Students celebrating revamp of Thailand's examinations system

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 13 September, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 13 September, 2003, 12:00am

Thai high school students are rejoicing at the news that the dreaded university entrance examinations are to be scrapped - although their joy is tempered by the fact that long-awaited changes to the tertiary entrance system will not take effect until 2006.

Under the present system, exam-weary seniors who have just spent months swotting and burning midnight oil to pass their high school exams, then have to sit a series of exams just days later for the various tertiary institutions to which they have applied.

The changes, agreed after years of sometimes acrimonious debate between the Education Ministry, academics and Thailand's 24 state-run universities, mean students will now sit a single, standard national test.

'Students sitting the national test won't have to take university exams again,' said Voradej Chandarasorn, the secretary-general of the Office of the Higher Education Commission.

'It is our intention to keep student examinations to a minimum.'

He added that the old system was 'outdated', and said details of the new exam would be released as soon as it was approved in order to give the first crop of students sitting it in 2006 maximum time to prepare.

It is proposed that the national test will focus on five areas to make up 90 per cent of its score; maths, Thai language, English, sciences and social studies, while the remaining 10 per cent would be drawn from the combined grade point average of 'other elements'.

Additional subjects would be required, however, for those students who wished to gain entrance to professional studies such as medicine, law, architecture and engineering.

To get students acquainted with the idea of a standard national entrance exam, a single test will also be applied at three other levels; Primary Three and Six and Secondary Three.

'The idea is to measure the performance and progress of pupils as they move through the national school system,' said education permanent secretary Kasam Varawarn na Ayutthaya.

'A single test will be introduced to these four levels from November so students can familiarise themselves with it and the people setting the exam can iron out any shortcomings before it takes effect in 2006.'

Not all educators are happy with the changes, however.

One Thammasat University law lecturer, who declined to be named, said he was worried the new system was 'putting all the eggs in one basket' and would increase pressure on students rather than streamline things.