Foreign language proficiency exams halted

November 11, 2022 | 16:05
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A number of international foreign language certification exams in Vietnam have been halted, causing panic for exam-takers and study-abroad applicants.
On the morning of November 10, IDP – one of the few two IELTS test organisations in Vietnam – announced that the IELTS test would be postponed until further notice.

"Unfortunately, the situation is beyond our control and affects all foreign language tests. Resumption of testing is subject to approval by the Ministry of Education and Training, with whom we are working closely to restore operations as soon as possible," the official notice was posted on IDP's website.

Earlier in the week, the same notice was also sent to IELTS candidates at the British Council. According to this organisation, test centers are “working closely with the Ministry to obtain the necessary approvals as soon as possible."

While the two centres guaranteed that free make-up tests would be arranged for all registered test-takers, the unfortunate timing is believed to greatly impact applicants who required this exam to study abroad or apply for certain jobs and scholarships.

In fact, the Centre for Foreign Languages ​​and Informatics, Ho Chi Minh City Department of Education and Training, has stopped organising foreign language certification exams from September 10 until further notice. This centre is a certified location for a number of Cambridge certification exams.

In addition to the IELTS, many Chinese, Japanese, and Korean language proficiency tests in Vietnam have also been postponed.

On September 15, the international Chinese language proficiency test centre at the Confucius Institute, Hanoi University, posted a notice on the suspension of the HSK and HSKK for the October 16 and November 19 exams indefinitely.

HQ Company, an authorised company to organise the Japanese NAT-TEST in Hanoi, on October 21 also announced the cancellation of the October 23 exam and guaranteed refunded test fees for registered candidates. The same goes for the Korean TOPIK test in Hanoi.

In their notices, many exam organisers explained that the suspension is to complete the procedures according to Circular No.11/2022/TT-BGDDT, issued by the Ministry of Education and Training (MoET) on July 26 on the joint organisation of foreign language exams.

According to this circular, organisations and individuals are only allowed to organise exams and issue foreign language ability certificates upon obtaining a decision of approval from the MoET. The MoET affirmed that this circular has been consulted and received the consensus of domestic and international companies.

“The Ministry has guided related parties and conducted urgent appraisals, but the dossiers of request for approval from many exam organisations have not met the requirements,” said Deputy Minister of Education and Training Nguyen Nguyen Huu Do.

The MoET on November 8 sent an official dispatch requesting its departments to strengthen the management of foreign language proficiency exams. The ministry stated that due to lax management recently, contestants are exposed to potential risks.

“While the joint organisation of foreign language certification exams has mainly complied with the regulations from foreign partners, they are not fully complying with the regulations on conditions and criteria in Vietnam, leading to several negative effects such as taking exams on behalf of someone else, cheating, and forging documents,” the deputy minister explained.

"This can cause bad public opinion, affect the rights of exam takers, and the rights and interests of organisations that seriously implement exams and issue certificates. In addition, other negative effects can be confusion in choosing the right certification, causing loss of state tax revenue and reducing the attractiveness and transparency of the business investment environment in the field of education in Vietnam,” he added.

According to education experts, the suspension of international language certification exams will have the strongest impact on those who intend to study abroad and 12th graders who would need these certificates to apply for university admission. Next in line would be students who require a certificate for graduation and to meet employment standards.

Kim Nguyen, manager of a study-abroad consultancy in Hanoi, expressed concerns as the application deadline for universities in the US and Europe are approaching.

“In addition, 12-graders are hoping to take IELTS before Lunar New Year so that they can focus on preparing for the graduation exam and university entrance exam. Therefore, the postponement of the exam would greatly affect their study plan as well as their psychology,” Kim assessed.

Foreign language proficiency exams halted
Source: British Council

According to British Council, thousands of students would be impacted by this incident. Many Vietnamese universities recently are also offering admissions with IELTS scores. The IELTS and many other international English certificates are also used to add priority points or direct admission into 10th grade in provinces like Nghe An and Quang Tri.

Likewise, an HSK and HSKK test site in Hanoi said that each year, this location alone organises about 11 exams, with a minimum number of candidates registered for each session of 1,000 students. From now until the end of the year, two more exams are in line.

"We have no other option but to wait for permission from the MoET. This is the overall situation," he said.

"If the dossier meets the requirements, the ministry will process as quickly as possible to ensure compliance, within about 20 days. Afterwards, the approval will be publicly posted on the ministry's information portal," Deputy Minister Do noted.

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