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Testing the standards

The English language skills requirements for registration of nurses and midwives in Australia are under review.

Attracting controversy since its implementation five months ago, the English language skills requirements for registration of nurses and midwives in Australia is under review.

The Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia last month released for consultation the revised standard, which includes exempting a number of applicants from sitting English language tests.

The board reviewed and revised the standard that has been in place since 1 July 2010, after calls from the profession that it was in need of improvement.

The core difference in the revised standard is the removal of requirement that a practitioners’ secondary education be completed in English.

Under the proposed changes, applicants from Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Republic of Ireland, South Africa, the UK and the US who had been taught and assessed in English in their tertiary education won’t have to sit an English language test.

Dr Lynette Cusack, acting chair of NMBA, said the board believed the revised draft reflected the feedback provided to date, while ensuring the standard supports the board’s core role of protecting the public.

“The board welcomes comments from the profession, the community and all stakeholders on this revised draft,” Cusack said.

“It has benefitted from extensive feedback provided on the initial standard, as well as comments provided in a recently completed, preliminary consultation process,” she said.

The English Language Skills standard of IELTS 7 or equivalent in each of the four components – listening, reading, writing and speaking – for all nurses and midwives to practise in Australia will not change, despite some international students questioning the standard’s “fairness”.

Other less substantial amendments have also been made.

This includes easing the time-frame requirements for particular nurses to sit English language tests.

For the majority of applicants, the results have to be obtained within two years prior to applying for registration.

In the revised standard results older than two years may be accepted if proof can be provided that the applicant has maintained employment in the workplace as a nurse or midwife in a country where English is the native or first language or is a registered student who was required to provided an IELTS of 7 or equivalent at the commencement of his or her program of study and who has successfully completed the program of study in a full-time or part-time capacity in English, in a period that is greater than two years.

The current English language skills registration standard will remain in place until the revised standard is finalized by the board and approved by Ministerial Council.

The consultation process on the revised standard - available at www.nursingmidwiferyboard.gov.au is now open until 10 December 2010. Email comments to [email protected]

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