Sunday, 24 March 2013

Expert: Citizens test is ‘unfit for purpose’

The test has been criticised for containing too much history and too few life skills. Picture: TSPL The test has been criticised for containing too much history and too few life skills. Picture: TSPL
THE new test for foreign nationals hoping to become British citizens is “unfit for purpose” as it concentrates too heavily on history and not enough on practical knowledge, according to an academic who has experienced the process.
US-born immigration expert Dr Thom Brooks, of Durham University, said the new Life in the UK test, which takes effect on 25 March, requires people taking it to learn detailed biographies of figures in British history.
But there is no requirement to know how to register with a GP, how to ring for an ambulance or what to do if someone is attacking your neighbour, he said.
Dr Brooks, who took the test in 2009, agreed history should play an important part in the exam, which is based on the third edition of its handbook Life in the United Kingdom: A Guide for New Residents.
But some of the detail in the book was too in-depth for what was required, he believed, and he highlighted a lengthy biography of Sake Dean Mahomed, a notable early Indian immigrant, and the inclusion of the facts that Crimean War heroine Florence Nightingale was born in Italy and trained in Germany.
Dr Brooks said: “The new citizenship test is unfit for purpose.
“It is also too limited and goes too far to include information about British culture and history at the expense of practical knowledge.”
Dr Brooks, who has a British wife, said: “I welcome the inclusion of British culture and history in the test because it is important that prospective citizens demonstrate awareness of Britain’s cultural narrative.
“But the government goes too far in making this narrative the main subject of the test.
“Britain will not be more cohesive because more have heard about the Battle of Trafalgar, but rather if future citizens understand better how to participate in daily British life and make a contribution.”
“If the test is meant to be a restrictive barrier, then a greater emphasis on globally well-known historical events and figures in popular culture may make the test easier to pass and so prove counter-productive.”
A Home Office spokesman said: “Putting our culture and history at the heart of the citizenship test will help ensure those permanently settling can understand British life allowing them to properly integrate into our society.”