Ministry forced to explain lack of third state exam to foreign universities

Student about to take the Estonian language state exam. Photo is illustrative.
Student about to take the Estonian language state exam. Photo is illustrative. Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

The Ministry of Education and Research has issued several confirmation letters explaining Estonian students' lack of a third state exam score to foreign universities.

ETV news broadcast "Aktuaalne kaamera" recently covered the concerns of young students planning on studying at universities in the United Kingdom that require three state exam results to apply. As English language state exams were canceled this year and only math and Estonian language exams could be taken due to the coronavirus crisis, the students turned to the Ministry of Education for help. ERR's Reene Leas followed up on what has happened since.

According to the U.K.-bound high school seniors, the conversion of the results of international language exams into state exam scores would have been a help. Ministry of Education External Evaluation Department director Kristin Hollo, however, said that the ministry cannot do such exam score conversions, but added that the ministry has issued official confirmation letters explaining the situation.

"We are issuing information from the ministry in the form of an official letter regarding what exams it is even possible to take in the Estonian system this year, and what graduation requirements are," Hollo said. "A few students have requested such a letter from us; currently, we have issued fewer than ten such letters."

In addition, Estonian embassies and international university networks have also been informed about this year's graduation requirements and state exams. The ministry official noted that the coronavirus crisis has been a global one, and that universities have found flexible solutions.

Katriin Visamaa, a consultant for the Dream Foundation, which coordinates study at foreign universities, said that as so-called double testing for the English language has taken place since 2015, when state exams were first able to be substituted with international language exams, if a foreign university has stuck to its demand for three state exam scores, students have taken the English language state exam essentially as a formality, as in most cases, they have already taken a higher-level language exam.

"This is an individual matter of negotiations with a university — whether the university will accept alternative  opportunities for substituting the exam," Visamaa said. "These are just a few U.K. universities that have been very strict regarding this English language exam requirement, but we really are talking about up to five universities here."

Hollo noted that the ministry doesn't have any information regarding a missing state exam score ending up an obstacle to being accepted to a university abroad.

As applications largely took place prior to the coronavirus pandemic, this crisis has not affected much. It is yet too soon to tell just how many students are still willing to go study abroad. Most universities, however, have already decided to begin next academic year on schedule.

The greatest number of applications, a couple of hundred, were submitted by Estonian students to universities in the U.K. and the Netherlands; the most popular programs were film-related.


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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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