Report addresses English skills test

Immigration officials have been given until May to comply with a report’s recommendations over the English skills test given to people coming to work in Cayman.

Following a newspaper article on the basic English skills test given to people from non-English speaking countries arriving at the airport, the Office of the Complaints Commissioner (OCC) began an investigation.

And the report on that investigation, along with a number of recommendations, has just been tabled in the Legislative Assembly.

The document said it had been reported that a number of people who failed the test were denied entry.

In its report the OCC said a number of concerns were identified in relation to the administration of the English skills test.

Whilst the type of questions asked did test a person’s ability to communicate in English, ‘it also tests knowledge of information that the employer might not yet have given to the person,’ said the report.

‘If the person does not know the local emergency number, he/she may look confused or say nothing.

‘This response may be interpreted as not understanding English rather than not knowing the correct answer,’ the report explained.

‘People being tested should not be assumed to be floundering in the language when they are simply left speechless or confused by a question to which they do not know the answer,’ it said.

The OCC drafted for the review and comments of the Chief Immigration Officer a set of questions that could be used for the English skills test.

‘The advantage of having a set of preset questions with objectively correct answers is that it provides appropriate checks and balances which encourage the fair administration and scoring of each person’s test,’ said the OCC report.

The question of language skills also had to be addressed by the Work Permit Board, the Business Staffing Plan Board and the Cayman Brac and Little Cayman Immigration Board, said the report.

‘It is necessary for the boards and the Chief Immigration Officer to agree on the standard of English proficiency that is required,’ it said.

The OCC recommended that the level of English language proficiency required of applicants for work permits be determined and that the testing process be designed and documented.

It also recommended that the Chief Immigration Officer write a policy and procedure guidance note directing the administration of the test.

‘For example, there should be a predetermined set of questions to be asked that can be objectively adjudicated by the examiner.’

And finally it recommended that the work permit application form clearly state that people coming from a non English speaking country will be required to take an oral English skills test upon arrival.

The recommendations have to be complied with by 10 May, the report concluded.

‘We have set up a team to consider and implement the necessary recommendations contained in the report,’ Chief Immigration Officer Franz Manderson told the Caymanian Compass on Sunday.

The test would have to be developed in such a way that it could not be passed on to others, he said.

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