Thursday, January 11, 2007

The big bad tests

The last two days have been the closest to work I've been since I moved here about four years ago. I've just completed the first set of tests since I started at my new school.

Thailand is big on testing. Really big. Three year olds get tested on English, nine year olds get tested on Geography and "Social".and teenagers get tested in some form almost every week. I'll never forget the day my favourite class turned up forty minutes late for a fifty minute lesson announcing "We had a ping pong test!".

There are many theories on why the system seems so keen to test eight year olds for up to five times a year but no definite answer can be given.

It doesn't seem to aid progress. On the contrary, it's a hindrance since it drains the teachers' time to prepare and teach. It's no marker for a student's development either. If little Praew could speak fluent English a month ago, and little Somchai couldn't say a word, its unlikely their roles have reversed in the last four weeks and if they had, you'd be damn sure their parents or teachers had noticed.

It seems likely the testing is just an outmoded umbrage of the (literally) old school education system. A system that required constant imposition of authority and lack of genuine teaching.

Anyway, back to my story. Testing at my old school was largely left to me, I'd test and log the scores and hand them in. In my new school - a private bilingual affair - things are done differently, as I just fond out. Although my new school is a huge improvement over most government schools, it still conducts business in the Thai way. This means that very little information is given to the teachers in advance. Myself and the other new teachers had no advance warning of tests or test procedures. We simply turned up to work to be told to vigilate the exams. That we did.

As I was leaving the exam room - thinking to myself what a doddle the day had been - I was greeted with a pile of paperwork. Inquiries revealed that this was the first part of the marking process. after several hours I had finished, and presented the work to one my bosses.

" Oh no, you aren't meant to make the student profiles yet, some scores are missing".

OK , back to my desk to fill out forty student profiles for the second time. Back to the boss.

"Oh no, you've done them in the wrong order"

"I wasn't aware there was an order"

"Yes I'll show you what it is"

It did have a positive side effect though. It reminded me how much more pleasant it is to work out here in Thailand. Usually, teaching is a fun job, I'm proud to teach and I love what I do (except for the last two days).

Some of the other new teachers were becoming stressed over the lack of communication. Readers of my old blog will know that I used to be just the same. But things are nowhere near as bad in my new school, indeed itl is very good at working with foreign teachers and I've wised up a little too. The Thais have their own way of doing things, it can seem strange to us but it doesn't hep to get angry and shout about it. For now at least, I'm happy to keep my head down and enjoy being welcome at work.

They better not ask me to wear any fluffy bunny shirts, though.

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