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Vocational Education and Training (VET) providers, which were previously regulated independently, will now be subject to the same standards as other providers for their intensive English courses. Nearly a third (54,000) of all overseas students attending intensive courses in 2016 did so with a VET provider, according to English Australia.
The announcement was made as the government unveiled its new English Language Intensive Course for Overseas Students (Elicos) Standards 2018, which will come into force next March. These are aimed at harmonising the industry and ensuring that international students ‘get the most out of their education in Australia’.
The changes are needed because ‘some students simply don’t have the English language skills they need to succeed,’ education minister Simon Birmingham told the Australian International Education Conference.
He added: ‘It means they draw away from getting involved in lectures, tutorials and group study work while their classmates and teachers struggle to bridge the language divide.’ As a result, some students were ‘slipping through the cracks’, he said.
The standards, which apply only to providers delivering English language courses to student visa holders, have recommendations regarding class size, contact hours and teacher credentials.
Elicos courses must have a minimum of 20 hours teaching a week, teacher-to-student ratios can’t exceed 1:18 and teachers must have a degree and a suitable Tesol qualification.
Schools are now required to prove that students on Elicos courses giving direct entry to university have reached the same level required of students applying directly. This has sparked fears that a new standardised test would be required for international students.
However, English Australia, Universities Australia and other education bodies insist there is no requirement for further standardised testing.
‘Testing is only one form of assessment that may be considered and education providers will still set their own English language requirements for entry to their courses,’ they said.
The new standards, they say, have been supported by education bodies as ‘yet another quality measure’.
English Australia chief executive Brett Blacker, who helped develop the new standards, said, ‘The changes announced today will ensure that all providers of courses to international students where the outcome is solely or predominantly English language will need to adhere to the standards, and that is a positive step in ensuring a level playing field for all providers.’