It seems there is no stopping the National Institute of Educational Testing Service's (NIETS) ambitious plans for total control over the nation's education system. Not content with creating incomprehensible, inaccurate and often absurd examination questions for primary and secondary school students, they are now planning a standardized exam for all students finishing university - imaginatively named the U-NET!
I presume the person that dreamt up this idea is the same person that writes the ONET Social Studies exam questions - I'm still trying to find out what they put in their morning coffee!
So how would this U-NET work?
Students go to university to specialize in a certain area of study - accounting, engineering, medicine, architecture, fine arts, physics, business studies, travel and tourism,teaching, media studies, performing arts.... the list is extensive.
What type of exam could you possibly create that would test the abilities of students graduating from all these diverse disciplines? Perhaps yet another multiple choice paper which tests students ability to memorize and rote learn ....? Ummh?
But perhaps a more important question is - why do NIETS think we need a U-NET exam? Do NIETS not trust the universities examinations systems?
And do they believe they could do better? Or perhaps this is just another scheme to get more money out of the nation's education budget?
Conspiracy theorists may even consider this part of a power struggle between NIETS and the Thailand's top universities. Are NIETS flexing their muscles to intimidate the universities?
After all many of Thailand's top universities have been critical of the O-NET exams. Most top universities now use their own entrance exams as a more reliable method of testing students abilities because they dont trust the O-NETs. As a result many students have their university place booked and confirmed a couple of months before they even walk in to the O-NET exam room.
The reaction so far
Within hours of this plan being made public, a Facebook page was set up, which received over 50,000 likes in 24 hours. NIETS be warned - upset Generation Y and they will fight back from the comfort of the university campus coffee shops. This at least shows that Thai university students are developing critical thinking skills and they are able to recognize a bad idea when they see one - or perhaps it is the development of these critical thinking skills that NIETS is trying to control, after all their multiple choice test leave absolutely no room for creativity, freedom of thought or independent opinions.
I've not had time to do any research on this but i've never heard of a country having a standardized national exam for all students graduating from university - if anyone does know of anywhere that has adopted this, please share - I'd love to know how it works.
Nothing better to do?
The problems with the current ONETs are well documented with movies, soap operas and Thailand's top comedians all taking aim at the O_NET exams for good comic effect. In a classroom debate last term my students were quick to highlight the ONET's flaws.
With Thailand's education system recently ranked 37 out of 40 nations I can't help thinking there are more urgent issues that the Thai MoE and NIETS could be turning their attention to such as better professional development and improving the national examinations we currently have!
Fingers crossed this will turn out to be just another bad idea which 12 months from now will be scrapped to make way for the next 'brainwave'
More information about the proposed U-NET can be found on the Bangkok Post website