Ethics in language testing, local practices, once more in the spotlight

This is to share two thoughts with you.

First, that it’s time for language test developers in South Africa to begin to evaluate the ethicality of their assessment practices with reference to international codes, and second, to consider what local and contextual conditions might further shape our design work.


Does the South African language testing community need a Code of Ethics? That need has just been brought into focus again by an invitation from Tineke Brunfaut, coordinator of a project of the International Language Testing Association (ILTA; aiming to have the ILTA Code of ethics translated into more languages, to translate it into Afrikaans. As its name says, the ILTA Code of Ethics is a set of principles that serves to guide good professional conduct in language testing and assessment. The Code has so far been translated into seven languages apart from English, and I am privileged to be able to assist in this.

A team, consisting of Sanet Steyn (UCT) and Gini Keyser (UFS) as the principal translators, with Colleen du Plessis (UFS) and me acting as reviewers, has been put together from the membership of the Network of Expertise in Language Assessment (NExLA. The full news item for those who would like to share it, is on the NExLA website:

One would hope that this initiative will stimulate further consideration of the Code of Ethics. But there is also a second issue. Those who drafted the original code some 20 years ago, spearheaded by Alan Davies, envisaged that each local language assessment community would also produce, in alignment with the ILTA Code, a local Code of Practice. That would be a complementary set of conditions that would take local context fully into account. Does South Africa have the capacity to begin to undertake that as well? I would sincerely hope so.

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