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English-speaking proficiency in Nigeria

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By Abraham Adekunle

Nigeria ranks 3rd best proficient in Africa, 28th in the world on EF EPI.

Proficiency of adults who took the EF test in the English language has been ranked by the Education First English Proficiency Index (EF EPI). In the 2022 edition, the ranking was calculated using test data from 2.1 million test takers in 2021. So, the index has ranked Nigeria as the third in Africa and the 28th globally. This was in its 2022 EPI ranking for a total of 111 countries and regions in English skills.

According to the ranking, Nigeria had 564 English proficiency and came ahead of Switzerland which took the 29th position; Argentina which came 30th; Hong Kong in China which came 31st; Italy which ranked 32nd; Spain which ranked 33rd; and Ghana which emerged 41st globally respectively. On the regional level, Nigeria is ranked third after South Africa (which is ranked 12th in the world and first in Africa) and Kenya (which is ranked 20th in the world and second in Africa).

A country must have a number of test-takers to be ranked.

Moreover, the index ranks countries by the equity of English language skills among adults who took the EF test. According to the EF EPI ranking, a country must have at least 400 test-takers to be included in the index. In Africa, the numbers of people who sit this exam dwarfs this by thousands. This is because the number of people who aspire to migrate to North America and Europe are a sizeable portion of the population. Another reason is that these countries that they want to emigrate to require them to take English language test to prove that they can indeed speak and write in English fluently.

Because of this, in 2022, more than 25,000 people signed a petition to stop foreign institutions from requiring an English proficiency test, specifically the International English Language Testing System (IELTS), from Nigerians. The petition, initiated by a youth-led open-source platform for policy ideas that address the world’s most pressing challenges called Policy Shapers, was addressed to the Home Secretary of the United Kingdom, Priti Patel. The petitioners maintained that no country in Africa, out of the 27 who list English as one of their official languages, is on the Home Office list of countries exempted from taking the test.

Campaign for Nigeria to be exempt from taking proficiency tests.

Meanwhile, the UK Home Office has exempted Antigua and Barbuda, the Bahamas, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, Jamaica, St. Kitts and Nevis, Trinidad and Tobago, and ten other countries from those who would require the test. These countries speak English as an official language, but none of them have English as a native language in the way that Canada, Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom do. The argument, then, is that if these countries could be exempted, Nigeria could also be exempted from such.

In response to this and other campaigns by other Nigerian youth, universities in Canada began to exempt Nigerians from the list of countries where an English proficiency test is required. This really helped potential migrants who wished to study and work in the country. However, much is still to be done as many institutions and countries require the test from Nigerians. In addition to the hassle of passing the exam, the cost of sitting the exam is one thing an average person would worry about.

Increase in the cost of registering for IELTS announced.

Recently, the news of the British Council’s announcement of its decision to revise the fees for the Academic and General Training Modules of the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) examinations for Nigerian candidates, which would start September 2023, filled the media space. Whereas the current cost of the IELTS examination in Nigeria ranges between N80,000 and N90,000, the British Council’s revised fees will rise to N107,500. The exam failure rate and expiry clause means that test-takers will have to pay more.

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