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ELT News, September 2009

Rationale And Ideology of the KPG Exams

1. THE POLITICAL ASPECT OF KPG

  • The Greek state certificate for foreign language proficiency known as KPG offers exams in European languages of 'value' to the Greek society

  • It is a product of and a service offered by the state at no material or symbolic profit

  • Exams are offered to people living, studying and working in Greece, provided they understand the Greek language

2. THE RATIONALE OF KPG

  • KPG aims at evaluating proficiency in different European languages 

    • in a unified manner

    • with respect to all languages

    • by focusing on the use of the target language as a foreign language

  • The certificate of language proficiency is viewed as:

    • work qualification and professional credential

    • attestation to literacy

    • instrument for lifelong learning

    • passport for educational and professional mobility inside and outside the European Union (E.U.)

3. IDEOLOGY OF KPG

  • KPG views European languages as potentially equal and does not promote one single language

  • It views the language certificate, as well as all credentials which are considered necessary for access to education and work, as public goods

  • It views linguistic pluralism as valuable to contemporary Greek society and to Europe

4. KPG AS A GLOCAL SYSTEM

  • KPG has a glocal (global + local) character and the certificate issued by the Greek state is recognized nationally and inter-nationally

  • It issues certificates to those candidates who pass the exams with a view to using language in a global context

  • Despite the localisation of the exams, they have an international orientation

  • The language features of the texts used for the exams are not related to one sociocultural reality since KPG languages are viewed as polycentric

4.1. The international character of KPG

  • KPG uses international experience for organization of the system and development of:

    • Resources, such as material and item banks, data bases, evaluation tools, search engines, etc.

    • Instruments of language proficiency measurement

    • Tools for quality assessment

    • Approaches to examiner and rater training

    • Research projects

  • KPG research findings and results constitute contributions to the field of testing and assessment internationally.

4.2. Internationalisation and localisation

  • Despite its international orientation and its European character, the KPG focuses on the Greek user of the target language and aims to cover local needs

  • It is designed to respond to the demands of education and the labour market in Greece

  • Tests are designed taking into serious account the candidates for whom they are constructed, i.e., their interests, lived experiences, linguistic and cultural knowledge

4.3. The European character of KPG

  • It is based on the 6-level scale set by the Council of Europe to describe levels of language proficiency. From its beginning, it has used the CEFR as a basic reference for the design of the examination battery

  • Since the KPG certificate is issued by a public organization of a member state, all other countries of the E.U. automatically recognize it

  • Basically, KPG is a European Languages Examination System

  • Up to the present it has developed exams in five 'big' European languages (English, French, German, Italian and Spanish) and in the near future it will introduce one more (Russian)

  • In late 2009, it is introducing one more neighbouring language (Turkish)

4.3.1. Compatibility of KPG with E.U. aims

  • It responds to social needs of citizenry in Greece as an E.U. member state

  • Its action plan is compatible with the European Union Multilingualism Policy as articulated in 2007, by the Directorate General of Education and Culture and with the E.U. Commission's Multilingualism Action Plan 2007-2013, which relate to the issues presented below

4.3.2. KPG and multilingualism

  • It is based on the principle of multilingualism, recognizing that it is important for groups and individuals to communicate in more than one languages

  • It is in this sense that multilingualism is an asset for Europe where multilingual communicative practices are common and actually work, and where speakers of different languages take on the role of mediator and communicate with each other in an inter-linguistic manner

4.3.3. KPG and formal education

  • KPG is linked with school education:

    • It is linked directlyin the sense that: (a) it has a backwash effect on language teaching/ learning practices in schools, (b) it shapes attitudes to language and language learning, (c) it motivates the development of strategies for speech comprehension and production

    • It is linked indirectly in the sense that (a) the FL school curricula are taken into account for its specifications, and vice-versa, (b) KPG preparation is introduced in school support programmes

  • In the future, it will also be linked with tertiary education, adult education, 'Second-chance' secondary schools and workplace education

4.3.4. KPG and lifelong learning

  • KPG recognizes that learning does not stop when formal schooling stops and that the continuous development of new knowledge and new skills is a demand of the new knowledge society

  • KPG exams measure knowledge developed within but also outside formal education. They include activities that assess skills, strategies and competencies which will facilitate communication in the workplace and in society at large

4.3.5. KPG and new lifeworld skills

  • Lifelong learning relates not only to the traditional abilities such as reading and writing but also to lifeworld skills such as:

    • assessing situations and problem solving

    • organizing things, ideas and managing people and situations

    • knowing how to learn

    • managing intercultural encounters

    • cooperating with others

    • using more than one language at the same time languages and mediating

    • using a computer and the Internet

    • using scientific/technological tools

4.3.6. KPG and multiliteracies

  • Multiliteracies (scientific, digital, linguistic, cultural) demand an awareness of new language forms and genres, which make up an important part of the KPG exams.

