A FEW weeks ago, hundreds of English teachers nationwide began receiving letters from their respective education departments informing them to be ready to sit for another English test, called Aptis.
A check with the British Council website found that Aptis is “a modern and flexible English assessment system designed to meet the diverse needs of organisations and individuals around the world.” These teachers were purportedly found to be “not competent” based on the earlier Cambridge Placement Test (CPT) dubiously administered to them.
It is dubious because, firstly, some schools had teachers discussing answers among themselves during the test, while in some others, teachers were called at random, without notice and made to go into computer labs unequipped with the technical know-how of an online test and thus lost valuable time grappling more with the technical issues than the test itself!
In yet more schools, they were made to sit for the test in non-computer labs unequipped with sound-proof systems, thus jeopardising their ability to listen properly to the listening component of the test.
Secondly, and more shockingly, is the fact that the results of the test were never given to the teachers, even after repeated enquiries and appeals.
Perhaps eventually sensing the dubious nature of this test, the Education Ministry has decided that another test, the Aptis would repair the damage. Nevertheless, please be reminded that the damage this time could be irreparable if steps are not taken to address the issues surrounding the first test.
Since the psychological repercussion of being stigmatised as incompetent has yet to wear off among some of the affected teachers, we can’t afford to have yet a few more thousand teachers have “salt rubbed into their wounds”, from this second test. Please be very careful, dear Ministry!
It must be reiterated that these tests are meant to identify teachers to attend the “Professional Up-skilling of the English Teachers (Pro-ELT) courses which the ministry has outsourced, I believe, not for free.
The letter “Take a humane approach” by Liong Kam Chong, (The Star, Feb 11) in paragraphs 14-17 very aptly warned of the danger of this outsourcing. It is commendable to try to improve the proficiency and competency level of English teachers, but please do it judiciously and with wisdom.
There is no need, in fact it is counter-productive to compel teachers who have proven themselves to be proficient and competent in their subject area to sit for the test.
For instance, graduates in English studies with honours, first class upper and/or Deans’ list holders and Masters and PhD holders in English studies should be exempt from these tests.
Why is there a necessity to negate and nullify all these recognised, hard-earned and related qualifications for the sake of one online test outsourced from a money-making institution?
The possible implication/conclusion of this is that the ministry itself does not even recognise the country’s own institutions of higher learning and thus its very own lecturers, professors and deans.
Finally, there are also countless teachers who have presented papers at conferences, given in-service and motivational courses and marked public examination papers who have also been required to sit for these tests. Why such irony?
LIM SENG LEONG Penang The STAR Home News Opinion Letters to the Editor 15/02/2014