The TOEIC® in Japan: A scandal made in heaven
by James McCrostie (Daito Bunka University)
[ p. 2 ]While the TOEIC has now become synonymous with business English testing in Japan, this success was by no means assured. During TOEIC's early years it attracted fewer than the expected number of test takers, resulting in serious financial difficulties. Circumstances became so clamant that Watanabe prayed to God for help (Watanabe, 2003, p. 114). His prayers were answered in the form of a new version of the TOEIC and a little help from some friends.
[ p. 3 ]Watanabe Yaeji, IIBC chair from its foundation in 1986 until his sudden retirement in 2009 at the age of 92, deserves special attention when discussing the lack of qualifications for IIBC executives. Until he helped his friend Kitaoka establish the TOEIC, Watanabe confessed he possessed no interest in, or knowledge of, language testing. Watanabe only began studying English in 1982 at the age of 65 and did not begin studying in earnest until after becoming IIBC chair in 1986 (Watanabe, 2003, p. 3, 117).
[ p. 4 ]The IIBC and ICS share a very close partnership. Watanabe formerly served on its board of directors and ICS' 70 employees operate out of offices located next door to IIBC, sharing a common lobby area and security guard. IIBC and ICS employees also have nearly identical business cards, both prominently displaying the TOEIC logo with only "International Communications School Inc." or "The Institute for International Business Communication" in fine print distinguishing them.
[ p. 5 ]It is nearly impossible for the public to know how much the IIBC pays its for-profit partners. While the IIBC is required by law to publish financial statements, their vagueness makes it difficult to track the movement of funds between the IIBC and companies such as ICS, E-Communications, and ICC. Furthermore, my experience is that IIBC spokespeople become very defensive when queried about these for-profit partners. When asked about E-Communications for a newspaper article, IIBC public relations manager Yoshida Atsuko replied, "How do you know about E-Communications?" then later "Why do you have to mention E-communications in your article?" (A. Yoshida, personal communication, June 5, 2009).
[ p. 6 ]TOEIC test fees also help pay for an IIBC division called Global Human Resources Development (GHRD). This division gathers information from around the world to help Japanese become better "global managers" (GHRD, 2004). It maintains a website, magazine, and hosts information seminars. IIBC spokespeople declined to reveal how much money the GHRD division spends each year (R. Hanai, personal communication, June 9, 2009). However, financial statements show that it was nearly ¥265 million in fiscal 2007, over a ¥100 million in fiscal 2008, and about ¥78 million in fiscal 2009 (IIBC, 2009a; 2009d). The smaller budget in 2009 was the result of cutting funding to the Chinese Poetry Recitation Association and an end to a "leadership consultation project" that cost ¥161 million in 2007.
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[ p. 9 ]IIBC. (2009c). TOEIC testo no koushiki Nintendo DS softo ga tsuni ni toujou. [Official TOEIC test Nintendo DS software is finally introduced]. Retrieved January 27, 2010 from http://www.toeic.or.jp/press/22.html