  • The view of language underlying task and item design is linked to theories of social literacy and to multiliteracies. That is, exams do not merely test language comprehension and production. They measure the extent to which the candidate can create meaning by transforming available sources of meaning (discourse, text, image, sound, etc.) articulated in mono- or mutli-modal texts.

4.3.7. KPG and mediation

  • The process of meaning making and transformation is at the heart of mediation

  • Mediation is the task of acting as an intermediary between cultures, languages, discourses and texts

  • Ōhis task requires new linguistic and cultural concepts but also strategies and approaches not necessarily taught but required for effective citizenry in multicultural and multilingual societies

  • Written and oral mediation tasks are an essential part of the KPG exams

4.3.8. KPG and Information and Communication Technologies (ICT)

  • Texts used in the KPG exams often refer to ICT and tasks often require a certain degree of digital literacy

  • KPG will soon be using a web based platform, as it is upgrading its services in order to be able to have web based communication with interested parties and e-training for its evaluators through a new sophisticated portal

  • Finally, KPG will soon be making available an on-line diagnostic test, and in the future an e-test version which will supplement rather than replace the pen-and-paper tests

4.3.9 KPG and candidates with individual needs

  • Respecting citizens' individual needs, KPG has planned to offer different exams for different groups of candidates (considering age, literacy level, educational institution)

  • It is considering exams leading to certification of language proficiency for occupational purposes

  • It has taken and will take additional measures to help candidates with learning difficulties, disabilities, etc.)

  • It is studying the possibility of adapting tests for candidates with special educational needs and disabilities

5. CONTRASTING KPG TO OTHER EXAM BATTERIES

In comparing the KPG exams to other exam batteries, one finds that it has some features in common with international language examination batteries, but it also has several distinct features, since it is based on international experience but caters to local needs.

  • Its rationale is similar to other state or national language exams.

  • It differs from many international exams in that

    • It tests awareness of how language operates to create meanings, but it also indirectly tests levels of literacy and intercultural awareness

    • It systematically tests language functions and specifically the ideational, the interpersonal, the creative and mediatory function of language

    • Unlike any other international language exams, KPG tests candidates' mediation skills – an aspect included in the Common European Framework of Reference. 

6. BASIC FEATURES OF THE KPG EXAMS

  • Systematic description of test tasks in all KPG languages shows that:

    • There is a greater variety of discourses, genres and registers than in the tests of other exams

    • The higher the level being tested the higher the demands as to appropriate language use according to genre and context

    • Test items, motivated by multimodal texts, are distinctly different from those motivated by monomodal texts

    • Listening comprehension is tested on the basis of authentic texts recorded for the exams

  • The system is organized so that, unlike most others in that:

    • scripts are rated by two trained evaluators on the basis of instruments constructed for this purpose.

    • there is transparency regarding the language theory behind KPG testing.

    • there is also transparency regarding what candidates are expected to do at each level of proficiency.

    • exams take place in examination centres which are controlled by local authorities for the public welfare

  • KPG has a socially marked aspect to it:

    • It is not stimulated by private but by the public welfare and for this reason it is subsidized by the state

    • Its motive is not the promotion of a single language as the cultural capital of a country

    • The exams focus on the socially located use of language and not on language as an autonomous system of notions and structures – independent of their socially construed meanings. In other words, they take into account the social conditions of the target language use

    • KPG is linked with education and the social life in Greece

    • The thematic concerns of test texts and activities are socially sensitive

MORE INFORMATION ABOUT THE KPG EXAMS

  • For detailed information in Greek, i.e., specifications for the exams in all KPG languages, past papers and much more visit the new site of the Ministry of National Education and Religious Affairs: www.kpg.ypepth.gr. The KPG portal is on its way to being completed and it will offer different types of information to a wide variety of visitors.

  • For information regarding The KPG Exams
    , see also: http://rcel.enl.uoa.gr/

Bessie Dendrinos
Professor of the University of Athens
Director for The KPG Exams

 

This text is based on a presentation by Prof. B. Dednrinos at the international conference organized by the Ministry of Education in November 2008. The title of the conference was “Global Experience and local needs in foreign language assessment and certification: the case of the Greek KPG Exams” and it gave an opportunity to members of the KPG language teams and the Central Exam Board to present to the KPG to Greek language teachers, to all those interested in the foreign language teaching enterprise in Greece, and to representatives of Ministries of Education from all European Union countries.

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