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Directory Of Year 2007, Issue 52
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Current Location:English » 200752 » Language Rivals Reconciled
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Language Rivals Reconciled

Year:2007 Issue:52

Column: NATION

Author: YUAN YUAN

Release Date:2007-12-27

Page: 23

Full Text:  

Cooperation between China's largest education service provider and the creator of English proficiency tests for non-native speakers is unexpected given their difficult past

An unusual era of harmony appears to have come about between two traditionally warring factions in the foreign study market of China. The cooperation between Educational Testing Service (ETS) and New Oriental Education & Technology Group Inc. is surprising given a history of conflict between the two organizations that dates back to 1997. In January that year the Beijing Administration for Industry and Commerce investigated New Oriental over allegations of illegal copying and selling of TOEFL exam papers made by ETS. New Oriental admitted that it had infringed on ETS copyrights but did not stop, despite being ordered to do so, because this would have made TOEFL training impossible.

In 2001, ETS brought a lawsuit in the Beijing No.l Intermediate People's Court against New Oriental for copyright and trademark infringement, the hearing for which was held in 2002. In its verdict, the court held that the materials on which ETS and Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) obtained copyright registration with the U.S. Copyright Authority should be protected in China under the Chinese Copyright Law. The court ruled that New Oriental stop its copyright infringements, hand over to the court all the infringing written material and film for printing to be destroyed, publicly apologize in a newspaper, and pay damages to the plaintiffs, including 8.9 million yuan ($1.2 million) of compensation for losses to ETS and 953,000 yuan ($129,045) of litigation expenses.

The largest obstacle

"To be sued by ETS is the largest obstacle we've ever met," said Yu Minhong, President of New Oriental.

Yu is renowned as the "godfather of studying abroad" and believed to be the richest teacher in China. He started New Oriental in 1993, shortly after quitting a job at Peking University. He had applied to study in America before that for three years, but failed. Using the rich experience he gained in preparing for the exams that Chinese need to pass in order to study abroad, he opened New Oriental with the main purpose of training Chinese students to get higher scores in foreign exams such as TOEFL and GRE.

From just a handful of students in the beginning, New Oriental expanded to take over 80 percent of the foreign exams training market and became a must for students wanting to study abroad.

STRONG APPEAL: New Oriental's President Yu Minhong gives a lecture on an university playground packed with students

STRONG APPEAL: New Oriental's President Yu Minhong gives a lecture on an university playground packed with students

The classrooms of New Oriental are always packed with students. There is no spare space even in the doorways. Teachers hired by New Oriental are required to be humorous and inspiring in order to spread the spirit of the school - "Hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope and you can make your life a splendid one."

The test scores of Chinese students in TOFEL and GRE rose significantly as a result of New Oriental. This caught the attention of some foreign universities and education organizations, especially ETS, which announced that it had doubts about the scores of Chinese students in 2001. "ETS does not believe that the sharp increase in Chinese students' test scores is due to implementation of the computer testing system. The computer testing system has been administered worldwide and a significant increase in scores has only occurred among examinations in China," a statement from ETS said.

Cooperation is a must

Despite all the disputes, the cooperation between ETS and New Oriental has been a gradual process. "Significant changes have taken place and continue to take place in China's language testing and training. ETS and the local promoters of our products and services must change along with them in order to maintain high quality products and services," Paul A. Ramsey, Senior Vice President of ETS's Global Division told Beijing Review.

As part of the agreement, New Oriental has an exclusive right to provide TOEFL Practice Online (TPO) as a component of its language training or test preparation courses and may also sell TPO to the general public through its bookstores. ETS will continue to sell TPO on its website or through its subsidiaries or other third-party resellers.

Talking about the purpose of cooperation with New Oriental, Ramsey said, "We appreciate the achievements that New Oriental has made in its business growth, and we hope our combined strengths and shared mission will bring more benefits to Chinese students. The cooperation with New Oriental makes it more convenient for Chinese students to access and experience our TPO product, the latest official tool from ETS for both English language development and test preparation, which can greatly help test takers get ready to take the TOEFL test, as well as improving their English competency. ETS is focused on looking at the future and better serving the education needs of China and Chinese students; we want to better meet their needs and help them succeed in today's international marketplace."

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