Examining Embedded Meaning in Canada’s English-Language Proficiency Requirements for Immigration, Asylum and Resettlement, and Citizenship

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McLeod, Melissa A.
high-stakes testing , immigration , citizenship , refugee resettlement , language proficiency testing
Globally the number of people on the move is increasing as is the use of language proficiency testing for facilitating or blocking immigration, asylum and resettlement, and citizenship. This multi-manuscript dissertation examines the meaning that is embedded in Canada’s English-language proficiency requirements in these three instances where international migrants need to demonstrate a specific level of language proficiency. Despite Canada’s reputation as a global leader in immigration, this dissertation identifies several issues happening in the Canadian context that need more research and advocacy. The findings also revealed the challenges and complexities that even highly proficient and educated test takers face in meeting Canada’s requirements. The first manuscript describes current use of English-language proficiency requirements in top migrant destination countries globally, including Canada, and the factors that have led to their use. It also views different frameworks and definitions from the field of language testing through the lens of Shohamy’s (2001) Critical Language Testing and identifies a gap between the theoretical and conceptual work and empirical work in the migration context. The second manuscript reviews the only test designed and developed for immigration in Canada’s migration context, the Canadian English Language Proficiency Index Program (CELPIP) Test, for fit of purpose. Research on this de facto policy tool also highlights the same issues raised in the first manuscript. The third manuscript used interviews to explore test takers’ experiences in trying to meet Canada’s English-language proficiency requirements for permanent residency. This dissertation concludes by identifying the issues that thread through all three manuscripts which call into question Canada’s reputation as a global leader in immigration and by making recommendations for language testing professionals to answer the many calls from the field to engage with language test use within the global migration context.
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