Is Phuket challenged in grasping the gist?

(PHUKET): The GAT (General Achievement Test) and PAT (Professional Aptitude Test) results for July, officially released yesterday, have Thai educators scratching their heads over some very grim results.

The July tests were the second round for Thai students this year, the first having been in March.

The National Institute of Education’s Testing Service (NIETS) is probing the causes of the embarrassment, with the agency’s Chief, Uthumporn Chamaraman, lamenting that both rounds had yielded “rather low scores” in general.

Noting that the GAT is a test of the crucial skills of analytical thinking and use of English, Ms Uthumporn expressed dismay that of the 295,141 students taking the July round, 8,000 had scored 0 – in both sections of the test.

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She noted that the March round of the GAT saw generally higher scores than the July results. This puzzled the NIETS, she said, because the scores should improve each time a student takes the tests, adding that her agency would analyze what had caused the decline in the already-poor results.

Another area of concern to Thai education officials was what might be termed the ‘student attitude factor’. It seems that close to 20 percent of those who had applied to take the GAT/PAT exams simply failed to show up to do so.   

But not all educators were dismayed. Chulalongkorn University lecturer Sompong Jitradap said that the 8,000 students scoring 0 on the latest GAT did not surprise him. The GAT emphasizes analytical skills and English, he noted, while most educational programs in Thailand still focus on simple rote learning.

He urged that English and other subjects be taught in such a way that students would be able to “grasp the gist” and analyze the test questions.

With Phuket’s economic future so heavily dependent on effective use of English, the Phuket Gazette is in regular contact with many teachers who are native English speakers. There is a clear consensus among them, and among scores of higher-end resort managers, that the Thai education system is more than challenged in its efforts to deliver graduates with a useful level of English.

Asked for comment this afternoon on the latest GAT/PAT results, a long-term expatriate resident and teacher of English in local five-star resorts told the Gazette that, “English is not a language that can be effectively spoken or understood without some ability to extrapolate, interpolate, question, imagine or otherwise engage in a bit of analysis. The language simply doesn’t, and cannot, work for practitioners of rote.”

— Nation & Gazette Reporters

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