Australia Considering Mandatory English Test for All New Migrants

The move comes amid fears that that more than one million people could have little to no English skills in Australia by 2021.


Amid growing concerns that more than one million people could have little to no English skills in Australia by 2021, the Turnbull government is considering a mandatory basic English language requirement for all permanent resident immigrants, ABC reported.

The statistics show that the country accepts up to 190,000 permanent migrants each year and while they need to prove that they can understand English, their dependents — spouses, children and extended family accompanying them are exempt from the requirement.

After six months of consultations with ­migrant groups, business community and academics, the Australian government is now considering several options, ranging from mandatory language classes for anyone seeking permanent residency to a new customized English test.

Any new test would be assessing “conversational” or “primary-school” level English, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said in Hobart on June 14, according to the report. “Everyone should recognize that we all have a vested interest in being able to converse and engage in our national language,” he said.

Mandatory basic English requirements for all permanent residents are estimated to apply to an extra 130,000 new arrivals to Australia every year.

Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs Minister Alan Tudge, who will next present the proposal to the parliament, has said as an assurance that while it is ideal that everyone has the ­“capacity to speak English,” there is “immense value in being multilingual and in retaining multiple languages.”

Calling the proposed move as a step towards addressing concerns over social integration, Tudge said the current scenario is “not in the interests of those migrants but nor is it in the interests of social cohesion.” He said: “If we can’t communicate with one another, it’s very difficult to integrate.”

Citing research that said that the absence of English language skills is creating social fragmentation and parallel communities in the country, Tudge said: “Australia’s multicultural model has been built on integration where communities merge together, where we play together, where we work together. But in order for that to occur you do need to have a common language.”

According to census data, with its current growth rate, Australia will be home to one million people who do not speak English or don’t speak English well by 2021. The numbers have been steadily increasing, with 300,000 permanent residents in 1981 having little or no English skills, to 560,000 in 2006, 655,000 in 2011 and more than 820,000 in 2016.

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