The present study starts with a brief discussion about the role of reading comprehension in a foreign language - Spanish - in language courses, and also about the conceptions of reading underlying some of the official documents, such as the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages: Learning, Teaching, Assessment, and the Brazilian National Curriculum Parameters for secondary education and for the fundamental school. After that, a few comments are made with respect to how reading comprehension is being assessed in some of the university admission exams. Our initial hypothesis was centered on the existence of coherence between three aspects: the official guidelines, what was supposed to be encouraged in foreign language classes in secondary education, and the kind of knowledge of a foreign language required from candidates in higher education admission exams. However, our analyses have revealed a significant discrepancy between those three reference points: although the guidelines stipulate that the teaching of languages must emphasize the development of the student's communication competence, what often prevails - both in the classroom and in admission exams - is a traditionalist perspective of the teaching of foreign languages that privileges the linguistic knowledge based on the command of the metalanguage and of grammatical rules, as well as of lexical knowledge. The emphasis on these aspects has as one of its consequences the significant restriction of the function of reading comprehension, given that the text assumes the role of a mere pretext for the evaluation of the linguistic knowledge of the candidates. This fact suggests the need for specific scientific research aimed at investigating the causes of the observed divergences, and at showing ways of preventing them, or at least minimizing them.
Reading; Foreign language; Spanish; Secondary education; University admission exams