existing testing purposes.
Some specialists expressed doubt that it will be advisable to exclude live applicant-teacher interaction entirely from the process even with the new system. For example, the vice-rector for the continuing education at the People's Friendship University Angela Dolzhikova asserted that language tests are "not a barrier, but an adaptation procedure" and, therefore, one cannot completely exclude live communication with teachers. She also stressed that students in Russian educational facilities do not take computerized exams for foreign languages: "I support the computerization of all standardized tests, but the procedure for listening and speaking should be conducted by teachers."
According to the developers, a pilot run of the new system was carried out in Vietnam and revealed technical problems. More tests are planned for Spain, the US, and a number of other countries. The Pushkin Institute believes that the implementation of the system is possible in January-February 2018.
Translated by Alinga Consulting Group.
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