Posted 8 августа 2022,, 08:49

Published 8 августа 2022,, 08:49

Modified 24 декабря 2022,, 22:37

Updated 24 декабря 2022,, 22:37

"We don't have an import-substituting for TOEFL": Experts on the limitation of the access to the popular exam-system

8 августа 2022, 08:49
Yesterday, ETS banned Russians from the world's most popular English language exam, TOEFL. When trying to register, a notification pops up: access to testing is limited at the request of the US Department of the Treasury.

The measure significantly reduces the chances of Russians to study, work and participate in exchange programs abroad.

Julia Suntsova

TOEFL is taken for employment or study in English-speaking countries by people for whom English is not their native language.

After the start of a special military operation in Ukraine, the organizers of the exam announced that they were suspending testing in centers in Russia and Belarus as a sign of “solidarity with the people of Ukraine”, but then the Russians still had the opportunity to take the exam abroad. Now, the exam has become unavailable for Russians when entering from other countries - it is impossible to complete registration on the site when selecting the line with citizenship "Russian Federation".

“Your access to TOEFL products and services is restricted to comply with the requirements of the Office of Foreign Assets Control [a division of the US Department of the Treasury]” - such a message appears for users from Russia in their personal account. The organizers of TOEFL announced the suspension of testing in Russia and Belarus on March 10, and on March 21, the admission of exams for Russians was also limited in the framework of IELTS, the second most popular international system for assessing English knowledge.

On August 3, TOEF representatives reacted to the news with a promise to still provide Russians and Belarusians with the opportunity, in some cases, to take the exam in a remote format (previously, testing was mainly held in person at accredited centers within countries).

“ETS is amending its policy from March 2022 and will now allow Russian and Belarus test takers to register for the TOEFL iBT Home Edition, TOEFL Essentials and GRE Home Edition unless they have any financial barriers to doing so, ” said TASS representative of the company. What do experts think about the restrictions of the department of the Ministry of Finance imposed on Russians seeking to study and work in English-speaking countries? Does the TOEFL ban mean a rethink of the “Education Out of Politics” principle that Western countries used to adhere to? And what would be the consequences of such a ban?

Ilya Sikachev, Director of the Sales Department of the Educational Center EduStream:

- There is no and will not be an alternative to the TOEFL exam in Russia, just as there is no alternative for the second most popular international IELTS exam, which is also under restrictions. TOEFL is a priority for foreign universities and employers. Very often, a certificate of this exam is a mandatory requirement, and it is impossible to enter a university or receive an invitation from a university without this certificate. Some universities, for example, in Austria, of course, now soften the requirements for Russians to have language certificates, but this is rather an exception to the big rule.

There is also a CAE certificate - Certificate in Advanced English. Like IELTS and TOEFL, it is suitable for admission to a foreign university, which is taught in English. However, its results are not accepted everywhere - mainly in Canada, Australia and some European countries. The exam belongs to the Cambridge English family, but not even all British universities recognize it for admission.

There are also FCE exams - First Certificate in English (for summer courses or undergraduate preparatory programs for foreign students); PTE Academic - Pearson Test of English Academic (accepted by some government organizations and universities as an alternative to IELTS and TOEFL). However, these exams are quoted by educational institutions even worse.

Why are such bans being introduced that hit young people is a rhetorical question...

Oleg Vorobyov, businessman, member of the Business Russia Committee for Digital Technologies and Innovations in Marketing:

- On the topic under discussion, I would name China as an example of a wise policy. They have been actively practicing TOEFL for a long time precisely as a tool for stimulating young people to study in the West, in particular, in the USA. Such incentives, first of all, expand the horizons of education among the population. Secondly, young people return to their native country and their knowledge is used in the interests of China, as we see, quite successfully. TOEFL is a key prerequisite for studying abroad. I consider our exclusion to be a definitely negative process. We are losing opportunities that could work for our economy in the future. And most importantly, there is nothing to replace TOEFL yet, import substitution will not work here.

Marina Yevstratova, head of the coaching center for teachers of Skyeng online English school :

- At the moment, we can say that the difficulties in passing international exams in English affect the prospects of Russians to enter foreign universities and participate in international exchange programs. Acceptance of TOEFL exams has been suspended in Russia and Belarus, and this complicates the process of admission to foreign universities. The ban is not categorical at the moment, and the student still has the opportunity to take it online, but the number of versions is reduced. The testing process becomes more difficult and expensive. You need to keep in mind that it is desirable to pass the exam the first time to the required level, if financial capabilities do not allow you to make several flights (in the case of IELTS, which is still available in other countries, unlike TOEFL).

A small loophole remains in some European universities: some of them accept an internal test for the level of English proficiency. There are also conditions for admission, which state that the level of English can be confirmed automatically if the applicant already has a bachelor's or master's degree at a university where at least one full course was in English or if English was taught at school for at least three full years . The latter option is the least common, but if the university had a double degree program or fully English-language education, then it will be much easier for the applicant to confirm his level of English without TOEFL and IELTS.

Svetlana Mukha, tutor, translator:

- The news about the closure of access to TOEFL upset a large number of Russians who planned to enroll in Western universities or work in Europe and America. What to say? Pleasant little. Exam restrictions ruin the dreams of applicants and professionals who were going to temporarily study, work, live in other countries or immigrate. Perhaps the measure by the United States is able to provide more education and jobs for citizens of Ukraine, and in this way they are trying to organize some assistance for them. For our country, it means slowing down the brain drain. Whether the end justifies the means is difficult to say, yet it seemed that educational guarantees in accordance with the same Western values should not be touched. We will observe, maybe the policy will be revised.

Entrepreneur Anton Mitrofanov:

- First, Russian educational organizations are excluded from the Bologna system, and then Russian citizens are banned from registering for the international language exam in demand. TOEFL in Russia ceased to exist, in any case full-time. Some will probably grunt maliciously, they say, finally, it's time to cover up this devilry. But in fact, the news is worse than many. Next - the cancellation of the exam in German, French, etc.? Leave us Chinese at best? I myself am not going to blame anywhere, but for children, at least for those who are at least a little smart and do not try to connect their lives with a career in law enforcement offices, what should I do? "We don't need the smart. We need the faithful"? What can be offered to those young people who do not want to crush each other for a place in the stall at the budget trough? The ETS company sharply cuts in the legs, punishing everyone in fact. It is clear that ETS can cancel whatever it wants, no one can tell them. But, in my opinion, the principle of collective responsibility does not make sense here. On the contrary, we should do everything to facilitate the exit from Russia for everyone who considers himself superfluous in the country. Especially for young guys who understand all the consequences of living here. Why are the actions of the company better than the native pressure in the form of watching victory parades, Besogon-TV and reading Medvedev's network "pearls" a la "we will fan the world fire on the mountain in order to spite all bourgeois".