In the memorandum on the language table (Notitie taaltabel) that was distributed together with the new text of the Code of Conduct, it was also announced that the umbrella organizations (UNL, VH and NRTO) and the National Commission for the Code of Conduct (NC) are setting up a procedure to make it possible for language tests from different language test providers to be added to the language table, as stipulated in Article 5.2 of the Code of Conduct. The umbrella organizations and the NC have delegated the task of providing a procedure of this kind, together with the development of an independent standard on the basis of which a language test can be assessed, to an independent organization – Hobéon. Hobéon is a strategic consultancy that specializes in quality assurance and is known for its advisory role concerning accreditation procedures. Of course, the policy advisers from the umbrella organizations, several experts in language testing from educational institutions and the NC office are also closely involved in developing the standard.
Why are we doing this?
The rationale for revising the language table and the reason for opening it up to new tests is because the umbrella organizations and the NC office have received various requests from language providers to add their language test to the table. Several educational institutions have also indicated they want to be able to offer a language test they have developed themselves. There is currently no procedure for assessing these language tests. Requests are handled on an ad-hoc basis and expert advice is frequently outsourced. The umbrella organizations and the NC agree that there needs to be an objective standard that forms the basis for assessing new language tests. It will make the process more transparent and accountable and most importantly ensure that the language table only includes language tests that meet strict quality conditions. Ultimately, language tests are a key component in the assessment made by educational institutions as to whether a student can be admitted to Dutch higher education. For that reason, it is important for educational institutions and students to be able to rely on the language tests accepted within the framework of the Code of Conduct. In addition, we are also dealing with the European open-market system, in which the right to competition means that language providers must be able to compete with each other. Conditions can be applied to this, especially from the perspective of quality, but this must be done in a way that is objective.
What will the process look like?
On behalf of the umbrella organizations and the NC, Hobéon is coordinating the process of reaching an objective standard, as well as the procedure for assessing requests for new language tests to be added. The process developed by Hobéon has already started and is as follows:
- Establishing and approving the system of certification
The first step is to determine the scope and content of the admission system. This includes a description of the standard, agreements concerning the duration of access to the language table, agreements about the organization and official that makes the decision concerning admission, what the requirements are for the assessment organization, etc. This is about setting up the system.
- Fine-tuning the scope of the assessment framework
The system of certification will then be made operational in the form of an assessment framework and assessment process. The first step will be to determine the scope for assessing language tests.
- Developing assessment framework and process
Based on the scope agreed, Hobéon will develop the assessment framework in more detail. Hobéon will also provide a more detailed proposal for the steps that organizations need to complete for language tests to be assessed with a view to inclusion in the language table in the Code of Conduct.
- Validating, finalizing and approving assessment framework and process
The draft version of the assessment framework and assessment process will be put to a group of experts. This group of experts will be recruited within the existing network of educational umbrella organizations. In the future, these experts will also be able to take on the role of expert assessor in assessing a range of language tests. What matters is their ability to provide a sufficiently independent assessment of the quality of the language test concerned.
What is the timeline?
The standard agreed, together with the assessment process and application procedure, will need to be integrated into the text of the Code of Conduct, and the language table itself will be included as an addendum to the Code of Conduct in order to make it easier to amend. All of this will require an amendment to the Code of Conduct and the Rules and Regulations. When the text of the Code of Conduct is amended, all three umbrella organizations and the NC must agree to the amendments. For this, each of the umbrella organizations will apply its own internal decision-making process, in which all members must be given an opportunity to consent to the proposed amendment(s). The aim is to include the standard, the assessment framework and the assessment process in the text of the Code of Conduct by 1 October 2023. From then on, it will be possible to process assessment requests. Organizations that have already submitted requests will be informed about the procedure.
We will keep you informed on progress via the umbrella organizations, the Code of Conduct website and the newsletter. If you have any questions, you can contact the policy adviser responsible in your umbrella organization. If your educational institution is not represented by an umbrella organization, you can email your questions to the NC office.