Australian student services hulk, IDP Education, have made the decision to move parts of the English Language Proficiency Test for international university students online and overseas, putting many domestic examiners out of work and sparking fears that test standards could drop further.

In accordance with a confidential ‘Information Pack’ circulated in test centres run by the IDP, the written units of the IELTS in Australia will be assessed by independent contractors, working from home, using specially designed ‘MarkManager’ software.

Australia’s National Tertiary Education Union has criticised the IDP’s decision, claiming that the strain on markers and the shift to move parts abroad puts the integrity of the test at risk.

Jeannie Rea, President of the National Tertiary Education Union, says: “We want to be totally convinced that we are holding onto the integrity of the program.

“One always hopes that nothing goes wrong, you can have good regulation that catches students after the event- but that is a bit too late.”

Australian markers at five centres across the nation will have to apply for new positions. They will be required to mark up to 50 written IELTS tests a day at $3 apiece, while covering their own expenses for Australian Business Numbers, high-speed internet, dual-screen computers, home offices that meet health and safety standards, and up to $1 million worth of professional indemnity insurance.

A current examiner told The Australian that many of his colleagues would not be able to meet the equipment requirements; others would be forced out by the stated workload, which is deemed too heavy for English teachers seeking extra cash, but too light for people seeking full-time employment.

A number of sources also claim that the new rate of $3 per written item was a heavy cut from current rates, which are negotiated with individual testing centres, whereas the IDP claims that the new approach would suit examiners as well as meet its own needs.

Warwick Freeland, Chief Strategy Officer at IDP, says: “We’ve found that’s the sort of model that works best for people.

“They’ve got a 15-hour work window so they can mesh it in with their childcare activities. The flexibility of being able to work from home at hours that suit you has been an entirely attractive aspect to examiners.”

Regarding how examiners might view the remuneration charges, Freeland commented, “But compared to similar job classifications in teaching, it’ll be a good gig. If we don’t pay them the right amount, we won’t have anybody to do the task.

“As a global organisation it enables us to control the flow of activities in a more efficient manner, so it’s a logical improvement for us.”

Freeland went on to say that despite the 300-strong Indian workforce already undertaking ‘clerical marking’, all assessments from international students taking their IELTS in Australia would be performed domestically. There was no proposal to automate IELTS marking, as there was for NAPLAN school tests.

The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency and the Nursing and Midwifery Board were not made aware of the changes to the IELTS marking system, prompting a spokeswoman to say that, “[They] will be following it up with the provider.

The scheduled move comes one-year after a series of notable cheating scandals regarding foreign students in Australia, worries about falsified IELTS results from crooked recruitment agents, and nationwide HE institutions investigating  serious allegations of plagiarism and ghost-writing.

Could this be yet another knock to Australia’s reputation as one of the world’s most desirable study abroad locations?

Image via Shutterstock.

Liked this? Then you’ll love these…

Fall in Australian Dollar to Benefit International Students

Australian Immigration Cancels Over Ten Thousand International Student Visas