The Ministry of Education is to combine all subjects into one “grand examination” that third-year students at junior-high schools will have to take to graduate — to account for the absence of a Basic Competence Test in the new 12-year compulsory education system.
Huang Chi-teng (黃子騰), head of the ministry’s Department of Elementary Education, said the NT$200 million (US$6.7 million) examination would be held by the ministry in the middle of May, a two-day exam on a randomly selected weekend.
Tested subjects will include Chinese, English, math, social studies, nature and sciences, as well as composition, the ministry said, adding that the English section would have an additional 26 to 30 listening questions, while the math section would include two or three questions that are not multiple-choice.
Grading will be divided into three levels — need to work harder, a basic pass and a well-earned pass — raising the difficulty of the examination compared with the Basic Competence Test, Huang said.
Sung Yao-ting (宋曜廷), director of the Research Center for Psychological and Educational Testing at National Taiwan Normal University, said only 20 percent of students would fall in the well-earned pass range because a student would have to answer at least 80 percent of the questions correctly.
To avoid pressuring students too greatly, the English listening and the non-selective part for math would not be graded in the first year of the examination, but it would start being graded in 2015, Huang said.
As for English listening comprehension, Huang said Taiwan ranked 10th from last in TOEFL score rankings among Asian countries last year, adding that scores showed Taiwanese students needed to improve their ability to understand spoken English.
Ninety-five percent of junior-high schools have already included English listening as a tested subject in their monthly testing, so the addition of English listening in the examination would not add to the burden of students, Huang said.
A total of 260,000 students are expected to take the new examination.
However, Gordon Hsieh (謝國清), chief executive of the National Alliance of Parents Organization’s 12-year compulsory education office, said the differing standard of difficulty and the estimate that only 20 percent of students would earn a well-earned pass, would only confuse students and parents.
It will only help promote the trend of sending students to cram schools, Hsieh said, adding that the addition of English Listening as a tested subject would place students from rural areas at a disadvantage due to the extant city-country gap in English-language education.
Translated by Jake Chung, staff writer