State Estonian exam set to go ahead despite remote learning

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Student taking state exam. Photo is illustrative. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

The Estonian-language state exam is set to take place on April 19. Since schools are as things stand on remote learning until at least a week after that, decisions will need to be made on how to hold the exams within that framework, ETV news show "Aktuaalne kaamera" (AK) reported Tuesday night.

Health Board (Terviseamet) deputy director Mari-Anne Härma told AK holding in-school exams was necessary, though came with high risk, not least because it could give a signal to society as a whole that restrictions were being eased.

Härma said: "This is a decision in the interests of children, and it does not suggest that the situation in the country is in any way improved to the extant that people can start traveling freely, or attending parties again."

At the same time, the government has not ruled out following the recommendation of its own coronavirus advisory body, called the scientific council, in easing educational restrictions on a regional basis.

Education minister Liina Kersna said that the same council's advice had been followed on the matter of the national exams.

She said: "The scientific council replied [to the government's query on the matter] that if the situation did not get worse – in fact the situation has improved now – the exam could be conducted with all safety measures in place."

Safety measures would include rapid tests available at exam halls – though this cannot be made mandatory – while the vaccination of teachers and other education professionals linked with the exams (such as external moderators) will also help.

"The Health Board has 20,000 rapid tests in stock, that they would be willing to give to schools," Kersna added.

State exams are held for school leavers at the end of the mandatory period of education (Põhikool) in the Estonian language, or Estonian as a second language, math, and an exam on a subject of the student's choice.

The government had said last month that graduating high school will not be dependent on exam results for the 2020/2021 academic year.

Estonia's education system is organized in four levels. Pre-school runs to age seven and results in a certification of progress, while the basic, compulsory system is the nine-year basic school (cf. junior high) – the first three grades of which are called "beginning school" (Algkool, cf. elementary school).

Optional continued secondary education is provided by upper secondary schools (Gümnaasium, cf. high school) and also vocational schools. Completing upper secondary is necessary to go into higher education, and runs through to year 12 (dated from entering basic school).

From 2018, Estonia has come in first place from among European nations in the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development's (OECD) Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) rankings.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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