[Update-1] Thailand mulls automatic high-school graduations amid calls to scrap year-end exams

Thailand’s government is to consider alternatives to year-end exams, including possible automatic graduation, after high-school students called for the system to be reviewed on account of the disruption from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Education Minister Nataphol Teepsuwan said he has issued an order for the Office of the Basic Education Commission of Thailand (OBEC) to consider alternative models of graduating, news reports said Thursday.

Parents and students have for the past year raised concerns about the disruption caused by the pandemic, where students have been forced to learn from home, often without the necessary tools. Some groups of parents have proposed guaranteed graduation among other options.

Nataphol said all alternatives to year-end exams would be considered. Several countries have used coursework or a teacher’s assessment to give them an overall grade instead.

The minister said all such models would be looked into. But final-year students applying to university will still need to use their grade-point average as a component for admissions, he said.

The hashtag #เลื่อนสอบ (postpone exams) was trending on Thai Twitter Thursday as high school students across Thailand expressed worry over sitting year-end exams after weeks or months away from the classroom.

“Honestly speaking, I really cannot see my future anymore,” one user wrote. “We have our finals in two months, I am stressed, exhausted and feeling hopeless. Covid is close to home, online learning is such a challenge and I don’t understand anything at all.”

Nataphol acknowledged that the online learning in force in 28 provinces until the end of January has caused stress and anxiety. However, the minister also noted that the whole world is facing the same crisis, and online distance learning will continue to demand change and adjustments.

“Blended learning is considered essential for the future, and it is necessary to find the balance in providing homework and assignments for the students,” said Nataphol.

“A measure of the students’ output has been mainly placed on homework. Since most teachers only get to see their students once a week, they have also been providing a week’s worth of homework for the students. That is what is causing them a lot of stress.”

Nataphol emphasized that learning from home was achievable. “The most important thing is that we find the most appropriate balance in terms of time management. Students are mostly staying at home and having more time, if there is good management of time, then the problem can be solved.”

In March, senior high schools students across Thailand will start taking the Ordinary National Education Test (O-NET), General Aptitude Test (GAT), Professional and Academic Aptitude Test (PAT), and more including university entrance examinations.

This is not the first time students have protested against the Thai education system. Over the past year, hundreds of thousands of students have taken to the streets demanding wider reform, under the activist organization Bad Student.

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