UK planning changes to citizenship test

* Immigrants wanting to live in UK will have to learn first verse of UK national anthem

By Asif Mehmood (Daily Times)

LONDON: The British government is planning to make changes in the citizenship test according to which immigrants wanting to live in the UK will have to learn the first verse of the national anthem, the UK Home Office has announced.

Citizenship test known as “Life in the UK”, introduced by the Labour government in 2005, is compulsory for everybody who wants to become a British citizen. 

According to new changes expected this autumn, the immigrants will also be tested on their knowledge of key historical facts and characters, including the Beatles, William Shakespeare and Florence Nightingale.

British Home Secretary Theresa May plans to rewrite Labour’s Life in the UK handbook to replace sections on how to claim benefits and the merits of the Human Rights Act with questions about British inventions and discoveries, including television, radar, DNA and the Internet, as well as cultural landmarks such as the publication of the King James Bible.

The new guide is expected to describe Britain as a “fantastic place to live; a modern thriving society with a long and illustrious history”.

It will also include questions on topics such as Winston Churchill, the Magna Carta and the English Civil War as well as sections on artists Gainsborough, Turner and Constable as well as writers such as Jane Austen and Charles Dickens. Poetry and historical battles, including Trafalgar, will also be mentioned.

The current 45-minute Citizenship Test was introduced to ensure migrants who wanted to become Britons had sufficient knowledge of the country they are setting in. It includes questions about customs and practicalities in Britain, the legal system and the role of monarch, Parliament and the government.

But it faced criticism from the outset because despite candidates being asked to read the chapter on Britain’s history, they were told they would not be tested on it. Instead they were quizzed on topics such as the make-up of the European Union, how to claim benefits and even how to buy a rond in a pub.

Last year, however, in a speech on immigration, Prime Minister David Cameron pledged to improve the test.

The British Home Office spokesman said, “Putting our culture and history at the heart of the citizenship test will help ensure those permanently setting can understand British life, allowing them to properly integrate into our society.”

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