Marginalizing English in high-stakes tests: An attitudinal study in China


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This paper highlights a series of measures deemphasizing English in high-stakes tests that recently have been, or shortly will be implemented in various parts of mainland China. It is contended here that these measures may be leading towards the marginalization of English via negative washback into secondary-school classrooms and students' self-learning behavior. This paper thus investigates the attitudes of secondary-school students from three locales: Beijing, Shenzhen and Zaozhuang. Findings revealed that negative washback arising from an increasing de-emphasis of English in high-stakes tests could lead to a reduction of students' short-term instrumental motivation. Additionally, although students from Beijing collectively gave priority to long-term instrumental motivation, the first concern of their counterparts in other regions tended to be their performance on approaching high-stakes tests, and their attitudes towards learning English was notably weaker than Beijing students. Copyright © 2016 Asian EFL Journal Press.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)160-194
JournalAsian EFL Journal
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2016


Shao, Q., & Stapleton, P. (2016). Marginalizing English in high-stakes tests: An attitudinal study in China. Asian EFL Journal, 18(4), 160-194.


  • China
  • Foreign language education policies
  • L2 motivation
  • Marginalization of English
  • Washback


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