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IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Greed and Collusion Rule the World of Japanese & Chinese AP Exams
By Ed Ladd 27-Jan-16
Originally, in my first draft, I was going to try and be philosophical and kind before expressing my anger and frustration at The College Board for their negligence with respect to the AP Japanese program, but when I remember that I have been trying to get a positive response from them for the last five years, any thought of gentleness dissipates quickly. I only have one conclusion: their failure to change the assessment requirements of the AP Japanese and Chinese tests are based on greed and total lack of concern for the students and the schools who give this assessment. Allow me to state the problem. We give the AP Japanese and Chinese tests to eighty-five or more students a year. The American School in Japan is a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) school with parents purchasing a MacBook Pro/Air laptop for their children to use. Due to the College Board requiring Windows operating system computers for both exams, we are forced to spend approximately US$10,000 in leasing laptops from a local vendor and English Windows 7 licenses, to administer the exams. An alternative solution is for us to purchase Windows laptops solely for the purpose of taking the exam, then storing the laptops away to use until the next exam administration. The College Board has informed us that using Bootcamp or Parallel programs on our Apple computers is not supported. With this investment we are currently able to provide the AP Japanese and Chinese exams to our students, but are already contemplating new issues when the College Board no doubt announces a future Windows 10 requirement. I think in the business world it’s called collusion when there is an agreement between two companies that force a monopoly on a single product that is required by the client. Solution: I think this is fairly easy. The College Board needs to invest in re-writing their software to support multi-platforms, or better yet, develop a web-based solution. The College Board has refused to do this by saying that it is technologically challenging. Translated, this means that they are not willing to invest the money to improve their product or meet the needs of their clients (which are schools). Another translation for this is greed. But I think this issue goes beyond just a financial one. The refusal to make the Japanese and Chinese AP exams available on multiple platforms or devices also sends another message, and this message is that the Japanese and Chinese languages and Japan/China, itself, are not important enough for them to invest in refining their software. Add to that the sidebar that they don’t care what it costs The American School in Japan to give these exams nor do they care that taking an important exam on an unfamiliar machine handicaps the students taking the exam. The only positive is the profit received by The College Board from our exam fees and that Microsoft sells more computers! And this is what is a self-proclaimed non-profit organization! To be clear, The College Board has made some great adjustments to its AP program over the past five years and the advent of the AP Capstone is to be applauded; however, the refusals to make a much-needed change despite the costs to member schools or the disadvantage created for students makes it clear that this is a for-profit organization and that learning and assessment to them is a business in which students and schools matter little. It is really just about the bottom line. It makes us scratch our heads or just wonder how they can state on their website “The College Board is a mission-driven not-for-profit organization that connects students to college success and opportunity.” Ed Ladd is Head of School at The American School in Japan.
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