English Teacher Article Citizenship classes for new Britons

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It was recently announced that proposals for an English language test to be taken by people applying for UK citizenship are being considered. The proposals have already met with criticism and the benefits are likely to be hotly debated over the course of the coming months.

In one camp we have people suggesting that the tests "could actually be a useful way of integrating people into British society and actually making it easier for them to maximise their life opportunities" Mark Littlewood, and in another it is suggested that the tests hold little value and are simply yet another a way to exclude people.

Sabina McKee disagrees with the idea that people should have to 'earn' citizenship. "It's something you have to pay for anyway, I had to pay �120 and it would have been more if I wasn't married to a British citizen and lived here for over five years," she said. (source).

If applicants failed the exam, it would mean that they "cannot gain a British passport or vote, although their residency status would not be affected" (source)

In fact, the tests are designed to teach a basic understanding of the country in which the immigrant may spend the rest of their life in.

KEY POINTS FOR CITIZENSHIP
- able to speak English, Welsh or Gaelic
- know how to acquire necessities like electricity
- understand how democracy and Parliament works
- knowledge of etiquette and sexual equality
- understanding British institutions like the monarchy and elections
- British history since 1945
- applicants must have lived in the UK for five years or three years if married to a Briton

(Quoted from the BBC)

I believe the idea is a sound one overall. Candidates will be able to retake the tests, so a fail is not necessarily a flat refusal of citizenship. The aspect I find odd is that we expect others to learn about the tradition and culture in Britain to the extent that they can pass a test on in, but I bet a large proportion of current British nationals wouldn't be able to pass it.

Personally, I definitely think it's a good idea to teach people about the country that they will be living in for the rest of their lives. It remains to be seen whether this proposal will be successful, or simply more red tape.

You may vote in the following poll, created to run alongside this blog entry:

Do you agree with proposals to give a language test to people applying for citizenship?

Categories: Speaking Out

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5 Comments

I'm not sure that swatting up on British history since 1945 will achieve the results intended. I don't really believe that knowing who Harold MacMillan was will build a happier and more stable society. I agree with the idea of language, but it seems a bit of a simplistic idea to me.

It'll also probably have a very restricted syllabus and end up as just a chore that people have to go through to get a passport.

How many British people have a deep understanding of the workings of our democracy?

If it's forced, it won't be viewed positively and runs the risk of achieving the exact opposite of its intended effect. Why is history seens as more important than the geography or the culture. It might sound fine in a government office, but as a teacher, I have reservations.

I can see that something is a good idea, but its punitive nature doesn't help. It should be used as a starting point for discussion rather than a policy.

You can vote in the following poll on this topic: http://www.usingenglish.com/poll/index.php?poll_id=82 ;-)

It seems incredible that a proposal is being made to test this - Does anyone know of any other country where there is a language learning requirement before citizenship is considered?

I don't- I know where language tests are compulsory, the Netherlands, for instance, but not this. ;-|

who will be giving these tests and where would i have to go to apply for a job helping with the testing. I'd be very appreciative if someone could help me out with this.

Cheers

James

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