A story of the endeavors toward realizing a vision
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English Education

-CEFR/PROGOS Dissemination Part Two-Drawing Possibilities

Why do Ms. Ando and RareJob believe that CEFR must go mainstream in Japan?
The reason is found in the following question:

“Can you speak English?”

One might be able to see the problem we have in this simple question. “Can you speak English” is a very vague and subjective question. The probabilities in the question vary from person to person, which can result into some of the following situations:

  • “I hired a person who I thought had good English speaking skills, but later it turned out that his skills were far from enough to do business.”
  • “Although the person had a high score in the listening and reading test, in English meetings, she could not speak, nor could she understood or follow the conversation.”

Currently a significant number of Japanese companies face similar situations in their business.
However, if one uses CEFR, you will be able to solve these problems since CEFR defines the “English-speaking skills” with globally standardized levels.

What is my current English level on a global standard?

In fact, this question is one of the reasons why CEFR is being used in English education for schools in Japan as well as many other countries, not to mention Europe. Many countries refer to CEFR for the purposes of evaluating their national curriculum, defining English and language skills to set goals per school grade.

Isn’t it the same in companies?

CEFR focuses on practical skills that can achieve the objectives (i.e. tasks) of communication rather than linguistic knowledge. It defines speaking skills as “presentation” and “interaction”, and it shows what can be done (Can-Do) at each level. This framework seems to be very useful in business.

The global standard reveals some realities.

CEFR level B2 or higher is required for admission to foreign universities. Global companies set their English requirement for hiring as B2 at the lowest, or, as C levels in many cases. Just imagine that this is the English skills of Japan’s global competitors. In Japan, however, there are not so many business persons who have a B2 level, and B1 level is generally set as a goal for English based jobs and overseas assignments.

Nevertheless, it is difficult to make CEFR popular without a measurement tool.
It makes sense to provide “PROGOS”, an English speaking test based on CEFR. When Ms. Ando first heard about the vision of “PROGOS” before joining RareJob, she intuitively thought:

It is exactly what people in the world are looking for.

In order to gain skills efficiency, it is necessary to check one’s current level easily. As our life changes with digitalization, tests should also change. PROGOS is a 20 minutes online test.
Anyone can take it anytime and anywhere they like. Its automated evaluation system is based on AI technology that can return the results within a few minutes. This innovation enabled reasonable pricing. The manual evaluation version costs roughly half the price of other established tests, and moreover, the automated evaluation version costs only 500yen. Ms. Ando takes pride in PROGOS as it encompasses the needs of the test-takers and test-users who want a quick, user-friendly, low-cost and convenient assessment product.

If CEFR becomes popular as many people take “PROGOS”, it may solve the problems that the Japanese face in gaining English skills. Ms. Ando is confident it will. Particularly now, people are severely restricted from going out due to the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. There are a large number of students and business people who have been forced to give up studying abroad or overseas assignments, and even migration. Ms. Ando wants to encourage them keep seeing the opportunities in the world and continue to move forward to realize their dreams. She wants them to check their skills based on CEFR levels, the global standard, by taking PROGOS on a regular basis, in order for them to continue to learn effectively and efficiently. Consequently, Ms. Ando launched the “Business English Speaking Skill Assessment 100,000 Project” in a bid to encourage business people and students alike.

Ms. Ando is also looking ahead to the future by challenging the global market. She has become aware of some problems of English language tests. Some testing organizations set a flat price across countries, which is very expensive for people in some developing countries. There are only a few test centers in some regions. Thus, test-taking opportunities are very limited for those who need to legitimize their English skills. English skills might be required for refugees to get working visas to enter English-speaking countries. Only a small number of people manage to raise money for English tests to seek a better-paid job to make ends meet for their families. Ms. Ando has witnessed various realities around the world.
She never neglects to think about the variety of people in the world who are taking English tests under various circumstances.

In December 2020, PROGOS was awarded the silver prize of the 2020 Reimagine Education Award, so-called the Oscar of Education, in its learning assessment category. The following is a quote from the official comments of the Steering Committee upon the final selection:

“One of the key challenges facing the global education system is providing high-quality, rigorous assessment at scale, in ways that are also accessible to as many learners as possible. …Our Steering Committee, therefore, commend RareJob on the way in which their work has risen to this challenge, providing an effective, innovative, scalable solution to this problem.”

PROGOS, and RareJob rose up to solve the problem in the global education system. The hurdle is high. It will be a long process of trial and error. Nevertheless, there is no choice but to take on the challenge of providing and following the vision of “Chances for everyone, everywhere.” into the future.

The challenge has just started.

Her mission is to promote CEFR and PROGOS to the Japanese and global markets as soon as possible so that everyone may overcome their weakness of English skills and open the doors to a world of opportunities.

She keeps challenging the current norm as there is no turning back now.

Masuyo Ando
Deputy General Manager, Corporate Business Division
After graduating from a university, worked in a research institute and a foreign-affiliated pharmaceutical company. Just under 8 years of experience in the US, studied at graduate schools and worked in a securities firm. After returning to Japan, gained more than 20 years of experience in English language training and assessment, and global human resource development. Joined RareJob Inc. in April 2020 to lead its assessment business.