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ESOL and Citizenship. Language Testing

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06 December 2009

NATECLA comment The policy of making English language skills a condition of acquiring permanent settlement or citizenship has led to unintended consequences, which have caused grave concern to ESOL practitioners. Where a language qualification is a requirement for permanent settlement or citizenship, the possession of the certificate becomes the overriding goal and ESOL providers need to be aware of the pressures and to respond to the reality of the situation. While it is felt that a knowledge of English is important to fullness of life as a citizen, NATECLA does not believe that a person is any less of a good citizen if his/her English is limited. However the policy of requiring a language qualification at Entry levels is likely to stay and has at least the merit of reaching people who are involuntarily isolated in another language culture. ESOL teachers are anxious to make the acquiring of the qualification a positive experience, which can encourage hard-to-reach learners to continue to study for their personal development and to support social cohesion. The policy has created a high stakes qualification which people are desperate to obtain within a limited period. They may have already learned the language informally or they may need formal tuition to rise to a certification level. The demand for tuition has exceeded the supply. Target-driven planning has led to the cutting of Entry level classes. Spouses, who are in the greatest need of language learning at an early stage, need substantial incomes to pay college fees. Potential citizens in need of tuition and certification are turning to community centres and commercial trainers. They do not appreciate a need to check the quality and the honesty of the organisations. As these centres are not publicly funded or inspected, they cannot be made to conform to the high standards demanded in funded Skills for Life provision. At the best of these centres, learners get initial assessment then short term coaching towards the next level of assessment, which is all they need to satisfy current legislation. At other unscrupulous organisations, people may pay for an unrecognised or forged certificate which will lead to the rejection of a citizenship application. There can be no surprise that these organisations have arisen nor that people who need permanent status will use them whether informed about or unaware of the spirit of the law. Below links to the articles which appeared in the Sunday Times on November 22nd on bogus testing centres http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/politics/article6927010.ece http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/politics/article6927026.ece Letter from Ofqual to Awarding Bodies http://www.ofqual.gov.uk/files/2009-12-07-open-letter-esol.pdf Guardian Weekly Learning English Supplement October 09 Migration and Language Testing The UK Boder Agency. New Points based system. This link contains details of most of the categories available to migrants who want to work in the United Kingdom http://www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/workingintheuk/ This is the webpage which lists the testing agencies whose certificates are accepted for Tier 2. http://www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/sitecontent/applicationforms/pbs/approvedenglishtestst2.pdf

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