Overseas students’ English test now compulsory


Hong Kong international student, Yi Ting Ginny Lau. Photo: Caitlin Reynolds

By Megan West and Caitlin Reynolds

International students’ fears have been alleviated after the Federal Government clarified an announcement about more rigorous English tests.

Federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham made an announcement on Thursday which was interpreted as toughening the English language standard required of international students to gain entrance to Australian universities and TAFE.

International students wanting to study in Australia would have to complete a minimum of 20 face-to-face contact hours per week as part of the English Language Courses for Overseas Students and pass a test that would now be compulsory.

Universities Australia strategic communications manager Bella Counihan said the government’s proposed changes to the ELICOS testing had been presented incorrectly by many media outlets.

“There is some confusion that there would be an additional test, but that’s not the case,” she said.

“This is not about creating new tests or new things that people have to go through, it’s all pre-existing standards and testing that are already part of how people get into courses.”

International Students of Australia Council vice president Ahmed Ademoglu agreed with Ms Counihan.

“There are some media entities that have used the opportunity to stir the environment of discussion, rather than making things clearer,” he said.

“It’s coming to a bit of a resolution now, so it does not mean an extra test or that coming to Australia will be more difficult or that the economy or international student count will be affected.”

Mr Ademoglu said students were constantly learning English long after the conclusion of their ELICOS training.

“Their English learning doesn’t end after they finish their ELICOS training … the test isn’t an end for their English proficiency,” he said.

“I wasn’t able to speak any English when I came to Australia six years ago … I learn new words every day, so it doesn’t end and people keep improving.”

Curtin international student Yi Ting Ginny Lau, from Hong Kong, completed the ELICOS test after finishing a foundation course at Canning College.

Ms Lau said the current ELICOS testing was demanding.

“Everyday, it’s quite intensive … one day two hours, and you go there every day … usually it’s  two to three weeks,” she said.

“We have to do a listening, speaking and reading comprehension test … for the reading it’s an hour, the aural test is 30 minutes and listening an hour.”

Ms Lau said the language barrier was definitely an issue for international students, particularly when collaborating with other English-speaking students.

“When I was in Hong Kong I thought I had the ability to be good at public relations but when I came here, English is something that blocked me from showing my ability,” she said.

“Talking with your group mates, you have to share your ideas but you don’t have the ability to share your ideas – I can speak my ideas in Chinese, but I can’t speak them in English.”

Mr Ademoglu said the changes would be effective from March 1.