December 1st 2018


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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY Will Morrison and Shorten remove freedoms from faith-based schools?

NATIONAL AFFAIRS Immigrants caught in English-language nether world

CANBERRA OBSERVED China's pushiness provokes pushback among neighbours

FOREIGN AFFAIRS U.S. midterm elections leave Trump in charge

DEFENCE Perth Defence conference prioritises Indo-Pacific

FOREIGN AFFAIRS Countering fake news: Jair Bolsonaro may just save Brazil's democracy

GENDER POLITICS Small signs of a turn in the tide of the transgender flood

FOREIGN AFFAIRS European Union's winder of discontent

AUTOBIOGRAPHY Wynand du Toit: writing into the sunset

ASIAN AFFAIRS China uses salami tactics to isolate Taiwan

ENERGY Hydroelectric power and pump storage

LEGAL MATTERS Universities put themselves above the law

John le Carre, Smiley and the spy novel

MUSIC The mercurial Freddie: Power without emotion

CINEMA Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald

BOOK REVIEW Commentator has got it right

BOOK REVIEW We are ill equipped for next big shift

BOOK REVIEW The father of the Reformation

FICTION The Lonely Man

LETTERS

VICTORIAN ELECTION Coalition collapse in Victoria

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NATIONAL AFFAIRS
Immigrants caught in English-language nether world


by Chris McCormack

News Weekly, December 1, 2018

The International English Language Tests (IELTS) and the Pearson Test of English (PTE) – a computer-generated English testing system – need to be closely scrutinised, as inconsistencies are becoming all too apparent in test results, affecting the lives of hardworking migrants who wish to continue to contribute to Australia.

In the May 19, 2018, edition of News Weekly, in “No fairytale ending from the Land of a Fair Go”, Helen Jurcevic OAM highlighted the case of Maria and Ivan (not their real names) who had immigrated to Australia in 2007. Between them, they now possess four Masters degrees and a CPA diploma, all obtained at Australian universities and that have, with tuition fees, cost them nearly $170,000.

They initially both passed their IELTS tests when seeking to enter university and were later gainfully employed as professionals. However, towards the end of their studies, the IELTS they were required to pass on a regular basis because of their visa status proved an almost insurmountable obstacle, costing them thousands of dollars in IELTS fees and leading them to the point of deportation.

Inexplicably, Maria did not achieve her required band mark in the English test in conversation when applying for a resident visa, despite English being her native language, then scored full marks in conversation in a second attempt one month later but did not gain her required band mark for writing on that occasion. She had passed IELTS on all previous attempts dating back 11 years when applying for a student visa.

The conversational and writing “fail” marks were despite her working in a clinical rotation in a leading teaching hospital in Melbourne. Similarly, Ivan passed the IELTS when applying for student visas but has since “failed” the IELTS test 10 times when seeking a residency visa. Clearly, there is a discrepancy in the way the IELTS operate, with favourable results granted when applying for a student visa and the opposite occurring when applying for residency.

Because of the absurdity of the random IELTS results, Maria and Ivan faced deportation and Maria had to leave her work and seek work via a “work sponsored graduate” program. Luckily, she found a position in regional Victoria. But this meant that Ivan had to leave his work in Melbourne as a practising accountant and was unemployed for seven months before finding a job. He now has a casual job in a bacon factory a 96-kilometre return trip away, which requires driving home after 11pm along kangaroo-plagued roads.

After years of anguish and mental trauma, Maria has now received her residency visa, which means the family can continue to make a great contribution to Australia. But it shouldn’t be this hard. To have to fight constantly against a system that seems rigged against those seeking residency who are capable, working professionals in Australia is outrageous.

The international student market is worth $32.2 billion annually in Australia, according to an ABC report. IDP Education Ltd – an international student-placement services company – co-owns IELTS. Its share price has risen 73 per cent in the last 12 months and 300 per cent in the last three years. Education Australia, which comprises 38 Australian universities, owns 50 per cent of IDP. Is this a case of the IELTS results being determined by vested interests: that is, those organisations that profit from prospective students passing the $330-a time IELTS test?

Why are these same people later mysteriously “failing” the test and having to repeat it ad infinitum after finishing their studies and applying for residency? What standard of student pass rate is the university granting, one might ask, when one cannot pass the IELTS or PTE after graduating?

Maria and Ivan’s case is not unique. Another immigrant, we will call her “Lucy”, who had worked as an accountant for a firm in Australia for 2½ years and had been in Australia five years, has sat the IELTS test 21 times.

Lucy’s boss had raised the issue with Helen Jurcevic because Lucy had also enlisted the “help” of preparatory teachers costing her $1000 each time they supposedly prepared her to pass the IELTS test.

Lucy spent $6000 on preparatory teaching without success. How is it that a practising accountant working for a firm in Australia is now deemed unable to communicate and yet must previously have passed IELTS in order to obtain a student visa? Something is seriously awry with the system.

Other anecdotal cases include that of a linguist, proficient in at least five languages, who failed to pass IELTS.

An Irish veterinarian working in Australia and wanting to obtain a residency visa also failed the speaking element of IELTS. Irish man Kevin Wall, a Perth mechanic and Paralympian rower hopeful who wanted to compete for Australia in Rio told the ABC he “failed” a different element of the IELT’s test three times. He needed to pass in order to acquire residency and compete for Australia.

Meanwhile, internationally, an Australian couple wanting to obtain residency in Canada, both of whom were highly qualified working professionals and held Masters degrees with distinction and high distinction averages from Australian universities, barely passed the written component of the Canadian equivalent of IELTS.

When one looks at the anomaly of the ease with which prospective international students pass IELTS compared with those taking the test required for a residency visa, it seems something is awry. A full investigation of how the system is operating needs to take place so that peoples’ lives are not ruined.




























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