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Duolingo launches accessible English test

Language learning firm Duolingo, which rose to prominence with its eponymous smart phone app, has launched an ‘Access Program‘ to widen participation in its Duolingo English Test.

The launch may have taken place in Kenya, but Duolingo made clear the offer is global. Photo: Duolingo

The DET is currently accepted by the admissions offices of several US HEIs

The program will give fee waivers to “high-achieving, low-income students,” to allow them to gain a recognised English language qualification, without the price tag associated with traditional tests.

“We began in Kenya because they were enthusiastic about what DET can mean for students”

The global program was launched in Nairobi, Kenya, a location chosen because of its links to one of Duolingo’s international partners, the HALI Access Network. The Network operates across the African continent, and “strive[s] to level the playing field in international education to increase inclusion, access and scholarship support”.

Jen Dewar, the head of strategy for the DET, said the global aspirations of the Access Program would become clearer with time, but the enthusiasm of partners such as HALI made Kenya the obvious launch pad.

“While we don’t intend to be exclusively offering programs in Africa, we began there because they were enthusiastic about what the DET can mean for their students in terms of breaking down barriers,” she told The PIE News.

Dewar also confirmed that Duolingo have held conversations with interested stakeholders in Singapore, Vietnam, Kyrgyzstan, and Costa Rica.

The fee waivers are applied in the form of coupons, which counsellors and agents can request for students they believe fit into the bracket of ‘high achieving, low income’. These applications are then assessed, often by Dewar herself.

“We ask them some questions about their organisations, if they’re involved in other professional organisations, so we can vet them in someway to know they truly are working with low income high achieving student populations,” Dewar told The PIE.

The DET is currently accepted by the admissions offices of several US HEIs, including: Duke, Washington University (St Louis), Columbia, Tulane, and University of Southern California.

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