Elizabeth Olayemi, a master’s student at the University of Lagos (UNILAG), is in a spin. The 25-year-old lady is seeking admission into a top varsity in the United States for her doctor of philosophy (Ph.D.) programme.
But after she paid an application fee of N48,000 and met most admission requirements, she is left with a major hurdle — the International English Language Testing System (IELTS).
Olayemi, who recently took the exam, told TheCable Lifestyle that raising money for the exercise was not a walk in the park. The student said she is afraid that she may have to take the IELTS again if she fails to get the score required by the institution.
“I paid N83,000 for the exam — which is more than the salary of average Nigerians. The cost is too much,” she said.
Olayemi’s experience is not different from that of many other Nigerian students seeking to study or work abroad.
Many foreign universities abroad demand the IELTS as a requirement for admitting international students — including those from Nigeria.
WHAT IS IELTS?
IELTS is an English language proficiency test for those seeking to study, migrate or work in countries such as Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United States, and the United Kingdom — where English is considered to be the native language.
The test usually examines applicants’ ability to listen, read, write and speak in English and is graded on a scale of 1 to 9.
According to a statement on its website, “the IELTS is jointly owned by the British Council, IDP: IELTS Australia and Cambridge Assessment English.”
The validity of the exam result is usually two years. This means if one takes the exam in 2022, the result will become irrelevant by 2024.
SHOULD IELTS BE APPLICABLE TO NIGERIANS?
In recent times, campaigns for the removal of the IELTS requirement for Nigerians and several other African countries where English is the official language have intensified on social media.
Nigeria is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations — the 54 countries which are historically colonised by Britain. It is also one of the over 20 English-speaking countries in Africa.
The country was one of the 31 nations out of 112 across the world ranked either ‘Very High’ or ‘High’ on the 2021 Education First (EF) English Proficiency Index (EPI).
With 560 index points, the country was ranked 29th globally and 3rd in Africa just behind Kenya (587 points) and South Africa (606 points) respectively.
From the foregoing, many Nigerians argued that the country should be exempted from the list of nations taking the test.
Checks by TheCable Lifestyle showed that none of the English-speaking nations in Africa is among 31 countries whose citizens are exempted from taking the test by the UK home office.
Aside from Nigeria’s status as a predominantly English-speaking country, anti-IELTS campaigners also faulted the cost and the two-year validity period of the test result.
The average cost of taking the IELTS test in Nigeria is usually between N83,000 for academic and general tests and N89,500 for UK visas and immigration tests.
This is almost thrice the minimum wage of the average Nigerian worker that earns N30,000 monthly.
This is also a sharp contrast to the Diplôme d’études en langue française (DELF) — a French language proficiency certification test for foreign students and non-native French speakers.
DELF is said to cost about N16,000 and the result can be used for years. This means even though Nigeria is not a French-speaking country, its citizens pay lesser for DELF than what is being paid for IELTS.
“Something needs to be done urgently about IELTS,” says Olayemi. “The two-year validity for the result is too short. It should only be done once.”
In an interview with TheCable Lifestyle, Ebenezar Wikina, founder of Policy Shapers, an open-source policy platform leading the campaign against the IELTS, said Nigerians should be exempted from taking the test.
Using the hashtag #ReformIELTSPolicy, Wikina and his team are demanding a change in the status quo. A petition initiated by the group and addressed to Priti Patel, secretary of the UK home office, has garnered close to 60,000 signatures as of the time of this report.
The petition, titled ‘Stop asking Nigerians to write IELTS‘, targets 10,000 signatures.
“I believe that citizens from Nigeria should be exempted from proving their English Proficiency because the UK Home Office’s criteria for being listed as Majority English-speaking country is for 51% of your population to speak English,” he said.
“I believe that over 51% of our population speaks English and to corroborate this, the Education First English Proficiency Index 2021 lists Nigeria as one of the 30 most proficient English-speaking countries in the world with 560 Index points. The Education First English Index has been observed to have strong correlation with TOEFL and IELTS.
“Furthermore, many of our indigenous languages are dying as a result of this same English language. I am vaguely proficient in Khana and Ibibio (my native language) because all through my life I have transacted, schooled, prayed, and cried in this same English language.
“Why then should I be made to pay more than thrice my country’s minimum wage to write a test to prove that I am proficient in a language that I have been speaking all my life. The worst part is that the result of this test expires every two years.”
‘NIGERIANS SHOULDN’T BE FORCED TO TAKE IELTS’ — OSINBAJO
Last year, Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, backed the #ReformIELTSPolicy campaign during a chat with 2021 Mandela Washington Fellows and Mary Beth Leonard, US ambassador to Nigeria.
