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Question mark on the exemption of IELTS in Nigeria
Pressure has been mounting on the IELTS test in Nigeria since the beginning of this year. Nearly 75,000 people have signed a petition calling for the test's criteria to be scrapped, and the UK Home Office has responded in writing.

by Akash Kumar / 02 Jul 2022 11:25 AM IST / 0 Comment(s) / 49

Potential Nigerian students' displeasure is reasonable. There is solid foundation for protestors to stand on because their nation ranks third in Africa for English proficiency and utilises English as its main language.

However, exempting Nigeria from IELTS would have a wide range of consequences, from equality difficulties with respect to other nations who are required to take the examinations to the financial health of the organisations in charge of delivering IELTS.

A Nigerian youth-led policy advocacy organisation called Policy Shapers launched the petition at the end of last year. Ebenezar Wikina, the petition's creator, launched it because a US-based online university asked for evidence of his English language ability. His challenge of the current IELTS exam criteria for Nigerians was inspired by the experience, and it has received support from all around Nigeria.

The petition has been heard by the UK Home Office, which has responded that it lacks the necessary evidence to demonstrate that the majority of people in Nigeria (more than 51 percent) speak English as their first language.

Given the Home Office's answer, Policy Shapers' challenge appears to have little prospect of success, but it does present an opportunity to reflect on the rationale behind language proficiency testing for university admission.

Nigeria's impressive command of English

Fair treatment and linguistic proficiency are the issues at hand. No one should be surprised that Nigeria has exceptionally high English competence given that it is the nation's official language, even though not all Nigerians speak it as their first language.

Nigeria not only placed third in Africa, after South Africa and Kenya, in the most current EF English Proficiency nation rankings, but also 29th overall. That elevated it above nations in Europe like France and Spain. It belonged to the "high proficiency" category rather than the group of 13 nations with "very high proficiency."

According to IELTS data from 2019, Nigeria is one of the test-taking nations with the highest scores. Nigeria is ranked eighth out of 41 nations based on the percentage of applicants who received a score higher than 6.5, which is the standard for most UK institutions. Even though it somewhat declines at the highest scores (8 and above), it never lowers lower than 13th position.

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