International language test taking among young learners: A Hong Kong case study

Alice Chik*, Sharon Besser

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)


Many children around the globe are learning English as a foreign language, especially in Asia. Numbers of participants and development of programs are increasing rapidly, as is a commercial testing movement targeted toward assessing this group of young learners. For example, the popular Cambridge Young Learners English test series has had more than 360,000 young testers globally (Cambridge ESOL Examinations, 2004, 2007). Published research on assessment for young learners has focused on developing reliable and appropriate assessment instruments at school or national levels, but little work has focused on the private uses of commercial international language tests for children. Reporting on a 3-year project investigating Hong Kong young learners' participation in commercial international language test taking and preparation, this article explores stakeholders' perceptions on the practice in order to examine the social consequences. The project adopted a multimethod qualitative approach with data including interviews with stakeholders from the education and commercial sectors, classroom observations, participant observation in online parenting forums, and documentary research on media coverage and advertisements. Our findings suggested that in lieu of clear and perceived fairness in their own education system, stakeholders were using language tests as a grassroots movement to gain access to material educational resources.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)73-91
Number of pages19
JournalLanguage Assessment Quarterly
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2011
Externally publishedYes


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