Academic Ability Test Cancelled, but Problems Remain
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
September 12, 2014
Summary: Under pressure from all quarters, Taipei City and Taichung City
announced that next year they would follow the lead of other counties
and municipalities, and no longer hold the Academic Ability Test for
Admission to Senior High School. Tainan City alone insists on holding
them. The Academic Ability Test for 12 Year Compulsory Education will be
terminated this year. Junior high school admissions will no longer
require Academic Ability Tests. But without Academic Ability Tests, the
12 Year Compulsory Education System will suffer numerous shocks and
long-term effects. Educational authorities and junior and senior high
schools must think hard about how to respond.
Full Text Below:
Under pressure from all quarters, Taipei City and Taichung City announced that next year they would follow the lead of other counties and municipalities, and no longer hold the Academic Ability Test for Admission to Senior High School. Tainan City alone insists on holding them. The Academic Ability Test for 12 Year Compulsory Education will be terminated this year. Junior high school admissions will no longer require Academic Ability Tests. But without Academic Ability Tests, the 12 Year Compulsory Education System will suffer numerous shocks and long-term effects. Educational authorities and junior and senior high schools must think hard about how to respond.
In June, the State Education Department said that Academic Ability Tests are no different from the Comprehensive Assessment Program for Junior High School Students. It said that "one way would be to cancel Academic Ability Tests." Almost all counties and municipalities have eliminated Academic Ability Tests. Yet the Ministry of Education insists that schools should be encouraged to continue Academic Ability Tests to ensure diversity in admissions. They should not return to the old path where "a single exam will determine the rest of one's life." Such changes leave people baffled. In any case, this year the exam system for 12 Year Compulsory Education is in chaos. The current situation was inevitable.
Cancelling the Academic Ability Test leaves the Comprehensive Assessment Program. Examinations are still required. In fact, the Comprehensive Assessment Program will become the sole means of screening. A single exam will determine the rest of one's life. The Comprehensive Assessment Program was supposed to be a remedy. Now, however, it is used to grade one's ability. Next year's Comprehensive Assessment Program results will eliminate "three classes and four lables." It will add scoring on a scale of one to ten if needed, to meet enrollment where students are more numerous. As a result, the Comprehensive Assessment Program will become more like basic examinations in the past. Students must answer every question. Every point will count. The Comprehensive Assessment Program will be turned into a basic examination. Admissions will be "unified." In fact, it will be more at odds with the spirit of 12 Year Compulsory Education.
The Academic Ability Tests have become a whipping boy. The main reason is the chasm separating ideals from reality. The Academic Ability Tests were originally supposed to determine which schools were exceptional, and to design and teach special curricula. It was supposed to adapt itself to the needs of the students. It was supposed to counsel them to help them reach their full potential. The emphasis was on the design and teaching of special curricula. In reality, the Academic Ability Tests have become the means by which elite schools are allowed to pick over the most gifted students, and so-so schools are left to fight over the rest, in a struggle to save face. The Academic Ability Tests also lengthen the semester. Most schools wait for the elite schools to finishing picking through their candidates. Most students wait for the elite students to find their seats first. This is why the Academic Ability Tests have become everyone's target.
In the past, the policy was to recruit special students, but offer no special curricula. The suspicion was that recruiting the 10% special students would hijack the other 90% of the student body. Now that the Academic Ability Tests have been discontinued, we need to ask ourselves whether we still intend to develop elite senior high schools. New students in September will be the only class enrolled by means of the Academic Ability Tests. Over the next three years, do we still intend to maintain the special curricula? New students next year will not be Academic Ability Test recruits. Schools must consider how they intend to retain their special curricula. Many schools say they will not hold Academic Ability Tests, but that will continue to develop special curricula. But can they actually make any of this happen? That remains to be seen.
We now face immediate consequences. Some ninth graders still hope to participate in the Academic Ability Tests. They may have exceptional academic aptitude. But they may not have scored well in the community, in competitions, in service-learning for a variety of reasons. Therefore they are making a special effort to do well in the Academic Ability Tests. Now, however, counties and municipalities have announced that they are discontinuing the Academic Ability Tests. How can we help them make up the necessary marks and hours during the coming year? That will be a major challenge. Also, many students may have moved. They may have been studying their ideal senior high curriculum or subjects. They hope to be graduate by means of the Academic Ability Tests. Once this door is closed, these students who transferred or changed school districts, will face problems in counties and municipalities with excess enrollment.
In Tainan City this year, a student who received a perfect score still could not be admitted. He could become an "Academic Ability Test valedictorian." This might make Tainan City more careful about ensuring diversity in admissions. The student failed to accumulate enough points and was therefore dropped. Tainan City has a complex method for evaluation. This leads to a huge irony. Recently one Tainan City Elementary School PTA chairman openly exhibited a price list for admission to the PTA. The chairman said allowing children to participate in community service and extracurricular competitions will help address the problem of excess student enrollment. Such blatant practices amount to competing for points.
The above examples are not all the fault of Academic Ability Tests. Counties and municipalities may or may not cancel the Academic Ability Tests. But they must make reasonable adjustments to excess admission numbers and order. Otherwise, in Keelung and Taipei, diversity in admissions will be a sham. The Comprehensive Assessment Programs will be deceit. In Tainan, the spirit of diversity will result in vicious competition, grabbing of cadres, participation in sports, and phony community service. How can 12 Year Compulsory Education not be led astray?
The enthusiasm for Academic Ability Tests is dying. The spirit of pluralism has been shaken. Se Hwa Wu, Minister of Education, can only encourage elite senior high schools to hold small scale Academic Ability Tests. He wants elite senior high schools to boldly tell the community, "We have a special curriculum, we want to recruit certain kinds of students." In fact, we should first ask schools to cease using Academic Ability Tests to grab the best students, and instead devote themselves to developing special curricula, Only then can we jettison 12 Year Compulsory Education egalitarianism, and return to "diversity in admissions, and the education of students according to their abilities."
2014.09.12 02:19 am