Justice chancellor: Teacher scheduling fourth test in week not acceptable
Chancellor of Justice Ülle Madise has found that a biology teacher who scheduled a test for a class who already had three other tests scheduled that week violated a Ministry of Social Affairs regulation on the organization of study.
While the biology teacher called the test in question a graded assignment, it met the criteria for a test and placed an additional burden on the students, Madise found.
A 9th grade student contacted the chancellor of justice, stating that their class was scheduled for four tests in the span of one school week (April 18-22). According to a government regulation on the organization of study, however, only three tests may be scheduled during any one school week.
The school's education director explained to the justice chancellor's adviser that the class in question had three tests that week: in history, Estonian and social studies. While the class was initially slated to have a test in biology as well that week, the latter had disappeared from the school's online study information system (ÕIS).
Instead of a test, the teacher assigned the class a graded assignment in agreement with the students, the school official said. The biology teacher had made it clear to their students that this assignment could not be postponed, and the majority of students allegedly responded to the teacher's proposal with a nod.
"By concluding an agreement with their students this way, the teacher violated a requirement set out in the regulation," Madise wrote in her response to the student. "While it was a graded assignment that was agreed upon, it nonetheless still fit the criteria of a test, and so the students essentially still had to take four tests in one week. The school's education director agreed with the chancellor of justice's adviser that the teacher behaved unacceptably. Even if all of the students had agreed to such a proposal on the teacher's part, it still would have constituted a breach of the students' rights."
The goal of the requirements established regarding the scheduling of tests is to leave schoolchildren with sufficient time to rest and for recreational activities. Students must also have the opportunity to acquire necessary knowledge and skills in the best possible way.
"If a student's study load grows to exceed the extent permitted, the student may fall behind in their studies, and this may also be detrimental to the student's mental health," Madise said. "Thus such behavior on the teacher's part may jeopardize everyone's fundamental right to an education."
According to the Ministry of Social Affairs' regulation "Health protection requirements for school timetables and organization of study," up to three tests may be scheduled within one week.
The regulation further stipulates that tests may not be scheduled for Monday and Friday, or for first and last period, unless a particular class is only held on Mondays and Fridays or only on one of those days or during first or last period.
The chancellor of justice also encouraged the student to submit the appeal to continue speaking up over concerns regarding the scheduling of tests, whether by talking to their class teacher, the school's education director or its board of trustees.
"You also continue to have the right to appeal to the chancellor of justice," Madise wrote. "You can also contact the Health Board, whose job it is to verify compliance with the requirements laid out in the regulation."
Commenting on the incident in question to ERR, Ülle Matsin, director of the General Education Policy Department of the Ministry of Education and Research, said that it was good to see that a solution was found for the prevention of further violations in cooperation with the school's education director.
"Students should be able to safely report such situations at school as well," Matsin continued. "Addressing such information with school management could be within the competence of the student council, for example."
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Editor: Aili Vahtla