Standards in learning systems

In 2015, Malaysia launched a ten-year national English Language Roadmap as part of the broader Malaysian Education Blueprint 2013-2025. The English Language Roadmap aims to enhance English language proficiency amongst teachers and students, aligned to international standards – the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR). 

New Directions, the British Council's regional annual English Language Assessment conference, will be held here in 2018, in a country which is in the midst of implementing dynamic large scale system reform based on international standards. 

Background to Theme 

Language education and assessment reform projects increasingly make use of standards to inform assessment and curriculum design, and to set achievement goals. Although the term standards can have different meanings, in this context it is often used interchangeably with the concept of proficiency frameworks. These standards or frameworks, have given educators and language test developers common definitions and a clearer description of proficiency to inform policy decisions, to allow teachers and learners to set appropriate goals, and to facilitate the evaluation and comparison of exams and qualifications. However, the rapid uptake of these standards, especially within national-level reform programs, has not been without criticism, challenges, and issues. 

There has often been a gap between the use of standards in testing and assessment, and at the policy level to set attainment targets, and the implementation of these standards in curriculum design, teacher training, and classroom materials. At the same time, we should also consider standards as quality – actual or perceived.

This year’s New Directions conference will seek to answer these questions:  

  • Should standards be the priority in ensuring English language capability of students is fit to shape societies of the future and meet the future needs of students, employers and communities?
  • Risks of policy borrowing: how can we use standards to inform policy decisions in assessment goals for the best outcome in different country contexts?
  • How can establishing standards best inform the alignment of existing national tests to proficiency standards?
  • How can international/national standards be used to inform language teaching and learning? 
  • What is the future role of artificial intelligence in testing, and where are we now? 
  • Is artificial intelligence an answer for large scale testing issues, especially in the productive skills? 
  • Localising standards and proficiency frameworks: Is it possible to adapt large scale standards to fine grained local need successfully? 

We accept proposals for abstracts around the following theme or subthemes: 


The design, use, and implementation of language standards and proficiency frameworks in language testing and assessment, and the link between standards, assessment and the wider educational context, such as curriculum design. 


  • The alignment of existing tests to proficiency standards and the use of standards to inform the design and validation of new tests
  • The manner in which standards can inform classroom teaching and assessment
  • The impact of using standards to inform policy decisions and set assessment goals, either at a national or institutional level, on teaching and learning.
  • The localisation of standards and proficiency frameworks: adapting large-scale national or international standards to a more fine-grained focus on local needs. 
  • The relationship between the rapid development of artificial intelligence and automated rating technology and assessments designed from and aligned to existing proficiency standards.

General Strand

There will be a section of parallel sessions set aside for outstanding proposals on topics or innovative assessment research of general interest to the wider field of language testing and assessment which are not directly related to the main theme.