Changes to basic school exams to be discussed in public hearing ({{contentCtrl.commentsTotal}})

General education teachers working full time are set to see their minimum monthly wage increase to €1,250 this year (picture is illustrative).
General education teachers working full time are set to see their minimum monthly wage increase to €1,250 this year (picture is illustrative). Source: (Sille Annuk/Postimees/Scanpix)

The Cultural Affairs Committee of the Riigikogu will hold a public hearing on Tuesday to discuss a bill which concerns abolishing national basic school exams, which teachers are opposed too.

According to Aadu Must (Centre), chairman of the commission, this amendment to the bill requires the involvement of as many stakeholders as possible. 

"It concerns society as a whole, and we have therefore convened various parties to hear their views. Certainly, there are a number of proposals that will need to be considered in the further processing of the bill," he said.

Must added that regardless of the final outcome of the bill, it will not affect the final exams of students whose schools will sit them this upcoming spring. "Those students who graduate from the 9th grade this spring will have to take the exams anyway," Must said. Children in 9th grade are approximately 14 years old.

Vice-President Heidy Purga (Reform) said the bill has received a number of different amendments, which the commission will consider after the public hearing and after hearing from stakeholders. "We certainly do not want to rush through such a thorough process," Purga said.

The public session of the committee begins at 2 p.m. and many teaching associations and organisations have been invited to participate.

The Riigikogu is currently in the process of preparing a long-standing amendment to the law, which plans to abolish the national final examinations for basic school. 

It will then give schools free rein to organize the completion of basic school. Students should no longer focus on taking exams and teachers should be able to approach each student more individually. 

The changes will affect a large number of students - in 2018, nearly 11,300 children were in 9th grade. 

Teachers do not agree with changes

On Monday, teachers appealed to the Minister of Education and Research Mailis Reps and the Riigikogu Committee on Culture to withdraw from the debate on the draft law amending the Citizenship Act and the Act on Basic Schools and Upper Secondary Schools.

According to the 16 unions and organizations which signed a joint petition, it is important to continue developing the basic school examinations. 

"The standard of basic education is a value that must be agreed upon in society. National final examinations are a natural part of learning that plays an important role in developing learner motivation, systematizing knowledge-skills-assessments, and supporting development efforts," the petition read.

In the teachers' view, it is unacceptable that the Ministry of Education and Research did not involve any teachers' unions in the drafting of the bill, thus ignoring the views of professionals, teachers, experience and research.

Teachers say decisions the government makes about education must be cross-policy.

Speaking (link in Estonian) on TV discussion show Suud puhtaks last week about the amendment, Minister of Education and Research Mailis Reps: "I'd say we're not omitting anything, we're replacing it. We're replacing the one-time Grade 9 graduation /.../ because that graduation is then clearly too late. We would like the student to have this feedback in Grade 3, In Grade 6 and then Grade 9."

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Editor: Helen Wright

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