Standardisation: interrogations and implications.

Alan Maley

The word ‘standard’ has a number of meanings, which will be explored.  This will be followed by a discussion of standardisation in terms of a language, of levels of achievement in a language, of teacher qualification, of materials, of assessment.  How feasible is it, theoretically and practically to set standards for each of these? An attempt will then be made to lay out as clearly as possible the positive and negative implications of standardisation. One issue which is inevitably raised is where the standards are to come from.  In this connection, the currently best-established system, namely the Common European Framework, will be considered, including its appropriacy for ‘export’ to other parts of the world.  Standardisation can be a powerful stimulus for improvement, both directly and through its wash-back effect, and a strong framework of criteria  can support the overall language teaching system.  However, adopting a ‘standard’has heavy consequences in terms of specification, implementation, monitoring training and regulation.  Arush to standardisation without carefully considering the implications can turn wash-back into backlash, and a framework into a prison cell.