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NZQA standardises English testing

Tertiary providers will no longer be able to conduct internal English proficiency testing and instead have to use one of eight “internationally recognised” English tests, including IELTS, TOEFL or PTE, after the body responsible for New Zealand’s qualifications framework announced rules changes.

NZ's changes are aimed at ensuring students are set up to succeed in their studies. Photo: Dan FreemanNZ's changes are aimed at ensuring students are set up to succeed in their studies. Photo: Dan Freeman

The decision comes after a review determined many providers did not have the capacity to maintain the requirements of English testing

Implemented by the New Zealand Qualifications Authority and coming into effect from 1 January 2019, the new rule aims to ensure students entering non-university tertiary providers – predominantly private training establishments and polytechnics – have the necessary English proficiency needed to succeed in their studies.

“All we’re asking is that at the end of that pathway they have a test to establish that they’ve reached the right level”

“The underlying issues seem to be that a few providers have been allowing learners to enter programs where they don’t have the right English language level… to be successful,” said NZQA deputy chief executive, quality assurance division, Grant Klinkum.

“We’ve been changing the policy settings to try and stop that problem.”

Klinkum told The PIE News the decision to require standardised tests came after a review of internal testing determined it was “difficult for most providers,” adding that many did not have the capacity to maintain the requirements of English testing.

“We think it’s prudent to rely on international English language testing systems only and we think that will have some impact on ensuring the learners who are accepted are at the right level,” he said.

As part of the change, students on a pathway program will also no longer be able to use internal provider tests to progress.

“All we’re asking is that at the end of that pathway, and before starting the tertiary program, they have a test to establish that they’ve reached the right level,” Klinkum said, adding the change fell in line with a broader shift in New Zealand for quality of quantity.

Ironically, Australia announced changes to its ELICOS standards in 2017, which were widely misreported as a requirement for a standardised test and heavily criticised by stakeholders. New Zealand’s changes have been met with significantly less backlash.

Eligible tests include IELTS, PTE, TOEFL, Cambridge English Assessment, LanguageCert, the New Zealand Certificate in English Language, OET, and the Trinity College Integrated Skills in English.

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