The Ministry of Education and Research proposes the abolition of basic school final exams in Estonia, with the hope that parliament will follow suit and also support the initiative.
In a press release on Tuesday, the ministry announced that representatives of educational organizations and interest groups agree that the basic school (põhikool) exam system in the current form does not fulfil the original objectives set for it, thus the time is right to make changes to the situation.
"We have found that this form of national threshold is not necessary as a condition for graduating from basic-level school," Minister of Education and Research Mailis Reps (Centre) said at a press conference given on Tuesday. "Instead, we would rather carry out standard-determining tests as national feedback and deduce from these what kind of information we need to receive," she went on.
Exam superfluous to requirements
Ms. Reps also stated that high schools (gümnaasium) already conduct entrance exams several months before basic school exams, and the condition for graduating from basic school has hitherto been an exam that the subsequent stages of study actually do not require. Furthermore, every fourth or fifth schoolchild currently registered takes some sort of school-specific exam or adapted exam instead of the national basic school exam.
The current final exam system neither supports the student-centred principle, according to the ministry, nor does it support students according to their individual performance, since in order to graduate from basic school, all students must take the same exam.
This puts pressure on the schools to focus primarily on preparing students for exams, whereas building knowledge, skills, understanding and analytical skills is more important, in Ms. Reps' view.
According to the proposal, basic school exams and standard-determining tests should be abolished in their current form. The conditions for graduating from basic school will in the future be determined via the national curriculum, but the school in question will maintain the right to decide whether a student has completed the curriculum, acquired basic education and fulfilled the conditions for graduating, within its own jurisdiction.
In the Estonian education system, a nine-year mandatory comprehensive education at basic school (põhikool) which depending on the area and situation can be conducted all in the one school, 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 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 on mathematics, science, and reading, finishing second in Europe to Finland in 2017.
Editor: Andrew Whyte