The British Citizenship Test: The Case for Reform
August 1, 2012
The Political Quarterly 83(3): 560-566
Immigration presents a daunting challenge to successive British governments. The public ranks immigration as one of the leading policy issues after the economy and employment. There is also greater public support for stronger immigration controls than in many other countries. In response, government strategy has included the use of a citizenship test. While the citizenship test is widely acknowledged as one key part of immigration policy, the test has received surprisingly little critical analysis. This article is an attempt to bring greater attention to serious problems with the current test and to offer three recommendations for its revision and reform. First, there is a need to revise and update the citizenship test. Secondly, there is a need to expand the test to include questions about British history and basic law. The third recommendation is more wide-ranging: it is that we reconsider what we expect new citizens to know more broadly. The citizenship test should not be viewed as a barrier, but as a bridge. The focus should centre on what future citizens should be expected to know rather than how others might be excluded. The test should ensure that future citizens are suitably prepared for citizenship. There is an urgent need to improve the test and this should not be an opportunity wasted for the benefit of both citizens and future citizens alike.
Keywords: Britishness, citizenship, identity, immigration, public policyAccepted Paper Series
Date posted: January 31, 2013
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