B2 or not B2? Isn’t That the Question?


For educators preparing the global citizens of the future, it seems as if Shakespeare may have got it wrong. Many of us no longer have the luxury of debating existential philosophy: To be or not to be? That is the question. Such was Prince Hamlet’s dilemma. Today, students and teachers alike are more concerned with graduation, employment and being relevant in a global economy. Many countries aspire to getting their English language learners to a B2 level on the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR) – but what does this really mean? Is a B2 student the same in every country? Is my B2 the same as your B2?

The CEFR has become a standard framework of reference for English Language teaching and assessment around the world - even though, as the name suggests, it was originally created for a European context. Whilst few would dispute the benefits that standards in education can bring, the use of the CEFR outside of Europe raises a number of questions: Is it relevant for different learning contexts? Does it meet local educational needs? Does it help our learners understand where they are in their language learning journey?

This presentation looks at research carried out with some 6000 teachers from over 50 countries – including Vietnam – into defining a proficiency framework that enables local requirements to be aligned to global standards: the Global Scale of English (GSE). We will explore some of the reasons why B2 appears to be challenging for many of our learners and offer some suggestions on how to overcome these challenges.

The presenter will also report on a second project to align other language frameworks and standards used around the world to the GSE. Such studies are mutually beneficial: confirming that global standards can be applied to the local context and that local requirements are globally relevant.