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Testing service chief wants bad students to repeat grades

Academically-poor students may be required to repeat their class, if the chairman of National Institute of Educational Testing Service (NIETS) can push his idea ahead.

Speaking at a recent academic seminar, Prof Dr Somwang Pitiyanuwat called for the review of the policy that allowed students to move to the next educational level automatically.

Under the current system, even though students have to pass exams, they will get extra courses and sit the re-exams when they fail. Re-exams will be held again and again until they pass.

"The quality of students has clearly dropped (since the current system was introduced)," Somwang said.

According to him, Thailand first started its national tests in 1935. However, in the face of complaints that many students failed the tests, relevant authorities began dismantling the national-test system in 1974. The system was completely gone in 1978 around the time the policy to let students move to the higher educational level automatically sprang into operation.

In the PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) 2009, Thai children's reading scores stood at just 421, math scores at 419 and science scores at 425.

"Thai children's scores in PISA have repeatedly fallen below the average," Somwang pointed out.

He said Thai children, so far, had demonstrated that they were good at expressing their opinions. However, he said the expression was not always on the principle or did not carry any real substance.

"So, I am worried about Thailand's democracy," Somwang said.

He applauded Education Minister Suchart Tadathamrongvej's move to place more importance on the national tests, allowing them to account for 20 per cent of scores used to determine whether students should graduate from Mathayom 3 and Mathayom 6.

"We hope the weight of national tests will come to about 50 per cent in the future," he said.

Somwang also called for the legislation of the National Testing and Assessment Act, which he said would be the legal tool to stabilise the national testing and assessment.

"Everything then won't depend on just the policies of the government and the education minister," he said.

NIETS has organised many national educational tests, including the ordinary national educational tests (Onet).


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