Problem with a capital P
It gets sad from this point onwards. There has always been a problem. The language barrier. Not being competent enough or simply not having the ability to talk in real world situations or get what you hear in those similar situations. As with everything else in life, it takes both a genuine interest and the will to succeed, and pretty much so far, there has been a widespread appeal for language learning, but educational programmes and systems or those who deliver them have failed either partially or so completely in language education. With all that said, there have been compensatory attempts to reignite the enthusiasm or to push learners harder and further towards a more fruitful language learning experience.
In walks a Unicorn
To assess how much a student has mastered the target language, it seems very straightforward to have a testing system. For that, language tests have existed for as long as learning languages have been around. To speak of IELTS, it made its debut back when TOEFL was the big guy in town. TOEFL directly affected the flow of students and immigrants that had plans for a future studying or working elsewhere in the world. I, in no way, am implying that TOEFL didn’t satisfy the evaluation needs of institutions and educational organizations in general. Students and educators were looking for more. Let’s say, a clearer picture of what the learner could achieve with his relative command of English. In a way that no one could have possibly predicted, IELTS stole the spotlight.
IELTS: Making waves
Until then, there was no actual or effective speaking part in an international English test. Most tests either looked at the grammatical and vocabulary knowledge of the average student or didn’t place the proper emphasis on listening to another language as it happens out in the wild. Where language is used and more importantly needed. It was IELTS that brought into existence a more complete English testing experience for both the test-taker and the people that were rightfully curious to know about the test-takers’ English competence.
Growing fat from strength
Most if not all ideas sound perfect, but in practice, the opposite turns out to be true. Not in the case of IELTS, though perhaps not yet!. The International English Language Testing System was accepted and adopted so quickly that it didn’t take much time for course books, text books and whatever preparation material to find their way into the hands and homes of the average English learner. Yes, English learner. IELTS created a unique attitude. For language learners, IELTS meant and still means the path to a better level of English even if their goals aren’t one of studying abroad or immigration. What I’ve often wondered is whether it was IELTS’s perfect timing or the way it was marketed that made it become the powerhouse it is today. Perhaps, it was both, or for a third reason: How good it does what it’s supposed to.
Promises made, promises kept
The extent to which a claim is valid can only be measured by what it produces after the test of time. IELTS emerged not as a replacement for the conventional English tests, but rather as guiding light to illuminate the way for the existing and would-be tests. The standards set by IELTS have made something which can only be called a revolution. Bringing the test-taker in contact with the system through a 3-part speaking section that has much similarity to speaking scenarios in a natural environment. Something that was believed to be impossible or impractical considering the huge number of test-takers and the difficulty of administering a speaking test while maintaining the same quality of delivery. IELTS proved all wrong.
This was just a peek into the success story that is IELTS. We’ll dive deeper in the weeks to come.