Today’s Australian reports that Curtin University may give up IELTS, the test jointly owned by IDP, Cambridge and the British Council. The story exposes the fundamental problem associated with state enforced monopolies. As The Australian says:
IELTS enjoys a government-backed monopoly as the only acceptable proof of English competence under sought-after visa categories.
However, and happily, following this latest fiasco “potential English language test providers are already being assessed”.
Governments hand enormous influence to monopolies such as IDP and the British Council, and in the case of the British Council they are gifted taxpayers’ money and an international network to market their monopoly product. And now we learn that scores can be altered by any staff member without leaving an audit trail. If someone in Perth was caught last August after taking $1500, it seems highly likely that this sort of scam has been going on all over the place and for a long time, particularly given the endemic sloppiness which characterises the British Council, which not only owns and administers the test but also is responsible for auditing its own security. And their test centres can evidently go for 15 years with no audit providing ample opportunities for staff corruption such as the one that took so long to uncover in Bahrain.
IELTS scores should evidently be taken with a pinch of salt.