IELTS: Nigerians accuse UK of ‘commercialising’ language test, seek reforms

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As of Wednesday evening, almost 40,000 Nigerians have signed a petition calling on the United Kingdom (UK) home office to either remove Nigeria from the list of countries whose citizens are required to take English Proficiency tests or reduce the fees charged for the examination.

The UK requires the citizens of any country willing to relocate to the country for work or study opportunities to take the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) test.

But Nigerians are kicking against the policy, describing it as a ripoff.

Not the first time

This is not the first time Nigerians are raising concerns about the policy and the renewed energy was a result of previous calls falling on deaf ears.

The cost of the test, which currently stands between N80,000 and N90,000 in Nigeria, is almost three times the country’s minimum wage of N30,000.

Apart from its high cost, the test is only valid for two years and can only be taken in 12 cities across the country.

Individuals requiring it for their pursuits would have to take the test again if they fail or did not relocate to the UK after two years of taking the test.

Petition

The petitioners compared the English Proficiency tests with the French proficiency test which costs half the minimum wage.

Using hashtages like #ReformIELTSPolicy, #IELTS, and #TOEFL, many Nigerians who took to the social media handle, Twitter, have accused the UK of commercialising the test.

Policy Shapers, which iniated the online petition on Change.org, wondered why none of the over 20 anglophone countries in Africa was on the list of countries exempted from taking the test, “despite the fact that these African countries are former British colonies and belong to the Commonwealth.”

UK Home Office reacts

In 2020, the UK Home office, which is said to be primarily in charge of the test, told the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) that it did not have evidence that the majority of Nigerians speak English as a first language.

“We do not have the required evidence that shows the majority of people in Nigeria speak English as their first language,” it wrote in a reply to the BBC’s enquiry.

It added: “We must have evidence that at least 51 per cent of the population speaks English as a first language for a country to be included in the Majority English Speaking Country list.”

PREMIUM TIMES couldn’t reach Dean Hurlock, head of communications, British High Commission, on his phone.

An email sent to the UK home office has also not been replied as of the time of filing this report.

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