Six hundred children vied for a coveted spot in first grade at the Tallinna Realkool, known in English as Tallinn Secondary Science School. Only 56 were accepted. The acceptance criteria were not completely clear, the daily Eesti Päevaleht reported today.
The researchers found that the highly selective model perpetuates inequality and elitism, and proposed a new system for first grade admissions that would make sure the school provides everyone an equal opportunity.
According to researcher Kaire Põder, the Estonian system, where so-called elite schools attract applicants that are already privileged, is not prevalent elsewhere. Qualifying for exams requires children to attend specific pre-school education programs designed to help them pass the entrance exams, which in turn costs money.
In the solution proposed by the university’s researchers, the local government would determine which children are a priority and parents would also state their preferences. The system would then pair them accordingly. This solution would put social contracts on which groups should have priority before the actual scholastic aptitude of the children applying for admission, the researchers said.