Setting the right score for success


Our industry has been focused this year on one issue: how and when we can safely welcome international students back into Australia. While there is still no definitive pathway to recommencement, there is nonetheless, continued pressure on institutions, peak bodies and governments to get the right students into the right courses and set them up for success.

This begins with setting the right English language proficiency requirements. This is our eternal challenge as an industry, because language assessment is complex, as is comparing scores from different test providers.

Recent studies by both IELTS and Pearson PTE have demonstrated the need for better equivalency alignment to ensure that no matter which test a student takes, they will be assessed on a like-for-like basis. Both providers have also presented their study findings to government, institutions and peak bodies.

As test providers, we are just that – test providers. While we assist governments, education institutions and peak bodies in understanding test development and scoring, it is ultimately the responsibility of these organisations to set the scores they believe students require.

If institutions lower the bar for English language proficiency to the point students can’t keep up in the classroom, they are set up for failure. This has significant consequences – not only for the student’s study experience and their level of satisfaction, but also for Australia’s reputation as a leading study destination and the quality of graduates produced by our organisations.

It is imperative that education providers have the confidence that a student’s English language results are a true reflection of their English language capability. It is also important that institutions review credible and rigorous academic studies when setting scores to ensure our students can actively and enthusiastically engage in tutorial discussions, complete required written work and connect with their broader communities. Our unified industry goal is to enable students to thrive, and go on to have successful careers.

There is too much at stake to get this wrong. I stress that this is not about making it more difficult for students. This is all about making it fairer and ensuring they are equipped with the language capability to realise their study goals.

The challenges of COVID-19 have only strengthened students’ desires to do well. In light of the challenges our industry has faced due to the pandemic, let’s not lose sight of the Australian education promise of bright futures and internationally-renowned qualifications.

We are proud of the students who choose Australia as their study destination. Let’s set them up for success by setting the right English scores for their learning experience.

Warwick Freeland is the Chief Strategy Officer and Managing Director IELTS at IDP Education