Reforming examinations: READ partner countries share experience

Representatives from Russia, Armenia, Tajikistan, and Ethiopia shared their experience in reforming examinations at READ conference.

The session was opened by Viktor Bolotov, academic director of the Center for Psychometrics and Measurements in Education, HSE Institute of Education, with a presentation on the development and implementation of the Unified State Exam (USE) in Russian Federation. He spoke about the prerequisites and the history of exam’s evolution, challenges that were overcome during the experiment on its implementation, as well as results achieved and the prospects for its development. The main goal of the exam, according to Viktor Bolotov, is to increase the availability of quality education for applicants, regardless of place of residence and socio-economic status of their families. It was necessary to train experts in all regions of the country, learn how to create test items and radically improve the testing procedure to achieve it. As a result, the number of applicants from rural areas and remote regions increased significantly, most noticeably in universities of Moscow and Saint-Petersburg. The implementation of computer-based examination and inclusion of tasks to test competencies and “soft skills” were stated as examples of further USE development.

The experience of examinations reform in Ethiopia supported by the READ Trust Fund was presented by Araya Gebre-Egziabher, Director of the national Education Assessment and Examination agency. In his report, he outlined the main stages in the development of examination system in the country, spoke about the features of examinations administration and the problems that exist in this area. The most urgent are huge limitations for using computer-based testing, high cost and complexity of their administration, as well as massive malpractice that hinders to objectively assess students. To improve the situation, the READ Trust Fund supported the development of new test items, building expert capacity and provided recommendations for an improved educational policy. As a result of the reforms, the quality and effectiveness of both exams and education sufficiently improved. At the end of the presentation, Araya Gebre-Egziabher emphasized the contribution of READ program to the development of education in Ethiopia.

The development of the examination systems in Tajikistan and Armenia was largely similar. Khurshed Ikromi, director of the National Testing Center of Tajikistan, and Arsen Bagdasaryan, deputy director of the Center for Assessment and Testing under the Government of Armenia, noted that the Soviet exam system inherited by their countries appeared to be ineffective, corrupt and almost unmanageable in new circumstances and required urgent reforming. The centers for testing and education assessment created with the support of countries’ governments and READ program, provided development of new testing tools and introduction of a unified national exam system. As a result, Tajikistan managed to eliminate corruption in the field of enrollment to universities and restore public confidence in the examination system, and in Armenia, in turn, abandoned centralized testing, which obliged schools’ graduates to pass exams in the capital city, at the same time improving the quality of assessment and examinations. Khurshed Ikromi and Arsen Bagdasaryan praised the contribution of the READ program to improving educational systems of their countries and expressed a desire to continue cooperation in the future.

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