Why Nexford changed its English proficiency policy and what other Universities can learn from it

All my social media buddies already know this glaring fact about me; I am a huge fan of virtual schooling. I tweet about it, speak about it at events, write tons and tons of articles about it, and I believe it is the next frontier in global education. It will change the world. This miracle of online courses and programs is the main reason I have been opportune to study at some of the most prestigious institutions in the world; Harvard Kennedy School, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), London School of Journalism, to mention a few. I am always on the lookout for affordable online courses to be part of, this is what I spend all of my spare cash on — sometimes even to the detriment of my wardrobe.

This passion is what drove me to apply for the Bachelor’s program at Nexford University. I really like Nexford; their UX is great and their branding is superb as well. After filling out the application form and paying the mandatory fee, things sadly went sour from there, but I’m glad Nexford fixed it by doing what many foreign Universities out there are too afraid to do. Here’s the full story:

The reply I got from Nexford after I had sent my Diploma certificate, WAEC & NECO results + evidence of the Harvard program I was part of as proof of my English proficiency:

Nexford’s reply to me requesting IELTS

Now, put yourself in my shoes. Imagine that you have spent 27 years of your life learning and speaking English even to the point that in your late 20s you’re striving to learn your own ethnic languages, Khana and Efik. You have studied broadcasting and journalism in English, you have written for The Huffington Post (UK and US) for more than 5 years and many other platforms too numerous to mention, yet someone says to you that you have to prove you can speak English. How would you reply to such a message?

Well, I’m sorry but I flipped. Simply put, I was “a little mad”.

(MY REPLY – Read from right to left)

After sending that strongly-worded reply, as one of my friends on Twitter calls it. I felt a bit sad, that I might have been a tad rude, but at the same time, I felt happy that I could speak up despite the situation I was in, yet I was also troubled that this has even been allowed to happen for so long. I wonder if our leaders even care about this. We’re supposed to have a Ministry of Foreign Affairs right?

Anyway, I didn’t write the IELTS nor the 50-minute test, I have always ignored opportunities that require these proficiency tests. I believe it is a form of exploitation. Since they didn’t give an official reply to my strong email, I decided to let Nexford go. However, as I promised them, I worked with my brother ‘Kúnlé Adébàjò to question the system and ask why citizens of an Anglophone country should be spending twice their minimum wage to validate a language all their systems are built-in.

Read the piece on ICIR here

Excerpt of my thoughts in the ICIR piece

A few weeks later, still, no word from Nexford but I wasn’t bothered because I was neck-deep in the MIT program I’m part of this semester. I was just talking about as I usually do with my loud activist mouth on Twitter, when one of my tweeps, @SallyO7 told me there has been a change to Nexford’s admissions policy. Then the moment of truth came when Neford replied with their official handle.

When I shared this story on Twitter, it gathered hundreds of reactions, and Nexford had to say it one more time just to make sure we all get the message loud and clear.

I also hope other foreign Universities get this message loud and clear — Remember that we were colonized by Britain? I guess English is gotten from England. It is and has been the language of instruction for all our Educational Institutions. We all know this, this is why you will never find on a school document any phrase like “this course will be taught in English”, we all know already! It’s like asking a baker to prove to you that he used flour to make a loaf of bread. “uhmmmm, isn’t it obvious already?”

If you go to our rural areas, everyone strives to speak English, it’s usually a status symbol of some sort for those who can — in fact, even our ethnic languages are fast eroding all because everyone is speaking the English language.

What more do you want from us? What more can we do to prove to you that we are an Anglophone country? Why can’t all Universities in Canada, the UK and America decide to be like Nexford? What is so difficult in replacing “Show us your IELTS score” with “If you speak English well enough to pass your first course, then you are well-equipped to succeed at Harvard…MIT…Oxford…Yale…Yorke…[insert your University name]…etc”

My little study of demand and supply models under Nobel-winning Professors Duflo & Banerjee has proven that the demand component of the market is very important. When there’s a high DEMAND from Universities for English proficiency tests, the SUPPLY end of the coin (whether it is British Council, IDP, or the Australian Embassy) will exploit us. They have been exploiting us for years — we currently spend 75,000 naira (about $210) on writing these tests whose results expire every 2 years. This amount is more than twice the allowance the Nigerian government gives to young people under its National Youth Service scheme (33,000 naira).

If you continue to demand English proficiency test scores before admitting us into your schools, you will continue to feed a breed of colonialism that is silent and deadly. We need to end it before it ends us.

Share your thoughts using #NoIELTSNigeria, #UseYourVoice. Also, sign this petition to make your voice count.


Ebenezar Wikina is the team lead for policy shapers

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