Towards a common scale for China's vocational education English language curriculum


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Within the general context of the attention being given to vocational education in China and imminent major reform in the English language vocational education curriculum, this paper describes the construction of a set of calibrated tests of reading skills, grammar and vocabulary knowledge to inform curriculum planners about levels of ability in senior secondary vocational education schools. Since there is no common measure of English language competence in China's vocational education schools, the current study aims to provide such an instrument, with a set of tests that will provide a snapshot of vocational education students' English language competence in the above competence areas. The study describes the development of two sets of tests. The first test was developed with the objective of providing a set of IRT-calibrated items. These items were then used as anchors for a set of tests developed for less able, mid ability and more able students. After being administered to a large and diverse sample (N=1,200 for the three levels of tests), test means for mid ability and able students emerged, as hoped, close to zero and +1 logits. The test mean for less able students revealed that the test was rather more demanding, with a mean of −0.4 rather than −1 logits. Nonetheless, the three robust tests which have emerged cater to a spread of ability of almost three logits, which will provide valuable information on what is being and what may be achieved in terms of English language competence in China's vocational education schools as vocational education is expanded and developed and curriculum reform implemented. Copyright © 2009 The Vocational Aspect of Education Ltd.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)335-355
JournalJournal of Vocational Education and Training
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2009


Vocational Education
English language
vocational education school
education curriculum


Zhao, W., & Coniam, D. (2009). Towards a common scale for China's vocational education English language curriculum. Journal of Vocational Education and Training, 61(3), 335-355. doi: 10.1080/13636820903052435


  • Vocational education
  • China
  • English language
  • Assessment