Stakeholder perceptions of IELTS as a gateway to the professional workplace: The case of employers of overseas trained teachers

This paper reports on a qualitative study which explored stakeholder perceptions of the IELTS test as a gateway to the professional workplace for teachers in Australia and New Zealand.

The goal of this study was to research perceptions of school principals as regards teachers who have entered the profession through IELTS or other English language proficiency test pathways and how the changing language demands of teaching may have impacted on these perceptions.

Three research questions were addressed, with data for the study collected from 21 principals through their participation in one-to-one interviews and/or face-to-face focus groups. Five IELTS sample Speaking tests and three sets of IELTS Writing tests were used as the basis for discussion in the focus groups.

Findings from the analysis of the three data sources showed that:

  • Participants’ knowledge of IELTS was lower than expected.
  • Participants’ expectations of overseas trained teachers’ proficiency in English was not always realistic, being heavily influenced by the demands of the school environment, especially in regards to interaction with students and parents.
  • While technological advances had changed some literacy practices, employer expectations regarding high standards of accuracy remained unchanged.

The paper concludes that stakeholders need to be better informed of what English proficiency tests can and cannot assess.

Further research could be undertaken to explore stakeholder needs, expectations and suggestions in terms of how best to interpret English proficiency standards and organise workplace processes for the purpose of optimising present practices in the employment of overseas trained teachers.