The Ontario College expressed concern about the validity of the results of a popular international standardized language test submitted by students who applied from India after the probe found "inconsistencies" in the language skills.
Niagara College contacted more than 400 students who were admitted to their programs in January 2019, who passed IELTS tests at locations in India, telling them to pass another test in English or to risk losing their offer reception.
Most Canadian academic institutions accept the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) and is one of the two main English language tests used by Immigration Canada as an independent proof of the knowledge of a language candidate for immigration or citizenship.
Steve Hudson, Vice President of Academic and Student Academies at the Niagara Academy, said that the school launched an investigation in the autumn after the number of first-year international students that the university called "academic risky risk" had risen to 300 with an average of 150 previous years.
These students were ready for a language test and a college that found that 200 of this group fell out of their academic programs because their English language was not at the required level. A further investigation showed that 80 per cent of them were from India and carried out their IELTS tests at locations run by Australia's IDP Education.
The Niagara College said officials were warning of IDP education with their findings shortly after the start of the semester and the message of the immigration authorities last week.
"Based on (our analysis), we felt that we must be absolutely certain that candidates for our winter 2019 mandate have a degree of English knowledge that will enable them to succeed, and we wanted to do this before investing considerable time and money travel here for studies, "said Hudson in a Star statement.
The IELTS test, which is jointly owned by IDP Education, the British Council and the Cambridge Assessment English, is a three-hour exam which assesses the ability of candidates to listen, read, write and speak in the scale from 1 to 9. Score 9 indicates that a person is " user "with a full command of the language. However, individual organizations must provide an estimate.
More than three million IELTS tests were accepted worldwide last year, according to IDP Education.
"The test is recognized as being honest for all subjects, regardless of nationality, cultural background, gender or special needs," said Warwick Freeland, director of IELTS / IDP Education, in a statement from Melbourne.
"IELTS is a leading English language test for international students in Canada," he said, adding, "the results of all IELTS test centers, including all centers in India, continue to be accepted for admission to the Niagara Academy."
In an e-mail sent on Saturday on Saturday, IDP Education asked questions about the value of the Internet test in Niagara Fellows to the Indian students of an international cohort study in the autumn, and said that college had "used a low risk" which "is a Canadian educational institution or the government does not approve to verify their knowledge of the English language. "
Hudson College Niagara said that the IELTS language test results were first submitted by students from India who took place in the autumn before this risk, confirmed by IELTS, and the school deals with "inconsistencies" in their language and language proficiency as a one-off anomaly. "We continue to believe that IELTS is a good test for assessing English knowledge," Star said.
"We were open until dialogue with IDPs and we announced our interest in understanding () the reasons for the larger number of students who were found to be at risk of failure," said Hudson in an e-mail on Saturday. "The academic quality and success of students have always been and will remain at the core of the Niagara Academy's decision."
A representative of the Immigration Department said that officials are considering the matter.
In the past, vulnerability of language testing was exposed to the world:
- A Pennsylvania State University student from China complained this year that he paid someone who accepted the TOEFL English Language Exam for this.
- In 2016, several people in the United Kingdom were convicted of administering an immigrant fraud that paid false "sitterje" for carrying out TOEIC exams for non-EU students.
- In Australia, he was employed at the Curtin University English Center in 2011 in charge of receiving bribes and manipulating IELTS results through the computer center system. The case launched an investigation by the Commission for the Fight against Corruption and Crime, Western Australia.
Freeland, who said IDP training partners with a series of organizations managing IELTS in 140 countries, maintained "IELTS is a safe and valid indicator of the candidate's ability."
"All test centers are strictly controlled to ensure they operate at the highest standards," he said.
The test, which costs about $ 215 in India, has two versions, one for higher academic purposes and a general version that measures the ability of a person to work in English.
Niagara College said the school will be responsible for covering the cost of re-testing for 428 students in India, and tests must be completed by Monday.
Gonzalo Peralta, executive director of Canada, an association representing more than 200 providers of accredited English and French language programs across the country, said that maintaining the integrity of language tests is important for the international education sector.
"Language testing is one of the tools that anyone – student, institution, immigration to Canada and employers – trusts that this person is ready to do linguistic," he said in an interview. "You can not perform international education without proper and quality testing, so much depends on it."
Peralta said that test operators are continuously updating their security measures and having tight regulations in local test centers, they require photocopying, and prohibit mobile phones.
When he was informed of the situation at the Niagara Academy, Peralta said: "I am concerned that it affects one of our good members, Niagara College. I am also concerned about students who invested heavily in learning. I am concerned about the internally displaced person, without knowing what happened. "
According to the Canadian Office for International Education, Canada has 494,525 students at all levels of study in Canada, an increase of 17 percent over the previous year. Approximately 123,940 or 25 percent of these students came from India, which was the second largest contingent in China.
At the Niagara Academy, which has campuses in Welland and Niagara on the Lake, 2,914 of the 4,683 international students come from India. Scholarships for international students are on average $ 13,500, more than three times the amount their Canadian peers pay.
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Hudson said that the school received about 8,200 international applications for the winter 2019 term, of which 4,800 applicants from India, where the school employs at international educational fairs. The College offered 1.300 offers for Indian applicants; 428 of these students were asked to re-test the IELTS test or undergo an alternative Pearson test in English.
"We are aware that this is stressful for these applicants and their families, but we want to ensure that before they make significant financial and emotional investments related to travel to the Niagara Academy, they have the opportunity to be successful in their studies," said Hudson .
"We believe that these problems that we would bring if we were traveling here and could not successfully complete our study program would be much more important. In this process, we will continue to work with applicants and internally displaced persons."
Hudson said that those "threatened" students who already go to college, either redirected to language programs or offered additional linguistic and academic support.
Nicholas Keung is a Toronto reporter who covers immigration. Follow him on Twitter: @ nkeung