In my article, English education in Japan (TFP, September 1), I based my argument
on TOEFL-based ranking tables for English skills among the OECD countries.
However, as Brady Strachan from Canada pointed out, the results of the
"OECD" survey didn't really add up in that the U.S. comes as
low as No. 25 in the 2002/2003 survey, for instance. When trying to double-check
on this point, I could learn the following:
1) I thought I was citing the ranking tables from the OECD website because I had previously come across similar ones when I was browsing through it. But I was wrong. Actually I was downloading the tables from a different site named Economic & Social Dataranking run by Kenji Suzuki, assistant professor at the European Institute of Japanese Studies.
2) Japanese staff stationed in the "Tokyo Center" of the OECD are so uncivilized species as to hung up on me before I could finish my first question: "Could you help me locate in your new website, SourceOECD , English skills data by country....?"
3) As the assistant professor at the EIJS suggested, I sent a mail to the ETS (Educational Testing Service) to ask how it defines the nationalities of the TOEFL examinees. I suspected the ETS possibly defines the examinees' nationalities not based on their actual nationalities, but on the countries in which the TOEFL tests are taken. My hunch at this moment, however, is the ETS won't get back to me very soon.
I think Mr. Suzuki of the EIJS assumes it right when he says these low scores for the countries whose official languages include, or whose official language is, English are just representative of the actual levels of TOEFL examinees because they are, more often than not, immigrants from non-English-speaking countries or regions.
Whatever is the case, one thing is for sure. My argument in that article dealing with English education in Japan holds true no matter what.