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IMPECT - Linguistic Integration of Adult Migrants with Poor Education and the Consequences of Migration Tests

Alternative title: IMPECT - Språkkrav for statsborgerskap og konsekvenser for voksne innvandrere med lite skolegang og begrensa skriftkyndighet

Awarded: NOK 8.0 mill.

Since the turn of the millennium, a number of European countries have introduced language and knowledge of society requirements for citizenship. In 2017, Norway followed the lead of other countries by introducing a requirement to pass an oral language test, as well as a knowledge of society test in Norwegian for those applying for Norwegian citizenship. The requirement of Norwegian proficiency was increased in 2021, from A2 to B1. The Norwegian government argued that augmenting the language requirement would strengthen migrants? motivation for language learning and integration. Whether or not such positive effects exist is not yet known, and this question forms the basis for IMPECT?s research scope. IMPECT focuses on the consequences of such requirements for adult migrants with little prior schooling and low levels of literacy. This is a group for whom both teachers, NGOs and researchers have expressed particular concern as new requirements have been introduced. Do the requirements indeed increase the motivation for language learning, or do they introduce an element of stress, which rather impedes learning for this group of learners? To respond to these questions, we firstly investigate requirements for citizenship in 40 European countries, and correlate the requirement policies with teachers? experiences of how the policies impact adult migrants with low levels of literacy. We discuss the ethical and test professional aspect of the requirement policy. Secondly, we use a large data set containing test scores from the test of Norwegian for adult migrants (Norskprøven for voksne innvandrere), the Citizenship test (Statsborgerprøven) and background variables, to investigate for what groups the requirements pose the largest barriers toward citizenship. And thirdly, we interview a group of adult migrants with little prior schooling to gain a deeper understanding of how they are affected by language and knowledge of society requirements.

In January 2017 Norway followed the lead of other European countries in introducing obligatory language and knowledge of society (KoS) tests for adult migrants applying for residency and citizenship (hereafter migration tests). A claim that formal requirements increase migrants’ motivation for language learning and lead to integration is typically used to justify the introduction of such tests, yet there is little empirical evidence supporting this claim. Despite the widespread use of migration tests in Europe today, we still know little about the consequences of such tests on those subject to them, especially on migrants with little prior schooling and low levels of literacy for whom the requirements represent a considerable barrier. IMPECT’s overarching objective is therefore to address this gap in research by investigating the consequences of migration tests on low literate adult migrants in general and their motivation for language learning, in particular. Our focus on LESLLA learners in the larger socio-political learning context responds to a call for research in the fields of language testing and second language acquisition (SLA) alike. IMPECT aims to identify obstacles to the advancement of LESLLA learners’ language learning and integration. The results will be of direct relevance to LESLLA populations of Norway and Europe and provide an improved research-base for both policy makers, language test developers and educational practitioners. IMPECT applies the transdisciplinary multi-level framework of the Douglas Fir Group (DFG, 2016) and a mixed-methods research design, structured in five WPs, which in sum provide new knowledge into LESLLA learners’ language learning and test performance and the consequences of migration tests on this understudied population’s motivation for and investment in language learning and integration.

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