Education ministry wants to untie graduating basic school from final exams

School classroom.
School classroom. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

The Ministry of Education and Research wants to introduce a permanent rule that would allow those who simply attend their final exams to graduate from basic school.

In 2020, the final examinations for basic school were canceled, and last year, when students had spent most of the school year at home, an exception was made. The Ministry of Education and Research said that since children have experienced a lot of stress, there is no point in adding to it, and therefore the result of the exam was untied from graduating from basic school.

"As this exception made it possible to see what it means, this year, the plan is to make the exception a valid principle," Ülle Matsin, head of the General Education Policy Department of the ministry said.

Before the coronavirus, the exam had to be passed with at least 50 percent to graduate from basic school. Now the ministry wants to replace the five-point scale with percentage points, as is the case in high school graduation exams, and to make it enough to just take the exam to finish.

In the autumn, the ministry also consulted teachers' associations. Most of them approved the plan. However, Kaja Sarapuu, the head of the Estonian Mother Tongue Teachers' Association, notes the state receives important information about the level of both the student and the schools from the exams. However, this requires effort in the exams.

"If we hope that a student is very, very aware, that may not always be the case. And last year's experience was that there are students who would rather not take the exam at all because they don't bother to do so. So there is a risk that if we make the exams so easy we may not actually get adequate feedback. This feedback is simply not reliable," Sarapuu said.

Matsin said the exam itself does not have to motivate the student. Motivation must come from within the person.

"If a student is not motivated to do the basic school exam well, it is in itself a pretty good challenge to find the student's motivational points in that student and talk to him about how he or she can find it within himself or herself," Matsin said.

Both Sarapuu and Matsin emphasized that basic school exams are important in terms of a student's future education. At the same time, many upper secondary schools hold their own entrance examinations in the spring, and for more diligent students, the basic school results are not as important.

Matsin said the change in the rules could bring developments here as well. She explained the grade obtained at the end of the basic school examination does not give a very adequate picture to the upper secondary schools.

Matsin hoped that now that the new rules are in place, they will give high schools the opportunity to give up their entrance exams and instead take the final exams.


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Editor: Roberta Vaino

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