CEFR Language Exam Resource Centre
CEFR Language Exam Resource Centre

Spain: nationality exams boon for ELE schools

Spain: nationality exams boon for ELE schools

Sara Custer

New exam and language level requirements for Spanish nationality applications are proving to be a financial boost for Spanish language providers across the country.

In July 2015, the government required all nationality applicants to pass the CCSE (conocimientos constitucionales y socioculturales de España) exam and for all non-native speakers to prove they have an A2 proficiency level of Spanish.

Private Spanish language schools accredited by Instituto Cervantes which are DELE and CCSE test centres report a boom in candidates for both exams.

According to Instituto Cervantes, more than 62,000 CCSE exams have been administered since the test was introduced in October 2015.

Schools administer the exam once a month to on average 100 candidates each paying €25.

Chris Haworth, owner of AIL Madrid, said being an exam centre has been a “twofold benefit” for the school.

“For each candidate examined we receive a fixed amount which I estimate will total around  €15,000 in 2016,” he told The PIE News.

“Whilst this represents a very small proportion of our annual turnover, it is a non-core service that we can provide and with its early evening timetable conveniently dove-tails with day time Spanish courses.”

As a response to demand, the school introduced CCSE Preparation Courses into its curriculum, which Haworth said have provided additional income.

“The volumes of which are very small, though, I think in part because of the very high pass rates of the exam,” he added.

Similarly, Tandem Escuela Internacaional Madrid, has seen welcome revenue from CCSE candidates. The school averages around 100 exams a month.

“Indeed school income has increased as a result of the CCSE exams, especially in cities like Barcelona and Madrid where there are more immigration applicants,” noted Mercedes Guerrero Soler, international marketing coordinator at Tandem.

According to figures from 2016, 43,000 CCSE exams have been administered so far, with the number forecast to reach 55,000 by the year’s end.

The consistent revenue from exams will no doubt buoy the country’s private language sector which has seen volatile demand in recent years. Figures from the FEDELE (Federación de Escuelas de Español como Lengua Extranjera) 2016 annual survey show the industry is in a slow recovery after contracting 5% in 2013.

Seventy-four of FEDELE’s 90 member schools are CCSE exam centres. September reports show FEDELE schools in Barcelona have administered 13,000 exams in 2016 while schools in Madrid have overseen 8,500.

“Schools in Valencia and Alicante are also seeing a boom because of spillover from students who couldn’t get into a centre in Barcelona,” said Ana Cózar, director of FEDELE.

Meanwhile, among FEDELE schools, A2 DELE candidates have increased 252%. In 2016 alone, 8,700 A2 DELE exams have been administered compared to the combined total of all other exam levels, 1,600.

At €85 per DELE exam, Cózar acknowledged the financial benefit the national tests bring to schools but added that “FEDELE is better positioned nationally because of the exams.

“Certification is important for the promotion of a language, especially recognising a national level through the DELE.”

However, a law passed by the Spanish government on September 30 could impact the demand for A2 DELE exams at private language schools.

The new policy allows nationality applicants to present an A2 certificate issued by the state run Escuelas Oficial de Idiomas as an alternative to the DELE A2 exam.

“Whilst it is too early to say, I expect that those applying for nationality may decide to go down this potentially easier and less expensive route causing the number of DELE A2 registrations to decrease in 2017,” noted Haworth.

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