Consider taking a test to verify your proficiency in a language in which you’ve spent your entire life and paying a substantial fee on top of it. That is the reality for many overseas students who must pay a significant amount of money to take English proficiency tests in order to apply to institutions abroad.
Considering the International English Language Testing System (IELTS). The pricing for the academic IELTS varies by nation; in the UK, for example, fees begin at 175 pounds, which can be prohibitively expensive for students from developing countries with weaker currency rates. Students from Nigeria have been advocating for colleges to abandon the IELTS for university admission, even creating a petition on Change.org.
The IELTS is a tried-and-true test that is frequently used for university applications, job placements, and migration. The International English Language Testing System (IELTS) is the modern-day standard for proving your English proficiency in order to work, study, or migrate to a country such as Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, the United States, or any other country where English is the native language.
At the moment, the UK Home Office has waived the IELTS test solely for citizens of the 18 countries where English is an official language. However, in Commonwealth countries such as Nigeria, Ghana, India, and Malaysia, it is regularly taught at all levels of education.
Before they can be considered for admission, students from these countries must demonstrate an acceptable level of English at the application stage. Much of the uproar about required English proficiency exams stems from the exorbitant rates paid for a single test.
Another common English proficiency exam, the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), does not have a set fee and fluctuates by location. The TOEFL, for example, might cost as much as $190 in India. Late registration, postponement, and extra score reports incur additional fees, adding to the financial hardship on overseas students.
To make matters even more complicated, the IELTS and TOEFL have a two-year validity period. When it expires, the test scores are no longer valid for future applications, and students must repeat the exam, even if they performed well the first time.
“I personally believe that it’s a crime for the English proficiency tests in English-speaking countries especially knowing that they cost up to US$250 (three times the minimum wage in Nigeria),” said Ebenezar Wikina, a critical voice behind the #ReformIELTSPolicy movement.
International students are already confronted with near-insurmountable barriers due to growing tuition fees, not to mention other costs associated with studying abroad, such as visa applications and aircraft tickets. Some claim that the need for English proficiency examinations is motivated by financial considerations rather than linguistic competency.
IELTS is regarded to be a profitable company, with three million test-takers each year. According to research, IELTS co-owner IDP gained approximately AUS $487mn in income in 2018.
“It should be urgently reviewed as there are flaws in this system. Why are we forcing migrants to sit in this test again and again? I wonder how your English can expire,” said Navdeep Singh, member of the Greens Senate political party in Australia, to SBS Punjabi when commenting on the testing system used to gauge English language proficiency among migrants.
Although concerns about new students’ academic English fluency are genuine, standardized testing still has limitations in indicating a student’s full range of abilities. Assessment methods, such as internal university examinations or admitting earlier transcripts where English was taught at the secondary level, could make things a lot easier for overseas students.
“A change in the policy would make life easier for Nigerian students who wish to study abroad or access opportunities because now the ultimate English proficiency barrier has been removed,” said Wikina in a separate interview.
The petitioners say that because English is Nigeria’s official language and many people’s first language, a legacy of British colonial authority, the country should be excused from the test. This is not the first time this issue has arisen, but the British Council has failed to reply.
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