Thanks to all our 45,000+ supporters and all of the pressure we have generated on social media which has now made #ReformIELTSPolicy a trending discussion topic online, the UK Home Office through its Simplification Of the Rules Taskforce yesterday (January 26, 2022 at 4:33pm WAT) replied to a formal inquiry we sent to its office and the Home Secretary, Priti Patel since October 2021.
In our email to the Home Office on October 18, 2021, Founder of Policy Shapers, Ebenezar Wikina wrote on behalf of the campaign requesting for the data sources the UK Home Office uses to validate the inclusion of countries on its Majority English-Speaking Country list.
Below are few excerpts from the Home Office’s reply which we received yesterday:
“Apologies for the delay in replying to you, and thank you very much for your correspondence on this matter. To be included on the Majority English Speaking Country (MESC) list, we must have evidence that most people in the country (more than half) speak English as a first language.
We rely on publicly available evidence such as official censuses to make this determination along with other academic sources. We may also consult the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office where additional evidence is required. Currently, on the information available to us, Nigeria does not meet the requirement. This list is periodically reviewed and updated, and new countries are added if they are found to meet the requirements.
We are currently expanding the ways in which applicants are able to prove their English language ability. For example, people applying for a Student visa can prove their English language ability including by:
– the education provider self-assessing the English ability of the student
– having a degree taught or researched in English (confirmed by Ecctis if not taught in a MESC list country). Kind regards and please let me know if you have any more questions”
The Campaign was pleased to receive this message after a 3-month wait, but it has left us with a lot of questions which we shall be following up with the Nigerian government, the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office in Nigeria, as well as the Simplification Of the Rules Taskforce from the Home Office.
A few immediate thoughts that come to mind based on their reply:
- Since the Home Office relies on public evidence to validate the inclusion of countries on its MESC list, one of the most veritable public sources is the annual English Proficiency Index released by Education First. Nigeria was one of the 30 countries out of 112 that ranked ‘High’ or ‘Very High’ in English Proficiency in 2021. Furthermore, EF EPI 2021 scores have been found to correlate strongly with TOEFL iBT 2019 scores (r=0.81) and IELTS Academic Test 2019 scores (r=0.73). These correlations show that, while these tests have different designs and test taker profiles, they reveal similar trends in national English proficiency.
- In August 2021, the UK Home Office had told the BBC that 51% English language speakers is its criteria for the inclusion of countries in the MESC list but in its last message to us, the Home Office uses phrases like “most people in the country” and “more than half” which are very fluid and we plan to follow-up with them on this as well.
- Finally for now, we appreciate the fact that the Home Office says “The MESC list is periodically reviewed and updated, and new countries are added if they are found to meet the requirements.” but we wonder when the list was last reviewed and we are confident that the next review will see the inclusion of Nigeria and other Anglophone countries in Africa.
These are just a few of the issues we shall be following up with the Home Office on, but for now let us continue to gather signatures and sustain IELTS as a public national discussion as we rally key stakeholders to make the desired change a reality.
Thank you so much again for the support.
Let us continue to believe in our ability to make the world a better and just place for everyone!
(Featured Image was randomly sourced from web)