University confusion sparks exam review

31st March 1995 at 01:00
Poland's equivalent of the A-level faces drastic reform under plans to review the country's education system.

The matura examination, taken by 19-year-olds leaving schools and vocational colleges, has been criticised for its lack of quality control and because there is no comparability between the tests taken by students.

The problem has been highlighted in the universities, where students being admitted supposedly with the same grades later demonstrate different levels of knowledge and experience.

Ministers are also concerned that the examination measures only the candidate's ability to absorb and communicate knowledge, and that students are tested in three or four subject areas, although they may study many more.

Under the existing system the matura is set by 49 different authorities, known as kuratoria, and is then marked by the schools with little moderation or uniformity of standards.

Bogumila Hiszpanska, of the department of general education, said the limited criteria laid down for assessing students was vague and open to interpretation.

"There is a marking structure which has been laid down by law but it is so broad that it does not provide practical criteria for determining the marks to be given, and there is no external verification of standards," she said.

Under plans to revise the system, ministers are planning to introduce voluntary "mock" matura examinations this spring with detailed guidance for teachers as to how the tests should be marked.

The tests will encompass three different models to find out which is the most effective.

The results and findings of the exercise will be analysed by leading academics and eventually used to develop a national certification system to ensure standards of achievement and the criteria of assessment are uniform across the country. A final report is expected to be presented to the ministry of national education by the end of this year.

Ministers have also set up a working group to look at equivalent examination systems in other European countries, including course syllabuses. The group should monitor differences in standards and content.

Dr Hiszpanska added: "We anticipate that the results of the study will lead to the adoption of a decentralised system with six or seven regional examining boards setting examinations, but being moderated by some form of joint body to maintain comparability."

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