According to the BBC, IELTS registration in Iran is nearly two and a half times what it was during the same period last year . People line up and wait overnight to register: “more than 150,000 of the best young minds in Iran are leaving every year” to English-speaking and other countries.
Why this huge interest, and what consequences will it have?
Young people are primarily thinking about work; “A minority wants freedom and liberty, but the main point is jobs,” says one IELTS candidate hoping to go to Australia. While one Iranian teacher of English who lived in England for some time thinks students might not realize how difficult it will be to live abroad, many feel that at home, they work a lot in exchange for a low income and little job security.
The consequences for Iran “…of not stemming this brain drain – one government estimate put it at nearly $40bn a year.”
The TEFL Logue can only speculate as to what the consequences for English language learning will be. Certainly more people in Iran have a reason to study English or at least take the IELTS, though it’s hard to envision this leading to an explosion of native speaker positions in Iran. Unsurprisingly, Dave’s ESL Café and TEFL.com remain devoid of opportunities in Iran.
Is an article like this – about exam prep in a country where native speakers don’t even seem to be working and which is probably some time away from being a job market? I’d say yes, first of all, simply as an example of one situation where exam prep is in demand and why. Second, and perhaps more importantly, because it demonstrates that for many learners, English is not just a hobby – something that they can take or leave – but something that they perhaps correctly see as essential to their future well-being. And all the more reason to take your job seriously if you teach.