The Incompatibility of State Educational Standards and Final Examinations

Susan Markosyan

For many years, the interpretation of final state and school examination results, that aim to evaluate the efficacy of academic curricula, remind us of a particular joke.

Every year, it suddenly becomes evident that the majority of our school students are not "proficient" in their native language, that the test results do not match the expectations of the organizer, the Ministry of Education, the authors of the subject curriculums, the Assessment and Testing Center, the community. And what is the reason? The reason for it is, of course, the school which does not provide quality education. And who is to blame? Of course, the teacher who does not teach. Or they, once again, proclaim that a "dumb" generation is being raised, that the juveniles do not like to study, they are not able to study. The joke of a filer, exactly.

Unfortunately, the Armenian brand, our "Velvet Revolution" did not change anything regarding this issue. Nothing romantic...The next in turn minister of education is disappointed about it for a subsequent time"...they have submitted him the results of the external evaluation in the Armenian Language and Mathematics which are way too upsetting. According to him, they had predicted one exam in the Armenian language would be enough for each of Grades 9 and 12, but the specialists claim that the number of failed students will cause a serious problem. External evaluation has uncovered the negative expectations that we could have. Although not carried out strictly, however, even in that case, 30-40 % of grade 12 students did not meet the passing threshold. And the problem arising from this is linked to that of a call-up. What a pity! 

The issue of the proposed external evaluation and its validity has been judged by the director of “Mkhitar Sebastatsi” Educomplex Ashot Bleyan, the head of the council of the Educomplex, 12th grader parent Aramazd Ghalamkaryan, the high School director Marta Asatryan, in their open letters and blog publications.

According to the state standards of public education one of the common requirements for high school graduates says: “The high school leaver should: 1. completely master the literary Armenian Language: a) speak and write the language fluently, express own ideas and opinion briefly and to the point, without any verbosity or padding b) understand, explain, interpret and present written texts of different range of difficulty and length, c) properly narrate own ideas and unknown texts, d) independently prepare summaries of various written materials,  write essays, e) be able to carry out analyses of texts of various genres, f) differentiate and appreciate works of  high caliber literature.″

Let's put aside, for a moment, the fact that "completely master" is quite ambitious or rather vague as a requirement ("completely" should have assumed the highest rank of evaluation). Where are the general content requirements referring to the Armenian language test that the graduating students take?

The final examinations in general contradict the amendments ratified by RA legislation. Can anyone insist that everyone's constitutional rights to education are protected by examinations? Don't the assessments that are "not strictly carried out", with 30-40 percentage of failure rate mean that the exams are not accessible to that section? And has the minister been aware that the leaked tests circulated in the hands of the students prior to the examinations, and if not so, the results would have been even more disappointing? In fact, the state council of public education should rather be concerned with the fact that although public education program is for everyone, however, the  program is not accessible for a tangible part of the beneficiaries, that there are contradictions between the state specified standards of education and those of school subjects. This is a fact which, instead of being addressed to, has been neglected for years. From time to time they only get surprised at the big  number of students having failed the Armenian language exam, the low average score in the exams, and at the fact that our university applicants get higher scores in foreign languages, etc.  And why should the final state examination be linked to university enrollment? Why can't a university decide on its terms of admission, its admission requirements in the way the American Univeristy of Armenia does?

The external assessments and examinations have been forcing teachers and students to resort, to fraud, in order to avoid the negative results of 30-40 %, let alone mentioning issues like corruption, negotiations, and using exams as a means for clarifying interpersonal relations.  In other words, they not only put teachers and students under stress, but also corrupt the man, the system. Among all the schools, teachers, students and parents that have undergone the challenge of external evaluation, I have not come across with any feedback regarding  assessment, their subsequent results nor about the clarifications of the Educomplex stated above.

With this new system of current or final assessment, instead of universal inclusive education determined by the Law of Public Education of RA (Article 4, point 2.1) we end up with having labels of  categories of learners, and the objectives and principles of  state public policy on education proclaimed by law (Act 5, points 1,2) are disrespected: the humanitarian nature of education, priority to human life, health, free and comprehensive development of the individual, fostering human dignity, respect towards its rights and freedoms, let alone the creative individual, his/her educational aims and principles. Let me quote Einstein: "Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.″ 

 

In conclusion, how is the principle “Public education is aimed towards every learner's mental, spiritual, physical and social development” (Law on Education of RA, Article 5, Point 1.1 ) realized in the result of such assessment and 12-year compulsory education system, when students develop complexes of being unsuccessful, incapable and good for nothing, when they (30-40 % of the students) are not interested in their lessons and are trained to waste their days aimlessly?  Is this the “formation of the future citizen”? 

Does it seem a dead end? But to overcome such and similar problems in public education, RA legislation has established state amended alternative: author educational program.  

 

The photo by Ani Sargsyan

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