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Updated: February 11, 2010 13:02 IST

English language tests for foreign students 'unfair', says Cambridge

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British Home Secretary Alan Johnson.File photo: AP.
British Home Secretary Alan Johnson.File photo: AP.

Britain’s largest provider of English language tests has expressed concern over government plans to impose strict English language tests for foreign students, saying such a move will not necessarily bring down the number of bogus students.

Cambridge ESOL, the world’s leading language assessor, said the British home ministry should ensure that “only tried and tested systems with high levels of security and quality control are recognised for this purpose.”

The exam board, which is a department of Cambridge University, warned that restrictions on foreign students announced by Home Minister Alan Johnson on Wednesday may not reduce the number of bogus students applying for courses in Britain.

“We recognise the need for a well-regulated student visa system, but there is little evidence to suggest that the people who are abusing the system are predominantly those with a very low level of English-language skills,” Cambridge ESOL CEO Dr Michael Milanovic said.

“I am concerned that changes could prove unfair to a large number of genuine students, particularly those who are at an early stage in their language learning.”

Mr. Johnson said that foreign students coming to Britain for courses of six months or more will now have to demonstrate that their level of English is at least equivalent to Level B1 of the Common European Framework of Reference — just below a GCSE, or year-11 of school, qualification.

The English language qualification was among a series of measures Mr. Johnson announced to stop ‘bogus students’ — adults in search of work — from entering Britain.

Mr. Milanovic added, “Language assessment plays a key role in this process. Its effectiveness depends not only on the selection of appropriate tests, but on a rigorous end-to-end system for managing the assessment process.”

Cambridge ESOL provides exams in English language for over three million people every year in more than 130 countries. India ranks second after China in the list of countries with the highest number of students in British institutions.


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