Adapting CEFR for English Language Education in ASEAN, Japan and China


  • Joseph A. Foley The Graduate School of Human Sciences Assumption University


CEFR 2001, CEFR 2018, English Language, Education, Competency, Thailand, Japan, Vietnam, Malaysia and China


This paper will first outline and discuss the revised version of the Common European Framework of Reference Languages: Learning, teaching and assessment (CEFR) [2018] together with the Frameworks of Reference for English Language Education in Thailand Malaysia, Vietnam, Japan and China which are based on the CEFR. The indications are of potentially several issues that need to be addressed, including the fact that the local versions of CEFR were mainly based on the 2001 framework and not the 2018 which came later. Other issues such as using the same proficiency scales as the basis for rating scale criteria may lead to perceived equivalence but does not necessarily lead to greater comparability of shared criteria. There are also indications from a number of studies that the perceived view that CEFR as being mainly an assessment tool rather than about language competency may result in a negative attitude from both teachers, students and stake-holders.


Alderson, C. (2007). The CEFR and the need for more research. The Modern Language Journal 91(4) 695-663. doi:10.1111/modl.2007.91.issue-4

Azman, H. (2016). Implementations and challenges of English Language education Reform in Malaysian Primary Schools. 3L: The Southeast Asian Journal of English Language Studies. 22(3), 65-78.

Barni, M. (2015). ‘In the name of the CEFR: Individuals and standards’ in B. Spolsky, O. Inbar-Lourie, and M. Tannenbaum (eds): Challenges of Language Education and Policy. Making Space for People. Routledge, pp. 40–52.

Barro, R. & Lee, J. (2013). ‘A new data set of educational attainment in the world, 1950– 2010,’ Journal of Development Economics 104: 184–98.

Byram, M. & Parmenter, L. (eds). 2012. The Common European Framework of Reference: The Globalisation of Language Education Policy. Multilingual Matters.

Byrnes, H. (2007). Perspectives. The Modern Language Journal.91 (4) 641-645

Bucar, C.S., Ryu, H., Skof, N.M. & Sangawa, K.H. (2014). The CEFR and Teaching Japanese as a foreign language. Linguistica (54(1), 455-469. Doi: 10.4312/linguistica.

China’s Standards of English Language Ability (2018). Ministry of Education of the People’s Republic of China.

Chung, V. (2014). Vietnam considers using CEFR-V standard for English teaching. Viet/Nam/Net, Hanoi, Vietnam 15th November. [Online URL]

Council of Europe (2018). Common European Framework of Reference for Languages: Learning, Teaching and Assessment, Companion Volume with New Descriptors Council of Europe, Language Policy Programme, Strasbourg. [Online URL]

Costa, D. (2007). Contextualizing uses of the common European framework of reference for languages, In Council of Europe, The common European framework of references for languages (CEFR) and the development of language policies: challenge and responsibilities. Strasbourg: Council of Europe. (40-49). [Online URL]

Deygers, B. (2019) The CEFR Companion Volume: Between Research-Based Policy and Policy-Based Research. [Online URL]

Deygers, B., C. Carlsen, N. Saville, & K. Van Gorp. (2018). ‘The use of the CEFR in higher education: A brief introduction to this special issue,’ Language Assessment Quarterly 15/1: 1–2.

Education First Standard English (2017). Test Proficiency Index. [Online URL]

Figueras, N. (2012). ‘The impact of the CEFR,’ ELT Journal 66/4: 477–85.

Fulcher , G. (2004). Deluded by artifices? The Common European Framework and Harmonization. Language Assessment Quarterly, 1(4) 23-266. Doi:10.1207/s1434311laq0104_4

Franz.J, & Teo, A. (2018). ‘A2 is Normal’- Thai Secondary School English Teachers’ Encounters with CEFR. RELC Journal vol. 49 (3) 322-338.

Freeman, D. (2017). The Case for Teachers’ Classroom Proficiency. RELC Journal 48 (1): 31-52.

