The Experiences and Perceptions of Chinese English Language Learners Taking the Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test: Is a Picture Worth 1000 Words?
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The public education system in Ontario, like many other education systems worldwide, is currently undergoing drastic changes effected by globalization. The globalization of education, which can be understood as “the worldwide discussions, processes, and institutions affecting local education practices and policies” (Spring, 2009, p. 1), has led to Ontario’s curriculum being used in over 20 schools located outside the province (Ontario Ministry of Education, 2011). Because these schools grant the Ontario Secondary School Diploma (OSSD), students must satisfy the same graduation requirements as those students who attend secondary school located in Ontario. A requirement for graduation includes the successful completion of the Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test (OSSLT), a large-scale assessment intended to measure literacy. English Language Learners (ELLs) have more difficulty passing the OSSLT than their peers who speak English as their first language (Doe, Cheng, Klinger, & Zheng, 2011; Fox & Cheng, 2007). This issue is of particular concern to educators and students at these schools. Because the majority of these schools are located in China, my study focuses on ELLs in one school in China which uses the Ontario curriculum. The purpose of my study is twofold: 1) to understand how Chinese English Language Learners perceive the news report on the OSSLT, and 2) to understand how issues of culturally embedded knowledge affect their ability to take the test (the OSSLT) successfully. I selected a qualitative research approach because the intent of this study was to understand the perspectives of Chinese ELLs. I conducted three focus groups with one class of ELLS in one secondary school in China. I also used observations and analysis of written artifacts to triangulate the collected data. The findings of this study revealed some challenges and perspectives on the OSSLT specific to Chinese ELLs. I conclude that the issue of cultural literacy is a key factor preventing Chinese ELLs from demonstrating their true level of literacy on the OSSLT.