“Mediazona” announced a ban on the TOEFL exam for citizens of the Russian Federation. Later, the organizers of the exams announced that from August 4, citizens of Russia and Belarus will be able to take the TOEFL exam either online or in other countries. “It was a shock,” Polina Kordik, the founder and head of the school, commented on the news about the English exams in an interview with DW Polina Kordik School of English. “I saw that in the end the decision was changed, but the very fact that such news appears is very sad.”
Language certificates in Russia: vacuum and confusion
The online school of Polina Kordik has the status of Official Cambridge Preparation Centre, this is the official recognition by the University of Cambridge of the effectiveness and efficiency of the preparation program for the Cambridge exams in English. Since February 2022, a lot has changed for Polina and her teaching staff.
“Events developed very slowly and ambiguously,” recalls the head of the school. “There was no moment at which we would wake up and find out that there were no more Cambridge exams in Russia. In March, the Cambridge Office in Russia issued a statement that they were temporarily suspending registration in due to technical difficulties, it was the most mild wording. I conveyed this to our students. At that moment, they told me that the decision would be, and literally in a couple of weeks. We spent March in anticipation. But we still have nothing we don’t know. There have been no reports that the Cambridge exams are going away or stop working, it’s just all hung in the air.”
Not only teachers, but also students of language schools found themselves in such an information vacuum. The opportunity to pass the Cambridge exam remained, but outside the Russian Federation. “Some of our students went to Turkey, Armenia, Kazakhstan, and they successfully registered, passed the exam and received certificates. There are such cases, they are not so few,” says Polina Kordik.
According to her, there is confusion among the students. Polina is regularly contacted for information. “People are trying to do something, passing exams, looking for ways to enroll in programs, although everything has become more complicated. They do not want to despair and do not want to admit that they now live without access to international education,” says the English teacher.
Polina Kordik is skeptical about the possibility of conducting an exam online: “Such exams are not conducted online, it is impossible to provide all the necessary conditions. The exam takes place throughout the day. Cambridge has two types of exam. One is written on paper, the other is written on a computer, but this your computer, but the one in the test center, which is specially configured for this.In each examination room there is a person who makes sure that there are no cheat sheets on the tables, there are no phones, that the person does not have access to dictionaries and other auxiliary materials That is why it is almost impossible to provide such conditions at home.”
In April 2022, the Polina Kordik school in St. Petersburg decided to create its own exam. As the founder of the school notes, this was a forced decision for her, and she really hopes that it will be temporary. In the meantime, her school, like many other official centers for preparing for Cambridge certificates, continues to live in an information vacuum. “No notifications were sent to me. Previously, I always received mailings for training centers, but I don’t receive them anymore – neither from the Russian representative office, nor from Cambridge itself,” says Polina Kordik.
DW sent a request to the Russian representative office Department of Examinations in English in Russia, Belarus, Armenia and the countries of Central Asia and received the following response: “At the moment, the activities of authorized centers in the Russian Federation and the Republic of Belarus have been suspended. This is all the information that we, as a representative office, are authorized to communicate to our customers and partners.”
The situation with German language certificates
TOEFL and Cambridge certificates are needed for international students applying to universities in English-speaking countries. This is a basic requirement for applicants. The situation is similar with German universities.
To enter a German university, you need a certificate confirming knowledge of the German language (DSH, Test DaF or Goethe-Institut certificate). From a foreign applicant in Germany, they are required to confirm knowledge of German and / or English (depending on the specialty) at least at level B2. To do this, you must pass a language exam. The main certificate that allows foreign students to receive higher education in Germany and conduct scientific activities is the TestDaF. The certificate issued after passing this exam is recognized in all universities in Germany.
The TestDaF is the most important language exam for those wishing to study in Germany. Russian students can also take language exams in Russia. One of the training centers that organize German courses is the Goethe-Institut. DW contacted the language department of the Moscow branch of the Goethe-Institut to clarify how the situation has changed since February 2022.
Ulrike Würz, Deputy Director Goethe Institute in Moscow and head of the language department, in an interview with DW emphasized that anyone who wants to get a language certificate can take the exam in the usual way at the offices of the Goethe-Institut in Russia or at the language centers that are its partners. “It is still possible, there are no restrictions in this area,” Ulrike Wurz said. You can sign up for the language exam online on the website of the Goethe-Institut, as well as in more than 20 language centers. As noted in the language department of the Goethe-Institut in Moscow, after registration, the client is sent an invoice that can be paid within the Russian Federation. As far as interest in language courses and exams is concerned, the Goethe-Institut sees continued demand at a high level.
Ulrike Würz is convinced that there is always a point in taking a language exam. Even if there are no plans to study at a German university, a language certificate remains an advantage for an applicant in Russia, as employers appreciate it. As for cooperation with language centers, it continues. All partners are accredited and work according to the quality standards of the Goethe-Institut.
“At the moment, the Goethe-Institut in Russia does not hold public events. But we conduct German courses, and everyone can take the exam. We want to leave this opportunity in the future for those who study German and are going to take an exam for one of the certificates Goethe Institute,” says Ulrike Würz.
Such a favorable situation, as in the case of the Goethe-Institut certificates, is far from being the case for everyone. DW contacted headquarters TestDaF Institute. The TestDaF-Institute is a scientific institution. Its main principles are the centralized creation of tests, verification of assignments and evaluation of exams. We asked the question: “Can students in Russia still take exams without any problems?”
The answer came the following: “Unfortunately, no. Due to the termination of the mail, which became one of the sanctions measures, it is currently impossible to send documents to Russia for testing, which, due to increased security requirements, must be sent in hard copy. With the current situation, we, as in the case of TOEFL, can conduct our TestDaF exams and TestAS, if at all possible, only in digital format. Here, too, there are difficulties. Firstly, not all centers are technically equipped to provide the necessary conditions for conducting an online exam. The second problem is the limitation of payment possibilities. Payment for the exam – TestDaF and TestAS, as a rule, occurs immediately after registering for the exam. The corresponding amount is deducted from the client’s credit or other bank card. Russian banks are largely cut off from the international payment system. In this regard, the majority of those who want to take the language exam no longer have the opportunity to confirm their registration with a payment. Together with our testing centers, we are looking for new ways and solutions to ensure that interested schoolchildren and students can take the exam. Therefore, at the moment, the exam can only be taken at our licensed test centers, if all the technical conditions are met and it is possible to pay for the exam. As a rule, this can be done at the Goethe-Institut and language centers. Another option is to take the exam in another country.”
What will happen next with language certificates?
The TestDaF-Institute in Bochum noted that they are in constant contact with their partner centers in Russia. The demand for language certificates in Russia is one of the highest in the world. There has not yet been any sharp decline in the current situation.
Polina Kordik is sure that despite everything that is happening, it is very important to maintain ties in the field of education. In the meantime, she and the entire staff of teachers will continue to do what they love and hope for changes for the better.
In gast / TestDaF Institute in Bochum, when asked how the political situation affected the fate of students from Russia, they answered as follows: “Due to the political situation, cooperation with state institutions and organizations close to the state has been largely frozen in Russia. We support the possibility of implementing projects and measures that are addressed to individuals, especially Russian schoolchildren, students, teachers of the German language.Thus, it remains possible to support students of state universities in the future.There are no restrictions on Russian students in Germany, and they can continue their education In Russia itself, the offer to pass TestDaF and TestAS is limited for the reasons already voiced above.Students can take TestDaF and TestAS also in Germany or in any other country”.