There has been recent uproars in some parts of Africa, especially English-speaking African countries, regarding why it is demanded of them to write an English language proficiency test when applying to schools overseas.
English proficiency tests such as International English Language Testing System (IELTS) and the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) are two main English language proficiency tests that are required to be taken. As a result, there are lots of institutions that offer to teach interested people how to ace these tests. The IELTS and TOEFL certificates are valid for two years only after which the tests need to be retaken if the certificates were not used.
According to the IELTS website, the test “measures the language proficiency of people who want to study or work where English is used as a language of communication.”
Wikipedia also states that “TOEFL is a standardized test to measure the English Language ability of non-native speakers wishing to enroll in English-speaking universities.”
If we are to go by the reasons for the tests, then English-speaking African countries should be exempted from taking language proficiency tests.
A cursory search on the internet will enlighten anyone about the history of the African continent and how it was colonized by some European countries. This is how African countries that were once British colonies came to adopt the English language as their lingua franca. It is quite disheartening then, that citizens of these former British colonies such as Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Uganda and Liberia are again asked to take English language proficiency tests in order to determine whether they can read, write and understand the language. The medium of instruction from the basic level of education through to the tertiary level has been in English and this should be sufficient proof to waive the English proficiency test for people from these countries. No other form of verification is necessary.
However, these language proficiency tests are money-making schemes for its organizers. It is estimated that about three million IELTS tests were taken worldwide in the past year as of September 2017. As to why the validity of the test lasts for only two years may be attributed to the fact that it fetches the organizers a lot of money irrespective of any reason they may give. After all, nobody suddenly forgets how to read, write and communicate in English after two years, especially when they live in a country where their daily interactions and engagements are in English.
Countries such as Liechtenstein, Romania, Estonia, Barbados, St Lucia, Antigua and Barbuda among others are exempted from taking these English language proficiency tests, some of these countries have very questionable English proficiency prowess as compared to English-speaking African countries.
The outcry of Africans to have these tests waived have fallen on deaf ears. It seems nothing will be done about it until we decide that we have had enough. Organizations such as Travel.Internship.Admission and This is Africa are already championing for the cancellation of English proficiency exams on Twitter for Commonwealth African countries. They have set up a petition to be signed by interested parties to get the British Council to stop organizing English proficiency tests for English-speaking African countries. Sign the petition now and let’s change the narrative!