UK regulator the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) in October confirmed to the Gazette that it would from 2016 start to test applicants from other EU member states registering with them to practise as nurses if they couldn’t produce evidence of their English proficiency. The NMC will require an Ielts score of 7.0 to register as a nurse – a much higher score than in other English-speaking countries.
Restrictions on visas for nurses from outside the EU meant that UK hospitals held fairs in EU member states Spain and Portugal throughout 2014 to recruit nurses from these countries – some apparently with poor English.
At around the same time, UK home secretary Theresa May announced in October the ‘immediate relaxation’ of immigration controls on nurses coming to the UK from outside the EU on work visas. Some faced being ‘sent home’ after April 2016 if they weren’t earning over £35,000 a year, but in an apparent U-turn May requested that the Migration Advisory Committee place nursing professionals on the ‘shortage occupation list’ for visas.
A convicted sex offender working as an English language teacher was arrested in Cambodia in October, Andrea Perez writes. Paul Prestidge, 35, from Devon, England, was given a three-year suspended sentence in 2007 for taking and owning indecent photos of children, the Plymouth Herald reported.
In 2010 the former primary school teacher and scout leader informed police – as required under a Sex Offender Order – that he was going to visit Spain with his family. After failing to return he was put on the Crimestoppers ‘most wanted’ list. A post on online forum for expatriates in Cambodia Khmer440.com claimed that Prestidge had, during his stay in Spain, worked as an English teacher in an international school.
In 2014 Prestidge went from Spain to Cambodia, where he taught maths and English at Hope International School, the Phnom Penh Post reported. Prestidge was arrested after the British embassy alerted Cambodian police to his presence in September, making him the fourth foreign teacher arrested as part of a child abuse investigation in Cambodia in 2015. The Cambodia Daily confirmed that Prestidge was deported to the UK on 28 October.
Both Spain and Cambodia are making progress in child protection. In February 2016 a new law comes into force in Spain requiring all those applying for work with children to disclose their criminal records, El Mundo reports. In Cambodia, where such checks aren’t mandatory, children’s rights groups complain of an increase in offenders convicted of sex offences in their native countries who then travel to South East Asia, where child protection rules are weaker. Following the Prestidge affair, some Phnom Penh schools plan to take ‘protective measures’.
Attempts by at least sixteen primary school teachers in Asaba in Nigeria’s Delta State to render the English verb ‘to hit’ in its past, present perfect and continuous forms during inspections led to derision from state ministry inspectors and students.
The English language Nigerian newspaper Leadership reported that the unnamed teachers, in their enthusiasm to please inspectors, came up with ‘hit, hitting, hitten’. Officials and commissioners of the Delta State Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education, carrying out an unannounced spot check, joined primary school students in ‘uproarious laughter’ at the teachers’ ‘inadequacies’.
Non-standard verb forms in English language classes are by no means restricted to non-native speakers. The Gazette’s news editor recalls taking over a class in 1980s Turkey where his proficient, experienced and popular predecessor had taught his students the simple past tense form ‘I done’ – not standard English but in everyday usage in the dialect of his native Norfolk in the east of England.
Matt Salusbury reports from Seoul, Korea
METROPOLIS A row of Korean flags in front of the newly-opened Dongdaemun Design Plaza (left) in the recently developed Dongdaemun shopping district of Korea’s capital, Seoul (Copyright Matt Salusbury)
English exams and the vast sums spent on private tuition to prepare for them are perceived as being one of South Korea’s biggest social issues. The latest in a series of changes to the English component of the Korea Scholastic Aptitude Test (KSAT) for university entry aims to reduce the burden on students and their families of extra classes for test preparation at hogwans (after-school crammers). But will these KSAT tweaks make a difference? To consider this question Korea’s English language testing experts gathered at a conference in Seoul in October, co-hosted by the British Council and Seoul Municipal Government, and attended by the Gazette.
Estimates put the average Korean family’s spend on hogwans (for all subjects, not just English) at up to 20 per cent of household income. The school day finishes at noon, but Korean children are regularly at hogwans and after-school study clubs until 8pm and ‘all day at weekends’, a Seoul-based English teacher told the Gazette.
Korean families attach great prestige to their children going to university, 80 per cent of school leavers enter tertiary education, and a top KSAT score (‘level 1’) – essential for the country’s top universities – is achieved by less than 4 per cent of students. A series of adjustments since 2011 has raised this from the previous figure of around just 0.1 per cent of students.
President Park Geun-hye’s government is concerned that the hogwan culture perpetuates inequality, with wealthier families affording more – and better – tuition. There are already limits on what hogwans can charge per hour. To give rural students a better chance, since 2010 around 70 per cent of KSAT English test materials have been taken from the state’s Educational Broadcasting System (EBS) TV programmes for English language learners. However, EBS English content is put together by non-EFL specialists. An analysis by Professor Inn-chull Choi of the Department of English Language Education, Korea University, of test items from EBS used in the KSAT shows that it’s at a ‘much higher’ level of difficulty than high school textbooks.
In 2014 President Park gave instructions to the Ministry of Education for ‘a fundamental reform measure for the real-world demands on excessive English education’. From 2018 KSAT English scoring will move from its current norm-reference base (scores are in a bell curve based on the entire student body’s performance) to a criterion-based test (scores will be awarded regardless of how well other students perform, like driving tests) in the hope that this will produce a less fiercely competitive exam, with more scope for teaching of communicative English rather than teaching to test. Dr Young Soo Kim, president of the Korean Institute for Curriculum and Evaluation (KICE), which administers KSAT, told the Seoul conference he expected ‘10 to 15 per cent to get the top grade’ once the criterion-based test took effect.
Meanwhile, as in previous years, some flights will be grounded and some roads, public markets and Seoul’s stock exchange are expected to briefly close on the morning of 12 November to help 700,000 students across Korea to get to their exam halls on time to take the eight-hour long KSAT test.