The UAE Ministry of Education announced the launch of a national standardized computer-based testing system called the Emirates Standardized Test (EmSAT). The EmSAT is considered the first national computer-based benchmarking test built to measure skills independently of curriculum for grades (1-4-6-8-10-12).
In accordance with the plan set for the national testing system, the EmSAT will replace the CEPA test at government universities. Private universities can also adopt the EmSAT as part of their student admissions process as an alternative to the IELTS and TOEFL exams, which are considered pre-requisites for the admission of high school students into private higher education institutions.
The EmSAT will be implemented in the current academic year of 2016/2017 and will initially cover English, Arabic, mathematics and physics for twelfth grade national students at public and private schools, regardless of the curriculum taught at these schools. Where expatriate students are concerned, the EmSAT will apply only at public and private schools that are using the MOE English language curriculum. The English EmSAT test for twelfth grade students will replace CEPA as an accredited admissions test at UAE universities.
Universities will be given the freedom to utilize the EmSAT results in Arabic, mathematics and physics for students of the twelfth grade as they see fit.
EmSAT tests will also be piloted this spring at selected schools affiliated with the Ministry of Education in grades 1, 4, 6, 8 and 10.
Each student taking the test will be given a report informing them of their test results. The information will enable schools and students to identify areas of strength and weakness and will help guide the direction of academic support that each student needs.
HE Hussein Al Hammadi said that the EmSAT comes as part of the overall development of the UAE’s education system. The test aims to provide decision makers with accurate and pivotal information to enable them to take the necessary decisions to improve the system. Additionally, modern educational measurement techniques including computer-based applications that allow for modern equating and replication mechanisms will provide reliable information in this area, Al Hammadi noted.
Al Hammadi added that the Ministry of Education’s tireless efforts are currently focused on achieving the national agenda in line with UAE Vision 2021, regarding the development of the educational system, and achieving the best standards of quality at UAE schools. This change is in line with the latest developments in the educational realm. It is also in line with the Ministry’s efforts in identifying a standardized assessment system that utilizes test results to improve education based on international best practices.
Al Hammadi said that the regularity at which the EmSAT will occur ensures an effective method of measuring progress in schools and the education system in general within a certain timeframe. Through the EmSAT results, students and teachers will obtain reliable information about the strength of their performance in various subjects as well as about areas where they need to improve. Additionally, parents will be able to closely monitor their children’s academic progress.
His Excellency explained that the EmSAT system is divided into three main sections. The first of these is a baseline assessment for students entering grade 1. This test measures the readiness of children transitioning from kindergarten to primary school and provides decision-makers with accurate data about the starting point for developing the skills and knowledge of students.
The second section, Al Hammadi added, consists of tests that track the skills and knowledge possessed by students through the years of public education in the subjects of Arabic, English, mathematics and science. The tests are designed to provide information about the extent to which UAE students possess skills and knowledge that are at par with international standards across various age groups spanning grades 4, 6, 8 and 10.
Al Hammadi explained that the third section measures the skills and knowledge of twelfth grade students in the subjects of Arabic, English, mathematics, physics, chemistry and biology before they enroll into institutions of higher education, which helps the institutions make informed admissions decisions.
Jamila Al Muhairi, Secretary of State for Public Education, said that the vision of the Ministry of Education and its development plans are in line with the nation’s directives. This reinforces the need to establish a system that is in harmony with these goals and that is considered a robust source of information to measure student skills according to international standards.
This will in turn, enhance the clear vision of decision makers in the public education sector, enabling them to measure the educational realities students face. Additionally, the system can be used by higher education institutions to assess future students.
Dr. Ahmed Balhoul Al Falasi, Minister of State for Higher Education, said the EmSAT is a quantum leap in the process of evaluating and measuring student test results. Al Falasi pointed out that the new system is closely linked to universities and is based on national standards that are not tied to any specific curriculum. He added that the system relies on international and best-practice standards in measuring student skills.