|National Unified Examinations: ch ch ch ch ch ch changes|
|May 30, 2008|
May 30, 2008
As one Washington Post journalist remarks “Any country committed to meritocracy, of course, has to impose exams on its high school seniors. Otherwise, university admissions will necessarily depend on wealth, access and parental connections.” By creating Unified National Examinations, the Ministry of Education of Georgia claims that it has created “an equal, transparent system that will narrow the divide between rich and poor.”
But still the stressful lives of those high-school seniors contemplating their futures in an increasingly cutthroat world deserve special compassion.
2008 is turning out to be quite different from other years. This year Georgian schools actually have no graduates as a result of a Georgian Parliamentary decree passed in 2005. According to parliamentary decree, all Georgian educational institutions need to switch from an 11 to a 12 year study program. Therefore, this year has become a transitional one without any Georgian high-school graduates for 2008.
This innovation has spawned a number of opinions and rumors. The teachers often complain that still there is no known 12th grade curriculum: “The only thing we know from the plan worked out by the Ministry of Education is that such subjects as Georgian Literature, Mathematics and Sports will be in the program but the exact textbooks and materials are still undecided.” According to the Ministry of Education a detailed program for 12th grade students will be ready by the summer of 2008.
The attitude of Georgian teenagers towards this reform is revealed by the fact that demands to transfer to Russian-language schools has increased dramatically, as the Parliamentary decision was not legally binding to Russian schools. Regardless of how well they speak Russian a huge amount of 11th grade students left Georgian public schools and enrolled in Russian ones: consequently admissions committees of Russian schools had no choice but to close the admissions process within just a week.
So the current crop of 11th grade students will be the first in the history of the Georgian educational system to shifting to the 12th grade while the Russian sector’s 11th grade students will be the last who will not be obliged to complete the 12th class.
According to a recent, student-written Georgian public school newspaper article: “As nearly all American and European high-schools have 12 grades, maybe the Ministry of Education regards it as necessary for Georgia to have a similar system. Most adults say that school is one of the most extraordinary and valuable periods in a person’s life, so we, who will have to complete the 12th grade too will be enjoying one more valuable year.”
There also exists such rumor that students with high academic excellence will not have to pass Unified National Examinations, as they will automatically be admitted to the universities of their choice. Although, whether this information is close to truth or not will be revealed in summer 2008.
There are also some additional changes this year. Unlike previous years, those who wish to be admitted to a university may apply not only for bachelor’s degree programs, but also for newly adopted Higher Education Professional Programs that implies two years of professional preparation in various fields. The first intake in the Professional Preparation Programs has already been implemented in October 2007, but the applicants consisted of those students who could not successfully pass National Unified Examinations and thus were not enrolled in universities.
There are changes regarding the language issue too: the national entrance examination in General Skills and Abilities can now be taken in Georgian, Russian, Azerbaijani and Armenian languages. As for other subjects such as Mathematics, Georgian History and Social Sciences examination papers will also be available in Russian.
“The Test of General Skills and Abilities is not the examination of knowledge of a certain subject; it is about the style of thinking, which can be better expressed in the language in which a person thinks. We considered the psychologists’ suggestions and made tests in the languages of ethnic minorities. Next time we plan to prepare exams in the Abkhazian language too,” commented Merab Tipuria, the head of the National Unified Examination’s logistics group.
According to Tipuria: “The format of the examinations remains similar to what it was in recent years; the tests are created according to the same standards, and we want somehow to create a kind of tradition which society should already be getting used to. This year changes refer only to the technical side, such as the assessment of examinations via Internet that was not happening during previous years.”
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