Green, A. (2012). Language functions revisited: Theoretical and empirical bases for language construct definition across the ability range. English Profile Studies vol. 2, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Goullier, F. (2007). Impact of the Common framework of Reference for Languages and the Council of Europe’s work on the New European educational area, in Council of Europe (2007) The Common European Framework of References (CEFR) and the Development of Language Policies: Challenges and responsibilities, Strasbourg: Council of Europe. 29-37

Hiranburana, H. Subphadoongchone, P. Tangkiengsirisin, S. Phoochaeoensil, S. Gainey, J. Thogsongsri , J. Sumonsriworakun, P. Somphong, M. Sappapan. P, & Taylor, P. (2017). Framework of reference for English Language Education in Thailand (FRELE-TH) based on the CEFR

Hiranburana, H. Subphadoongchone, P. Tangkiengsirisin, S. Phoochaeoensil, S. Gainey, J. Thogsongsri , J. Sumonsriworakun, P. Somphong, M. Sappapan. P, & Taylor, P. (2017). A Framework of reference for English Language education in Thailand (FRELE-TH) – based on the CEFR, The Thai experience. LEARN Journal 10 (2) 90-119.

Hiranburana, H. Subphadoongchone, P. Tangkiengsirisin, S. Phoochaeoensil, S. Gainey, J. Thogsongsri , J. Sumonsriworakun, P. Somphong, M. Sappapan. P, & Taylor, P. (2018). Framework of Reference for English Language Education in Thailand – (FRELE-TH). Based on CEFR: Revisited in the English Educational Reform. PASAA PARITAT JOURNAL vol. 33(2018).

Houghton, S. A., D. J. Rivers, and K. Hashimoto (2018). Beyond Native-speakerism. Current explorations and future visions Routledge.

Hulstijn, J. (2007). The shaky ground beneath the CEFR quantitative and qualitative dimensions of language proficiency. The Modern Language Journal, 91(4) 663-667

Hung, N.N. (2013). Vietnam’s National Foreign Language 20/20 Project: Challenges, Opportunities, and Solutions. [Online URL]

Ishak,W & Mohamad, M. (2018). The Implementation of Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR): What Are the Effects Towards LINUS Students’ Achievements? Creative Education, 9 2714-2731. Doi: 10.4236/ce.2018.916205

Krumm, H.J. (2007). ‘Profiles instead of levels: The CEFR and its (ab)uses in the context of migration,’ The Modern Language Journal 91/4: 667–9.

Komorowska, H. (2014). The CEF in pre- and in-service teacher education. In K, Morrow (Ed), Insights from the common European framework (pp. 55-64). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Mala, D. (2016, March 9). English in the news: govt launches app, teacher’s ‘boot camp’. Bangkok Post. [Online URL] news-govt-launches-app-teachers-boot-camp.

Martyniuk, W. & Noijons, J. (2007). Executive Summary of Results of a Survey on the Use of the CEFR at National Level in the Council of Europe Member States. Council of Europe Language Policy Division.

McNamara, T. (2014). ‘30 years on—Evolution or revolution?’ Language Assessment Quarterly 11/2: 226–32

MEXT (2011). Five proposals and specific measures for developing proficiency in English for international communication. [Online URL]

Ministry of Education Malaysia (2013). Malaysia Education Blueprint 2013-2025 Putrajaya: Ministry of Education Malaysia. [Online URL] print-Eng.pdf

Mohamad Uri, N.F. & Sallehhudin Abd Aziz, M. (2017). CEFR in Malaysia: Current issues and challenges in the implementation of the framework. The 3rd International Conference on Language Testing and Assessment and 5th British Council New Directions in Language Assessment Conference 2-3 December 2017. Shanghai, China.

Moser, J. (2015). From a Knowledge-Based Language Curriculum to a Competency-Based One: The CEFR in Action in Asia. Asian EFL Journal (88) 1-29.

Naganuma, N. (2010). The Range and Triangulation of Can Do Statements in Japan. In Schmidt, M.S., Naganuma, N., O’ Dwyer, F., Imig, A., Sakai, K. (eds.) Can do statements in language education in Japan and beyond. Tokyo: Asahi Pres9-34.

Negishi, M., Takada, T. & Y. Tono (2013). A progress report on the development of the CEFR-J In Galaczi, E.D. & Weir. C.J. (Eds) Exploring Language Frameworks: Proceedings of the ALTE Kraków Conference July 2011, Studies in Language Testing, Volume 36, Cambridge: UCLES/Cambridge University Press, 135-163

Nguyen, N. H., (2010) Innovations in English language education in Vietnam: Challenges, opportunities and solutions. Paper presented at the English for All- International Conference in TESOL, Hue, Vietnam.

