English latest foreign language to join test postponement bandwagon

By Binh Minh   November 10, 2022 | 06:19 am PT
English latest foreign language to join test postponement bandwagon
A person writes on an IELTS application form. Photo courtesy of the British Council
Institutions organizing Chinese, Japanese and Korean language proficiency exams in Vietnam had postponed them well before the education ministry's circular was sent Tuesday to localities nationwide.

Soon after the circular began making its rounds, the British Council announced that it was indefinitely postponing the IELTS and other English proficiency exams starting Thursday, saying the decision was "beyond our control."

Resumption of the exams would depend on approval from the Ministry of Education and Training, the council said.

IDP, the only other entity approved to organize IELTS examinations in Vietnam, announced Thursday that it was also postponing the exams until further notice, adding that the situation was unavoidable.

The foreign language and informatics center under the Ho Chi Minh City's Department of Education and Training had stopped organizing exams for foreign language certificates starting September 10 until further notice.

The center is a partner for organizing exams for certificates by the Cambridge University, such as YLE, PET, KET, FCE, TKT, PTE and TOEFL.

Proficiency exams for Chinese (HSK, HSKK), Korean (TOPIK) and Japanese (NAT-Test) were postponed a couple of months ago.

On September 15, a Chinese language examination point at the Confucius Institute, Hanoi University announced on its social media fanpage that it would stop organizing HSK and HSKK exams scheduled for October 16 and November 19 until further notice.

The HQ company, authorized to organize the NAT-TEST exams for the Japanese language, announced on October 21 that it was cancelling an exam on October 23, and all participants who signed up would have their exam fees refunded.

A Korean language expert said TOPIK exams in Hanoi have also been postponed.

No official approval

Several organizers said the postponement was needed to complete procedures in accordance with an education ministry circular which says organizations and individuals can only organize exams for foreign language proficiency certificates after receiving official permission.

The ministry said the organization of such exams in Vietnam has not been properly managed, creating risks that may harm the interests of examinees.

On Thursday, deputy education minister Nguyen Huu Do said the postponement announcements were made because the concerned organizations had failed to complete approval procedures.

Do said the ministry had informed parties regarding the approval process, but applications by several exam organizers did not meet the required standards.

He said exams for foreign language certificates in Vietnam have mainly abided by regulations of foreign partners, not Vietnam’s and this had led to fraudulent activities like document forgery.

Such things affect the rights of examinees, as well as the rights and interests of legitimate exam organizers, Do said, adding that it would also make people confused about the selection of certificates and exam organizers.

Such developments would also cause losses of tax revenue to the state, not to mention affect transparency in the education sector’s business environment in the country.

Do said if approval documents were completed as required, the ministry would process them in around 20 days.

Studies affected

Experts said the postponement of these exams has impacted most strongly those looking to study abroad, 12th graders looking to use the foreign language certificates for university admissions, those who need such certificates to graduate and professionals like foreign language teachers.

Nguyen Minh Oanh, manager of an English center in Hanoi, said the timeframe for sending applications to U.S. and European universities was quite close to each other, the nearest one being from January to March 2023.

The postponement would affect study plans and the mentality of examinees, she said.

In recent years, several Vietnamese universities have used IELTS exam scores, as well as other foreign language certificates to decide admissions, along with other criteria like graduation exam scores. These certificates are also used as a foreign language proficiency benchmark across the country.

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