IELTS: UK Home Office responds to call to exempt Nigerians from proficiency test

ONE month after Policy Shapers, a policy advocacy group, sent a data-driven report to the UK Home Office to exempt Nigerian citizens from taking the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) tests, the Home office has replied via an “automatic” email.

The UK Home Office responded to a 15-page policy brief by Ebenezar Wikina, founder of Policy Shapers, who demanded that the Home Office add Nigeria to its list of countries exempted from taking IELTS.

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“Thank you for contacting the Simplification Of the Rules Taskforce, SORT. Please note that this inbox is for the administration and secretariat of the Simplification Of the Rules Committee only.

“Emails received from external sources to Government will not receive a direct reply,” the UK Home Office automatic message read.

However, the UK Home Office had replied to the group’s enquiries about reforming its IELTS policy for Nigerians with the same email address on January 26, and October last year.

Foreign universities demand the IELTS as a requirement for admitting international students, with IELTS application fees being expensive and more than double the minimum wage in Nigeria at an average of N90,000.

In January, the Home Office said there was no public evidence to prove that Nigeria had over 50 per cent speakers of the English Language to be included in its Majority English Speaking Country (MESC) list.

“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,” the UK Home Office said.

The UK Home Office does not officially recognise 27 Anglophone countries in Africa as English speaking countries.

Using the hashtag #ReformIELTSPolicy, a petition initiated by the group in January and addressed to Secretary of the UK Home Office Priti Patel has garnered over 72,000 signatures.



    The policy group says the Home Office has failed to respond to its factual findings to justify Nigeria’s inclusion into its MESC list.

    “We might not be tech gurus, but the way automatic messages work, they’re like autoresponders, so if this was not fishy, we should have received this prompt back in February 2022 when we first sent the policy brief.

    “We feel insulted by this mediocre attempt to brush aside the real issues raised by our policy brief, and we demand an official response and apology in earnest,” Policy shapers revealed in a statement.

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    The group posits that Nigeria is ranked 31 of 112 countries rated as ‘Very High’ on the 2021 English Proficiency Index (EPI) and has been in the top 30 global ranking over the past five years.

    Amos Abba is a journalist with the International Center for Investigative Reporting, ICIR, who believes that courageous investigative reporting is the key to social justice and accountability in the society.

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