The dissatisfaction of potential Nigerian college students is comprehensible. Because the nation with the third highest English proficiency in Africa, and a rustic that makes use of English because the Lingua Franca, there’s sturdy floor for protesters to face on.
Exempting Nigeria from IELTS would nevertheless have a plethora of implications, starting from fairness points throughout different international locations required to take the checks, to the financials of the organisations liable for administering IELTS.
The petition was began on the finish of final 12 months by Policy Shapers, a Nigerian youth-led coverage advocacy group. The founder, Ebenezar Wikina, began the petition after a web based college within the US requested proof of his English proficiency. The expertise led him to problem the prevailing necessities for Nigerians to sit down IELTS exams, an endeavour that has attracted assist from throughout Nigeria.
The petition has reached the ears of the UK Residence Workplace, which has acknowledged in response that it does not have the required evidence to show nearly all of individuals in Nigeria communicate English (greater than 51%) as their first language. Given the Residence Workplace response, there appears little probability of Coverage Shapers profitable their problem, but it surely does provide an opportunity to contemplate the aim of language proficiency testing for college enrolment.
Nigeria’s sturdy English proficiency
On the core of the matter is language skill and truthful remedy. Because the official language of the nation, it ought to come as no shock that Nigeria has very sturdy English proficiency, no matter whether or not all Nigerians communicate it as a primary language.
In the newest EF English Proficiency country ranking, Nigeria was not solely third in Africa after solely South Africa and Kenya, however notably twenty ninth globally. That positioned it above European international locations together with France and Spain. It was not nevertheless one of many 13 international locations inside the ‘very excessive proficiency’ band, falling as a substitute into the ‘excessive proficiency’ class.
IELTS data from 2019 exhibits that Nigeria is certainly one of many strongest international locations collaborating within the take a look at. Ranked in accordance with the proportion of candidates scoring above 6.5, the requirement of most UK universities, Nigeria ranks eighth of 41 international locations. Whereas it drops barely on the highest marks (8 and above), it by no means falls beneath 13th place.
But the UK guidelines aren’t solely involved about the usual of spoken English, however moderately what number of communicate English as their first language. Knowledge from Statista means that English is barely the third most generally spoken first language after Hausa and Yoruba, and that those that do symbolize 12% of the population – effectively shy of the 51% requirement set by the Residence Workplace.
How about different excessive proficiency international locations?
Some international locations are certainly exempt from the foundations. Exemptions are primarily based on the UKVI list of countries recognised as majority English speaker countries. To be included on this checklist, excessive proficiency and even co-official language standing isn’t sufficient.
The EF rankings present clearly that international locations with English as an official language aren’t essentially house to essentially the most proficient audio system. Not one of the prime three international locations – the Netherlands, Austria and Denmark – use English as an official language. On the EF scale the place 700 is the very best doable rating, these three international locations have almost 100 extra factors than Nigeria. Potential college students from these international locations are anticipated to take proficiency assessments, similar to Nigerian candidates. Nigeria is thus in the identical boat as different international locations with glorious English such because the Philippines and South Africa.
Not only a visa matter
One may after all argue that the IELTS take a look at is not only assessing the power of research visa candidates to converse in English. It performs a key function in proving potential worldwide college students within the UK can use English critically. It’s one factor to talk a language effectively and one other to successfully use it in a tutorial setting.
We must always nevertheless not overlook that with regards to scholar recruitment, the English Proficiency checks are at the beginning a requirement for college admission. In lots of circumstances a scholar would not directly require IELTS or an equal for his or her research visa, as a result of most UK universities require proof of English proficiency, and admission to a college is a prerequisite for the visa.
It’s after all more durable for Nigerians to focus on their frustrations on the UK HE sector as a complete in comparison with the Residence Workplace. Every college is an impartial entity and units their very own entry necessities. Whereas the federal government can depend on FCDO for up-to-date knowledge on each nation, not each college has the assets to totally perceive the markets of every nation sending college students to them.
“Why cost residents of the poorest area on the earth as much as $300 to check their proficiency in a language they communicate every single day?”
That mentioned, one would hope that the worldwide workplaces of UK universities have been conscious of key data for the UK’s third largest market.
Coverage Shapers’ Wikina posed a damning query in a blog post explaining the motives of the petition: “The straightforward query is, why cost residents of the poorest area on the earth as much as $300 to check their proficiency in a language they communicate every single day?” Nigerians more and more suspect IELTS as a money cow, one which provides a deal breaking monetary barrier to college students whereas filling the pockets of the UK.
How a lot then is IELTS income value to the organisations operating it and what would occur in the event that they have been to lose Nigerian IELTS income?
The 2020/21 annual report and accounts of the British Council spotlight simply how vital the examinations enterprise is to their funds. Earlier than the pandemic compelled the IELTS enterprise to shrink, instructing and exams have been value £724 million to the British Council, over half of its complete earnings.
This might maybe seem to assist the views of critics in Nigeria. The pandemic nevertheless proved that British Council is reliant on that earnings to remain afloat. As exams income fell by almost 40% it was compelled to request monetary support and severely restricted monetary exercise. Repayments on the survival mortgage FCDO supplied to British Council will now imply the organisation should increase much more within the coming years to service the debt, in flip rising the significance of examination income.
Contemplating the financials, shedding the third largest supply of scholars to the UK is hardly interesting. This comes because the inevitable slowdown in enrolment from China, the biggest marketplace for the UK, begins to point out its head.
An exemption for Nigeria would inevitably result in different international locations with glorious English to name for an finish to IELTS necessities. That will seemingly embrace India, the second largest supply of scholars to the UK.
Assessing the assessments
Even when the petition is unlikely to carry any change to language take a look at necessities, it raises tough questions for worldwide scholar recruitment. At a time when the HE sector strives to be extra equitable, the very programs that facilitate mobility could also be inequitable limitations. But addressing these imbalances would require a serious restructuring of how English proficiency is assessed, a course of that the assessors are in no place to hold out.