Date of Award

6-27-2011

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

English

First Advisor

Jeannine M. Fontaine, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Gloria Park, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Xi Wang, Ph.D.

Abstract

It has been claimed that language testing is not only a method to assess test-takers’ language ability; it can also become a medium to promote ideological positions via the contents of the test, which may compel test-takers to adjust their learning as they prepare for the tests. In particular, the contents of a given test may reinforce or promote knowledge of a specific culture. This research examines the contents of the Chinese and English tests in the Joint College Entrance Exam (JCEE), particularly based on Taiwan’s current multicultural context. This paper explores selected aspects of the cultural content of both the Chinese and English tests in the JCEE from 1954 to 2008. One focus was to examine to what extent the contents of these tests might represent more multicultural components in the 1990s and 2000s, as compared earlier exams, given that important political and social changes have taken place in Taiwan during these last two periods examined in the study. As theoretical bases, this study adopts Michel Foucault’s theory of knowledge/power and Elena Shohamy’s critical language testing, as well as Stuart Hall’s concepts regarding the study of cultural values. The study provides an overview of Taiwan’s history and the background of the Joint College Entrance Exam in Taiwan. Next, the study analyzes items from the JCEE in selected years ranging from 1954 to 2008, arranged into four periods, corresponding with political eras in Taiwan. The results from the analyses of the data showed that the Chinese and English tests were culturally hegemonic, representing mainland Chinese themes and references in the Chinese test, and to a lesser degree, American culture in the English tests. These trends, in both cases, stand in stark contrast to examinations which might represent Taiwan’s multicultural situation, with its Hakka, Hoklo and aboriginal elements. During the 2000s, the contents of both the Chinese and the English tests evolved to include more multicultural elements; however this change was found to be minimal. The dissertation concludes with a discussion of directions in which both testing and teaching in Taiwan might be revised to better reflect Taiwan’s multicultural society today.

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