11 October 2011

Life In The UK...

...test, as opposed to the 'UK Citizenship' test.

As follows, is what was originally a very long comment on a post by Thom Brooks about the Life in the UK test.

I am posting it here, instead of there, ONLY because I do go on, and it got to be so incredibly long that I didn't want to clog up Thom's page with it. NOT because I disagreed with a couple of things that he said, so wanted to run off to post a rant like so many internet soapboxers users do these days.

Not at all! I am in complete agreement with Thom. So I hope that this will be taken in the (light) spirit in which it was meant.

First, it is useful to listen to the BBC's most recent You and Yours programme, and then read Thom's post, both of which can be found here at his blog.


Back already? All caught up? Excellent.


Two weeks ago, I took (and passed - happy days!) the Life in the UK test and, earlier today, listened to Thom’s comments about the test on You and Yours.

I agree that much of the content is out of date, but feel this is to be expected. To update the materials each year would be at further cost, likely passed on to the test taker...which is another issue, in my opinion, after the fee recently jumped from £34 to £50 (I missed the £34) - now taking the overall cost of permanent settlement in the UK (aka ILR) to over £1000 (then, another £900 12 months later for citizenship).

I was admittedly quite bitter about having to take the test after 9 years in the UK (long story), but ultimately found it useful in many ways, and feel that Thom’s comments about the test lacking British history were slightly misleading.

There is an intimation that no aspects of history are covered, which is incorrect; migrants over the decades who helped develop the country, the Second World War, women’s rights and Scotland/Wales/Northern Ireland devolution are all accounted for.

Albeit - yes - only in brief.

Whereas, including words such as Churchill, Heath, Cromwell, BBC, Plymouth, Labour, Tory - and perhaps even J Arthur Rank*, East India Company and what means 'At Her Majesty's Pleasure'**! - would certainly not go amiss.

* As a film maddie, this may be a bit self-indulgent.
** Joking. I guess.

There should be MORE about what it actually means to be a part of this country and LESS about on what date Valentine's Day falls, what do British people eat at Christmas and who were founding members of Council of Europe (not to be confused with European Council).

I felt that also misleading - and somewhat contrary to the point Thom was making about the test content - were his comments about many people with whom he’s come into contact failing the test due to erroneous information given as study material.

As Thom states, tests are mostly about memorising information than anything else - therefore, given the availability of study guides (I personally found the gocitizen.co.uk website 1000 times more useful than the books), I can not agree at all with his suggestion that people fail due to out-of-date information.

It is not an ideal situation, but this is not the US (Yet! I left there to get away from it, but feel we are gradually turning until Little America here!), who (and, therefore, their citizenship test, one conjects) must always be seen as leading by example and win, win, winning!

On a lighter note…

Thom's suggestion about involving those who've taken the test on what sort of content should be included is a very good one: but why stop at academics? My ongoing nemesis that is the UKBA have record of test-taker data - how about assembling a cross-section of people of different background and age to share their feelings on the test and what they would’ve liked to have been asked to learn?

While the majority probably couldn’t be bothered, surely there are enough people like me and Thom who would be happy to spare the time and effort to help make improvements for the future.

Which brings me to a related point...

Now I’ve finally taken the test, I personally feel that it should be taken on arrival rather than simply in order to meet a requirement 2/5/10 years down the road.

It seems rather ridiculous for people to be learning how to get a National Insurance no., a driving licence, at what age their children will be tested in school and if their neighbours eat turkey AFTER they've been here for a number of years, no?

For example: New arrivals are given a six-month window to take the test...for £10, rather than £50...perhaps even making it voluntary so that one can get it out of the way early on if they know (believe) they will be making the UK their permanent home.

I realise this would not work in all cases, but think the idea has its merit.

I feel a letter coming on!!

Perhaps best to wait until my long-suffering ILR application is finally submitted, though...

Tick tock goes the clock.

1 comment:

The Brooks Blog said...

Many thanks for these comments on my post. We seem to agree on much and disagree on not much at all. Let me address the disagreement:
1. I've never said that most fail the test because there are so many incorrect or out of date questions. While there are enough such question to fail, this is not the cause.
2. The PM said yesterday that it is surprising there are no questions about "British history and culture": while there is some mention of culture on the test, the textbook is very clear that chapter 1 (on British history) will not be covered on the citizenship test. When I referred to the absence of British history (and basic law), I was referring to the fact that no questions are drawn from the chapter on British history (nor are any drawn from the chapter on law). This seems a major shortcoming that should be remedied and I've been very encouraged to see this appears very likely.
3. While I might agree that there may be no need for tests to be updated annually, the costs are largely passed onto those sitting the test. The price is an issue (and I was lucky to apply when the test, my visa, and citizenship application cost a bit less), but not unmanageable.
4. I disagree on the test being required for new arrivals. The discount will mean taxpayers would subsidize the test and I think this would be too politically unpopular. All EU citizens have a right to travel to the UK and so would be exempt from the test. So the test could only be a factor for non-EU and/or those seeking citizenship. Unless the idea is to raise barriers specifically on non-EU migrants, then I think limiting the test to non-EU permanent settlement and citizenship the better choice.

Again, we agree on more than we disagree. One source of agreement is that the questions - in addition to being perhaps more regularly updated - should address better subject-matters. You note Christmas, etc., but what would want the test to address? I'd be interested to know.