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Envíos 10057

Enviado - 24 febrero 2008 :  00:35:20  Mostrar perfil  Responder con Cita
High-schoolers look to new tests
Reforms aim to motivate students, but universities skeptical of standard exams

By Markéta Hulpachová, Staff Writer
The Prague Post
February 20th, 2008 issue

For centuries, local students have viewed passing the high-school leaving certificate exam, or maturita, as the make-or-break point of their academic careers.

As the Education Ministry finalizes plans to extensively standardize leaving exams on the national level, the very concept of these tests may alter dramatically. Reform plans moved forward Feb. 18, when the ministry submitted a final draft of a document to update the leaving certificate exams for evaluation by the parliamentary committee for education (VVKMT).

Traditionally, the principals of individual schools determine the format and subject matter of the leaving exam. While it is not a graduation requirement at all high schools, passing the exam and receiving the certificate is generally viewed as an entry requirement by universities and employers in most midlevel career fields.

However, as ongoing reforms continue to loosen state control of the curricula of individual schools, the disparity of the content and difficulty level of the exams between schools continues to grow. They are now thought to be too easy, and universities no longer consider scores a reliable indicator of students’ performance.

Declaring the “downfall of the entire motivational mechanism,” the reform document states, “There is no longer a reason to do the best you can — all that matters is passing.”

To address this, the ministry plans to create two levels of testing difficulty for students to select from. According to the reform document, the easier version would test the “minimal knowledge of the students, regardless of what type of high school they attend or which field they are studying.”
If a student initially chooses the more difficult option and fails, he or she will be allowed to attempt the easier version of the test when retaking it in the fall.

According to Education Ministry spokesman Ond#345;ej Gabriel, the long-term plan is for the more difficult test version to act as a standardized university entrance exam, replacing the current system, which requires students to take different entrance exams at each individual institution and faculty they apply to.

“University representatives have responded fairly positively to this option,” Gabriel said. “Of course, it’s important for them to wait and see whether admissions standards will be upheld. … It is also possible that the exam will be one part of the admissions criteria.”

By streamlining the system, the Education Ministry hopes leaving certificates will help inform universities about students’ actual abilities, thus lowering the dropout rate. “We expect positive developments in the way students approach higher education,” the document states.

New format

The new leaving exam would consist of two state-required subject tests (Czech language and a choice between math or one of five foreign languages), two or three “profile” subjects also required by the state and determined by the principal, and up to three elective subject tests chosen by the student in math, science, civics, foreign languages or history.

Principals of individual schools will still have the power to determine the subject matter of one of the state-required parts. This will be the so-called profiling part, which will indicate a high school’s academic focus. Besides humanities-oriented gymnáziums, there are vocational and professional high schools in the Czech Republic, all of which currently have different requirements for leaving certificates.

In addition to these required portions, students will also have the option of choosing two to three exam subjects to enhance their academic portfolio when applying to universities.

Rough drafts

Although the new tests are not slated to come into effect for another two years, they have been in the making since 1997.

That year, the Education Ministry started working on a reform plan prompted by a 1992 recommendation of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

The first reforms were slated to begin in 2002, but were returned to the drawing board after failing to receive parliamentary approval.

The ministry went on to try to improve the plan by launching a public debate among education professionals and testing the new leaving certification through pilot programs.

Originally, the ministry intended to implement the new exams during the current school year, but postponed its plans due to an “unrealistic time frame.”

“We were told in our first year that we were supposed to have the new exams, but they weren’t properly worked out,” said Michal Bereñ, a fifth-year student at the Academic Gymnázium Štèpánská, a university preparatory school in Prague 1. As a participant in a national pilot program that tested exams of various difficulties, Bere#328; has had firsthand experience with one potential form of the new tests. “The difficulty was roughly equivalent to a ninth-grade level,” he said. “They were easier than the entrance exams to get into this school.”

Although the ministry maintains that offering a less difficult version of the leaving certification will not artificially inflate national passing rates, Marie Slámová, deputy headmistress at Štèpánská Elementary School in Prague 1, sees these reforms as an effort to bloat the nation’s self-assurance. “The changes will allow practically anyone — including those who barely scrape by in vocational schools — to get a leaving certificate,” she said. “By accommodating these pupils, the state is trying to make our society look more educated — but the real effect may be exactly the opposite.”

Markéta Hulpachová can be reached at mhulpachova@praguepost.com



Envíos 10057

Enviado - 31 mayo 2008 :  12:21:17  Mostrar perfil  Responder con Cita
University boom: number of students doubles in 7 yrs


Prague - Czech society is getting more educated.

In the past seven years, the number of graduates has doubled at Czech universities. While in 2000 there were more than 30 thousand graduates, seven years after there are 63 thousand young people leaving with academic degrees.

Those are the data of the Institute for Information on Education.

In the Czech Republic, you can choose from 68 universities, with 43 of them being private institutions. In 2000, there were only 8 private universities.

Graduate in three years

At present, over 344 thousand students are studying at universities in the Czech Republic. Especially shorter, three-year bachelor´s degree programs' popularity is on the rise - currently, they have more than 200 thousand.

This is because universities are continually introducing foreign-inspired model of two-tier university study. Formerly, compact five-year master degree programs slowly disappear in favor of the three-year bachelor programs with consequential master studies that take two or three years.

Bachelor studies for the school year of 2007/08 saw 55 thousand students, the number seven times larger than the number of those enrolled for master studies.

If compared with bachelor studies, the number of master´s degree programs is smaller and also fewer students are accepted.

Higher professional schools

Growing number of short study programs offered by universities are luring away students that would otherwise be interested in studying at the higher professional schools (Vyšší odborná škola).

There are 177 of these institutions in the Czech Republic, which have almost 29 thousand students, with 12 thousand studying their first year.

A relatively significantly high number of students opted for distance learning that allows them to do their study duties at home instead of attending classes in person. These students usually show up in school a few times in a month.

The most popular subjects are medicine, economics, pedagogy or social care.

Last year, more than six thousand have graduated at higher proffesional schools, with only about one thousand of them signed as distance students - the rest attended classes on regular basis.

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