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'Assessment reforms are the key'

Oct 11. 2015
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DEPUTY Education Minister Teerakiat Jaroensettasin has made it his mission to reform assessments in the country’s education system. 
“I think such reforms will raise the quality of teaching and learning,” Teerakiat said in a recent interview with Suthichai Yoon, adviser to Nation Multimedia Group’s editorial board. 
Installed at the Education Ministry in late August, Teerakiat said improvements in the education system would be evident within 20 months if the assessment reforms are implemented at all levels. 
“The change in assessments is the fastest and clearest way to reform the education system,” he said. 
Among the core elements in the assessment reforms will be the introduction of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR), which will begin with English-language assessments for students. 
“With CEFR, English-language tests for our students or new graduates will be standardised. It’s going to make it easier for employers to see how good at English their job applicants are,” he said. 
He added that the government could provide placement tests for all students on a voluntary basis. 
“We will also use CEFR in selecting English-language teachers,” he said. 
Teachers who do well in the CEFR assessments should be able to work in place of native speakers to an extent, he said, which would suit many cash-strapped schools that can’t afford to hire native speakers for English classes in the first place.
Yet, he was quick to reveal that the ministry would recruit educators from Cambridge University as consultants in English-language teaching and testing. The British university has more than 100 years of experience in English-language teaching management on a global scale and has a proven history of improving English-language teaching methods.
This move will enable the Cambridge University consultants to measure the English-language skills of Thai students and teachers, analyse the resources of the Thai education system and come up with a management plan to improve English-language teaching methods here.
But Teerakiat said the assessment reforms would not focus entirely on the English language. He revealed that from the next academic year, the Education Ministry would start subjective tests at primary schools for the first time. 
“We currently test 100 per cent on a multiple-choice basis in all subjects and at all levels of the basic education system. We will change that starting with primary school students, because we don’t want the sudden change to adversely affect high school students and risk affecting their grades, which are very important for their future study plans.
“Therefore, the 20 per cent subjective test will be introduced into the Thai-language test for grade six students as the first step,” he said.
Further, self-assessments would be introduced to help students gauge themselves academically in order to reduce competition among students and encourage them to compete with themselves. “I believe the self-assessments will boost the student’s academic performance,” Teerakiat said. 
He also emphasised that it was also necessary to reform teacher assessments. 
The current assessment criteria for teachers has created such a heavy workload that many teachers reportedly have trouble focusing on classes, he said. So, it was not practical to use the Key Performance Indicator to influence the way teachers teach. 
“For example, I’m a doctor, the Public Health Minister cannot guide me on how I treat my patient. Therefore, we should not let the Key Performance Indicator lead the way teachers teach,” he said. 
“We should not let the bureaucrats have too much influence over the teaching, which is the duty of the teacher.”

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