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Students are now suffering because policymakers failed to do their homework


Something big is happening in Thai education, with policymakers overhauling the way students enrol in universities.The move will affect millions of children who are preparing to pursue higher education.

The powers-that-be have promised to give students two years to adjust before the new university-admission system takes effect in 2018. 
The new system will in fact already be very familiar to many people over the age of 30. 
Students will take crucial exams just once and simultaneously. With their test scores they can then apply to their preferred higher-educational institutes. The higher their score, the better chance of being accepted. 
Simply put, the country is heading back to the system that was in place between 1961 and 2001. 
“But this time, we are going to announce test scores before students make their choice of institutes. In addition, we will allow them to choose twice,” Education Ministry permanent secretary Kamjorn Tatiyakavee said.
At present, although universities have joined the central admission system, most bypass it and recruit students directly. With direct admission playing such a big role, students end up scrambling for a place at various different institutes. They don’t want to miss out, after all. But taking the direct route means having to endure a gruelling ordeal of application exams. For this, students need to prepare hard, taking cramming courses almost year-round. Low-income earners often can’t afford to pay for the courses, meaning the gap between the rich and the poor has widened. And it’s not just about who can afford to pay for tutorial classes. Students from wealthier families also have an advantage simply because they can pay the application fees and afford travel expenses to try their luck at more institutes. 
In other words, the current system has failed to solve the problems of its predecessor.
When the old system was scrapped in 2001, policymakers talked about how its replacement would significantly ease students’ dependence on tutorial schools and reduce the gap between rich and poor. 
But not only has the current system failed to solve old problems, it has also brought new ones, with higher-educational institutes complaining it selects students who are unsuitable to their requirements. 
In 2009, Chulalongkorn University’s Faculty of Science revealed that of 38 first-year students in its physics programme, 24 had a grade point average lower than 2 and had thus been put on probation. Of 27 first-year students in its imaging-technology programme, half scored an F grade. 
In a bid to ensure the quality of new students, several medical schools have joined forces to set up their own admission system. 
 The flaws of the current university admission system are deep and various. 
It’s predecessor, meanwhile, had passed the test of time with a tough university entrance exam that furnished universities with quality students for decades. 
But in reverting to the old system, the powers-that-be can’t simply ignore the lessons. 
They need to acknowledge the mistakes in making the big change 15 years ago and learn from them. In formulating policy, officials must keep in mind that their every move will affect millions of lives – both of students and of their families. 
Don’t pile pressure and confusion onto children for nothing. Don’t make policy without solid evidence that the outcome will be change for the better. 
No one can deny the need for progress and change. But in making changes, the powers-that-be have a duty to do all they can to ensure that it takes us forwards, not backwards. 
 

Published : September 01, 2016

By : Chularat Saengpassa<br /> The