Nguyen, H.T. ,Wilkinshaw, I., & H.H. Pham (2017) EMI Programs in a Vietnamese University: Language, Pedagogy and Policy Issues. In Fenton-Smith, B., Humphreys, P., Wilkinshaw, I, (eds) English Medium Instruction in Higher Education in Asia-Pacific : Multilingual Education, Vol 21. Springer –Chem, 37-52

Nguyen, V.H. & Hamid. M.O. (2015). Educational Policy borrowing in a Globalized World: A Case Study of Common European Framework of reference for Languages in a Vietnamese University. Journal of English Teaching, Practice and Critique. 14(1), 60-74. Doi: 10.1108/ETPC-02-2015-0014

North, B. (2000). The development of a common framework scale of language proficiency. New York, Peter Lang.

North, B. (2004). Europe’s framework promotes language discussion, not directives. [Online URL],1191130,00.html.

North, B. (2007). The CEFR illustrative scales. The Modern Language Journal 94 (4) 656-59 doi:10.1111/modl2007.91.issue-4

North, B. (2008). EQUALS Bank of Descriptors – as Levels. EAQUALS/ALTE Portfolio Descriptor Revision Project. The European Association of Quality Language Services. Online retrieved: [Online URL] http://

North, B. (2014). ‘Putting the Common European Framework of Reference to good use,’ Language Teaching 47/2: 228–49.

North, B., Ortega, A. & S. Sheehan. 2010. The British Council-EAQUALS Core Inventory for General English. [Online URL] sites/default/files/ attachments/books-british-council-eaquals-core-inventory.pdf.

North, B. & E. Piccardo. (2016). ‘Developing illustrative descriptors of aspects of mediation for the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR): A Council of Europe project,’ Language Teaching 49/3: 455–9.

Papageorgiou, S. (2010). Investigating the decision-making process of standard setting participants. Language Testing, 27(2), 261-282.

Pitsuwan, S. (2014). Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages. TESOL International Convention 2014, Portland, Oregon, USA.

Poszytek, P. (2012). Policy perspectives from Poland. In M. Byram & L. Parmenter (Eds.) The common European framework of reference: The globalization of language education policy (pp. 97-103). Bristol Multilingual Matters.

Salamoura, A. & Saville, N. (2010). Exemplifying the CEFR: criterial features of written learner English from the English Profile Programme. In I Bartning and M. Marten (Eds) Communicative Proficiency and Linguistic Development: Intersection between SLA and Language Testing Research: Eurosla Monograph Series 1 European Second Language Association pp 102-132

Saussure, F. de (1914/74) Course in General Linguistics. London Fontana. (English Translation).

Trim, J. (2012). ‘The Common European Framework of Reference for Languages and its background: A case study of cultural politics and educational influences’ in M. Byram and L. Parmenter (eds): The Common European Framework of Reference: The Globalisation of Language Education Policy. Multilingual Matters, pp. 14–36.

Trim, J.L. & Trim, J.L.M (1980). Systems development in Adult Language Learning: a European unit/credit system for modern language learning by adults/ prepared for the Council of Europe. Council of Europe: Strasbourg.

Tono, Y. (2012). What is CEFR-J? CEFR-based framework for ELT in Japan, research project. [Online URL]

Tono, Y. & Negishi, M. (2012). The CEFR-J: Adapting the CEFR for English language teaching in Japan. Framework & Language Portfolio (FLP) SIG Newsletter, 8 September 2012.

UNDP (2015). The Millennium Development Report. [Online URL]

van Ek, J. (1975). Systems Development in Adult Language Learning: The Threshold Level in a European-Unit/Credit System for Modern Language Learning by Adults. Council of Europe.

Van Ek, J.A. & Trim J.L.M. (1990). Threshold 1990 Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Vantage (2001). Online retrieved: 28 April 2019. [Online URL] http//

Viet, Hà Pham (2015). The CEFR in Vietnam from Adoption to Adaption. JALT Conference.

Waystage (1990). [Online URL]

West, R. (2015). Keeping it in the family. English Language Teaching Professional, 97.

Yan Jin, Zunmin Wu, C. Alderson & Weiwei Song (2017). Common European Framework of reference for Languages (CEFR) for English language assessment in China Language Testing in China (Special Issue) Springer, Open.






Research articles