School leaders' body in favor of removing final exams at basic schools

High School students.
High School students. Source: Olev Kenk/ERR

The Estonian Association of School Leaders (EKJÜ) expressed support for the government's plan to separate the graduation from basic school (põhikool) from the results of the final examinations.

"The EKJÜ supports the draft of the government concerning the assessment and threshold of basic school final examinations," the association stated in a statement sent to ERR.

The proposals of the joint seminar of the representative body of the EKJÜ and the Estonian Association for the Promotion of Vocational Education (EKEÜ) call on the government to legalize the practice, so that the final exams are not linked to a certain threshold.

At the same time, school leaders stressed that it is important for basic school learning and national supervision that all students still take centrally designed tests at the end of basic school.

Since the main aim of the assessment is to help the student learn and the teacher to teach effectively, testing helps the student in his further choices and summarizes what he or she has learned in basic school, are incorporated in the suggestions.

Reflecting exam results on points, rather than grades, allows for better use of the tests, and is more informative for both students and teachers, the school leaders say.

In addition, the associations call on the government to postpone the examination session to April. "This will allow upper secondary schools and vocational secondary schools to use the results for admission, as well as give them the opportunity to conduct additional interviews and take additional specific tests," the proposals said.

"We try to reduce the tension of students at the end of the ninth grade, by the day of midsummer at the latest, the student must be clear which school he will continue his studies in the next school year, we avoid multiple testing in the same subject," the school leaders stressed.

Such changes would necessitate the development of the exams - if they take place earlier, the possibility that a small part of the curriculum will not have been completed by then must be taken into account, and this would also allow highly competitive schools to admit students, the applicants said. Exams should be well-distinguished with excellent results, school leaders add.

"We trust the national central testing capability, we work together to make the national tests very good," the associations continued in its statement.

In addition, school leaders expressed concern that the emphasis on Estonian language and mathematics had a detrimental effect on basic school teaching.

"We propose to develop integrated tests for natural and social subjects," the statement said.

"We are concerned that the current framework and practice of assessment do not contribute enough to learning and teaching. We consider it necessary to open an in-depth discussion on assessment," the proposal stated.

"We should not set barriers to the end of education, although we can set a threshold at the beginning of education," the statement continued. "The aim of the school is to help the student move forward in his or her life. there may be, in particular, measurements in the admission function that upper secondary schools and vocational schools can use to select their own pupils."

The Estonian education system comprises a nine-year mandatory comprehensive education at basic school (põhikool) which, depending on the area and situation, can be conducted all in the one site, or at primary (grades 1-6) school, more common in more rural areas, followed by grades 7-9 at larger secondary schools.

In some cases, an elementary school (algkool) will cover grades 1-3. High school, or gümnaasium, is a non-mandatory general education school which follows on from basic school and has a nominal study period of three years.

An alternative to gümnaasium is the vocational school (ametikool).

The national curricula are implemented in all basic and high schools in Estonia regardless of their status, size, location, native tongue of the majority of pupils etc., unless otherwise stipulated by law.

Estonian schoolchildren routinely perform strongly in the international Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) tests aimed at evaluating educational systems by measuring 15-year-old school pupils' scholastic performance in several subjects and topping the list in 2020.


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Editor: Roberta Vaino

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