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Better Testing for International IT Learners

Posted by TestOut Staff on

The United States is a great place to live. I’m proud of my country and its accomplishments. But sometimes we forget that the world is made up of other countries too. The Simpsons, the world’s longest-running scripted primetime television series, is a great parody of our (at times overbearing) culture. Homer in particular epitomizes the “Ugly American” stereotype. His actions have caused him to be beaten up at Buckingham Palace, banned from Brazil and mobbed in Italy. Homer led to the closing of the U.S. embassy in Australia, and cost the American taxpayer $1 trillion in Cuba.     

Shock and awe, losers!

One iconic moment occurs in an airport in Italy. Lisa, worried about U.S. foreign policy and offending others, has placed a Canadian flag on her backpack. Homer instantly destroys her attempt to be seen as Canadian by waving the Stars-and-Stripes from atop the baggage claim and yelling “U-S-A! U-S-A! Shock and awe losers! Shock and awe!”   

I mention this because I just returned from the Association of Test Publishers (ATP) “Innovations in Testing” Conference in Orlando, Fla., where Dave Coughanour and I presented the results of a global job task analysis we recently conducted.  

We undertook our analysis as part of TestOut’s efforts to better serve our international customers. Our goal was to identify and close any training gaps, based on our own ignorance of what IT training other countries might or might not value.

We examined and compared postings for entry-level networking jobs across 12 countries, and noticed that not only do job requirements in the countries differ, to varying extents, from those found in the United States, but they also differ from one another. Some findings were pretty specific to certain countries or groups of countries. For example, U.S. companies mentioned phone systems as a requirement in 16 percent of job postings, while 40 percent of companies in Latin American countries (Brazil, Mexico, Peru, and Chile) listed such skills as a requirement. 

One interesting finding was the much higher rate of Linux skills listed as a job requirement outside of the US.      

  • United States — 6.3 percent
  • Canada — 36.7 percent
  • Australia — 37.0 percent
  • Mexico — 38.1 percent
  • Philippines — 38.1 percent
  • Chile — 58.6 percent
  • Peru — 63.6 percent
  • Brazil — 71.0 percent

Clearly there is a lot more research to be done on this topic, but the big take-away from our analysis is that we can do more to help students in other countries prepare for their certification exams by modifying course content. For example, to meet the needs of Brazilian students, we might include a Linux component in our Network Pro courseware, or bundle it with Linux Pro.

Too often, the attitude of training providers seems to be that courses developed for students in the United States are good enough for the rest of the world. Such an attitude is not only short-sighted but, when you think of it, kind of elitist.

For 26 years TestOut has been a disruptive force in the testing environment because, rather than just book-learning, we use LabSim to teach real-world skills. It appears that now we are on the leading-edge of assessing the cultural differences and industry requirements among global IT students. By doing so, we will help them better prepare for certification exams and perhaps more importantly, advance in their careers.   

Now that’s some “Shock and awe!”

About the Author — Daniel Allen is a psychometrician for TestOut with five years of experience in the field. He is a true numbers jockey who likes data analysis so much that, in his own words, “I sometimes do it for fun in my free time.” He is a less-than-feared hot dog eating competitor (a measly 7 dogs in 10 minutes), who is perpetually too injured to play basketball.


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