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Better testing needed to assess student skills

Update: March, 06/2014 - 09:51

University entrance examinations should switch from testing knowledge to assessing capacity, Nguyen Kim Son, Professor and Vice Rector of the Ha Noi National University, spoke to the Vietnam News Agency.

The Ministry of Education and Training (MOET) will allow some universities to have their own enrolment criteria for the upcoming 2014-15 academic year. What do you think about this decision?

I think the ministry has made the right decision. It is totally in line with the Law on Tertiary Education. However, the issue here is how the selected universities execute their rights and obligations. Some will face many difficulties in preparing their own written tests, marking them, setting admission benchmarks and other related tasks. There will be other universities that feel they can do this without much of a problem. That's why I totally support the ministry's decision to have a transitional period of three years before adopting the policy of letting each university have its own admission tests. Three years (2014-17) is a good time for the universities to prepare the human resources and address technical issues related to implementing the ministry's new rules on admission tests.

However, I think the ministry should also create a council that will review the preparation done by various universities, to draw lessons learned and share them nation-wide.

Your university is one of those selected to pilot the new system. What will you do that is different from the existing admission requirements?

For the upcoming university entrance exams, we will still use the tests prepared by the education ministry. However, for students who pass the test, we'll apply a new method to evaluate their general capacity in order to select the best ones to participate in some special programmes that we offer, including those for talented students. Of course, this will only be a pilot project and a preparatory step for us to complete our admission tools for the 2016-17 academic year. We plan to run the pilot tests for the academic year 2015-2016 as well.

In order to select the right students for the right course, what should the universities focus on while preparing their tests?

Many years ago, each university had its own admission test. Now, all universities nation-wide use the same tests; the tests are organised on the same day; and the same answer sheets are used (it is known as the three common). After 2017, all the universities will take responsibility again for student admission procedures, writing their own tests, marking the papers and using their own answer sheets.

The method of giving tests to students at present focuses on evaluating their academic knowledge. When the Ha Noi National University organises its own admission tests, one of our objectives will be to evaluate the students' knowledge from different perspectives, including their skills and their ability to follow the courses they select. Of course, their capacity to think logically and innovate is of great importance. The maximum marks for the test we have devised is 240.

After passing the general knowledge test, students will have to take another one for the specific major they want to pursue. For example, if they want to study natural science, they have to take the tests in math and chemistry.

In addition, we will also review the student's resume.

How would you respond to MOET's proposal not to use the minimum test scores in the tertiary test admission from this year onwards?

There are various opinions on this proposal. Some people have expressed their anxiety about the negative impacts on the training quality. However, my own opinion is that the proposal is good and I support it. What's important is that the universities themselves have to take responsibility for their training quality. The most important point is that we have to be very strict with the "output."

If the MOET decides to eliminate the minimum marks criteria, we have to think of other screening methods, which will be more complicated. The criteria should be set by the university. For example, for students wanting to follow the math major, their test results must meet a certain benchmark (other than minimum marks). Likewise, for students wanting to study pharmacy, their biology test marks must also meet such a benchmark. — VNS


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