“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 (IELTS) especially if one has passed it before,” he said.
“This is something that we should really work on. I will ask the minister of education as well as the minister of youths and sports exactly what is going on about this.”
The development has also continued to ignite heated reactions on social, particularly Twitter. Some users argued that if the scheme cannot be completely scrapped, the cost and validity of the result should be reviewed.
Here’s what some Nigerians had to say:
#Nigeria 🇳🇬 is not a French-speaking country but if a Nigerian writes DELF for N16,000, the result is valid for life
but despite being an English-speaking country, I have to write IELTS for N89,500 and my result expires in 2 years
— Eben (@EbenezarWikina) January 25, 2022
I join Nigerians asking for a change in IELTS policy
Why should my English proficiency expire after 2yrs?
I heard the French proficiency test does not expire & it's way cheaper than IELTS
Help spread this till they respond. It's a win for all@UKinNigeria
— Samuel Ajayi 🇳🇬🗣️🌐 (@SamdGreat01) January 26, 2022
As a Nigerian who has been speaking English Language since I was a kid. I am joining my voice to call for a change in IELTS policy.
If it can't be scraped, it shouldn't be this expensive, and the validity should extend beyond 2 years.
— Akíntúndé Babátúndé (@olorunwababs) January 26, 2022
There's no reason why IELTS should be "renewed every two years".
If you know how to speak a language, you know how to speak it; If you pass the exam, that should be settled.
If that is the purpose of the exam.
Anyway, the exam seems to be a cash cow for whoever.
— Onye Nkuzi (@cchukudebelu) January 26, 2022
Jamaicans are exempted from taking English proficiency tests, & they don't even speak better English than us. But these I-too-know Nigerians think we shouldn't be exempted.
Okay, why is IELTS valid for only 2yrs & not a lifetime if they aren't extorting us? #ReformIELTSPolicy
— Nze (@nzekiev) January 26, 2022
Dear UK Home Office, i think your drive for ielts for Nigerians is more of financial than testing for English proficiency. Nigerian Schools don't teach in another language other than English, from Kindergarten to PHD, so why should write an English test to school in UK? #IELTS
— SEE (@GracedUp1) January 26, 2022
IELTS is pure extortion.
Nigeria with English as its lingua Franca should not be mandated to write IELTS before working or schooling in the U.K.
it makes no sense at all.
I took up a job in the UK and I didn’t have communication issues even without IELTS#ReformIELTSPolicy
— General Okwulu Okalisia (@RapidMax01) January 26, 2022
It’s weird that even schools in Non-English speaking European & Asian counties request IELTS/TOEFL results from Nigerians.
I’ve been there and the English teaching proficiency is some of these schools is very poor.
— Olajidé (@Jamaticulus) January 26, 2022
To further strengthen the partnership between 🇳🇬🇬🇧, I join fellow Nigerians in solidarity to say #ReformIELTSPolicy
— Jacob Sule (@SuleJacobs) January 26, 2022
If majority of UK and Canadian native citizens write IELTS, they'll fail it woefully. As a matter fact, many of us living in Nigeria should be earning huge money teaching them English language
— Souljah (@jeffphilips1) January 26, 2022
Emailed a school in Canada I was applying to with a long piece on how I've spent 20years of my life in the Nigerian education system and even my Hausa and French classes were taught in English. So can we kindly skip the IELTS part?
— Dada Designer (@stephanieorkuma) January 22, 2022
I wrote IELTS in 2018. I have the required score. I applied to a program in 2021. I was asked to provide English proficiency cert. I collected letter from my university in Nigeria and added it to the IELTS cert. I uploaded, and they said it has expired and I av to redo it. I move https://t.co/2H7yE7tUCQ
— Adekunle A. Ajibode (Msc) (@AjibodeAdekunle) January 26, 2022
We speak English better than some countries exempted from taking English tests, but because the West loves extorting us, they keep asking us to take IELTS exams which expire every two years. Please, does your English proficiency expire after two years? #ReformIELTSPolicy #TOEFL
— Nze (@nzekiev) January 26, 2022
Dear UK Home Office,
There is no valid reason, apart from financial why IELTS should expire in two years.
If we can study in Nigeria in English and achieve good grades, we can equally study in the UK and achieve good grades without IELTS.#ReformIELTSPolicy
— Dr_Saater🇨🇦🇳🇬 (@Dr_Caater) January 26, 2022
The drive for #IELTS in my opinion is more financial than testing for English proficiency.
To think that over 20years of my life I’ve been taught in English & after writing the test that has just 2 years to expire.
I join other Nigerians to call for a review #ReformIELTSPolicy
— Ojo Tolulope Michael (@ojomichael94) January 26, 2022
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