Thousands of Nigerians sign petition to reform IELTS

A Nigerian addresses the Commonwealth Youth Forum Closing Ceremony. Image by Commonwealth Secretariat taken on Thursday, 14 November 2013 (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

An online petition launched by Policy Shapers, a Nigerian youth-led advocacy platform, to demand a reform of the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) has gathered about 40 thousand signatures in just 14 days. 

The IELTS is an examination administered to non-native English speakers. Nigerians seeking to study, migrate or work in the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia are required to take the test or its equivalent to provide evidence of English language skills. From its inception in 1989, IELTS has been jointly managed by the British Council, International Development Programme (IDP) Australia, and the University of Cambridge English Language Assessment. 

Authors of the petition are seeking to have Nigerian citizens exempted from writing the English proficiency test which cost between 83,000 Naira (about $200 USD) for academic and 89,000 Naira ($216 USD) for general tests. The IELTS which expires after two years, is more expensive than the French language proficiency test, DALF/DALF examination which costs only 16,000 Naira (about $39 USD).

A report by the International Center for Investigative Reporting (ICIR), a Nigerian online newspaper, estimates that between 2016 to 2021, the British Government generated $771.2 million (N319.2 billion) as gross profits made off the backs of prospective Nigerian students and visa applicants who took the tests. 

Nigeria’s English proficiency band is ranked high as the third-best country in Africa and 29th best in the world by the 2021 EF English Proficiency Index. Policy Shapers argue that Nigeria’s level of English proficiency is higher than some of the 18 countries exempted by the UK Home Office

As a former colony of Great Britain, English is Nigeria’s lingua franca and language of instruction in schools. Yet Nigeria and other African countries, who are former British colonies and belong to the Commonwealth, are not exempted.

Reform IELTS now!

Many social media users believe the IELTS is a money-spinning venture:

Nigeria's Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, agreed that the IELTS needs to be reformed. On October 31, 2021, while speaking with Ebenezar Wikina, a 2021 Mandela Washington Fellow, Osinbajo said, “I entirely agree that as an English-speaking country, we should be beneficiaries of some concession as opposed to being forced every two years to take the same test especially if one has passed it before.”

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