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Institute cans controversial U-Net test

No agency willing to use exam after public criticism

The National Institute of Educational Testing Service (NIETS) board yesterday cancelled a pilot English language test under the University National Education Test (U-Net) for this year and indefinitely postponed all U-Net subjects for next year, on grounds that there are no users of U-Net scores.

However, the agency will continue to study and gather opinions for development of a higher education test, possibly as an exam in the same manner as the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) but this would be not be obligatory.

NIETS director Samphan Phanphruk told a press conference that U-net was proposed for the Office for National Education Standards and Quality Assessment (Onesqa) and the Office of Higher Education Commission (Ohec). Onesqa had slated using U-Net for its fourth round of external quality assessment of education institutions next October, while Ohec had proposed using it for colleges' internal quality assessment.

But since Onesqa and Ohec later said they would not use the U-Net scores, there was no need for NIETS to organise it, he said.

As it was NIETS' mission to organise higher education tests, the agency would continue to study and develop a standard non-obligatory test - possibly in the same manner as TOEFL or TOEIC (Test of English for International Communication).

NIETS would next time listen to all sides' opinions, especially test users and stakeholders, he said. the agency had no authority to tie educational institutions to using its exams and thus developed tests for users to consideration. He said the agency believed if they developed good standard and good quality tests, people would use them.

After NIETS floated the idea of U-Net, the graduation exam drew opposition from student networks at 27 universities and people on social network, who said it could put more burden on students.

Asked if students' movements against U-Net contributed to the cancellation, Niets board chairman Somwang Pitiyanuwat said many people had misunderstood the reason behind the test so NIETS had to review the plan. In the future, when the agency creates a test and faces misunderstanding and objections, it will consider the reasons - not just opposition - before cancelling such tests, he said.

Ohec secretary-general Tossaporn Sirisampan said Ohec's internal assessment would use Thailand Qualifications Framework (TQF) for various fields and it was up to each university to decide about its own educational quality assurance system.

For example, some places might opt to have students attend graduation exams and use some information from student activities, he added.

Asked about a pilot plan to use U-Net as part of the teachers' professional knowledge tests, Tossaporn said that the teachers' professional knowledge tests were for a specific purpose, so they would be more like recruitment exams of the Office of the Civil Service Commission and thus different to U-Net.

The U-Net is a pre-graduation test designed to assess proficiency in four core areas - Thai and English for communication; the application of information and general technology in everyday life; media literacy; and analytical and problem-solving skills, plus critical thinking.


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