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UK exam board involved in reform

Poland

The school-leavers' exam, the matura, is undergoing sweeping changes with help from Britain's Associated Examining Board.

The exam, taken by 19-year-olds, is to be centralised with the introduction of syllabuses and a stringent checking system, similar to that used for A-levels.

The present system has been criticised as being open to abuse because there are no external examiners. The nowa matura or new maturity exam, has been piloted and is to be introduced nationally in 2002.

Henryk Szaleniec, a teacher-trainer from Krakow and one of a team of 13 educationists working with the AEB last week, said candidates will be tested in eight subjects. The first full cohort of students will sit papers in four years' time.

"Until now teachers applied different criteria and marking was intuitive. What was considered a top mark by one teacher was not necessarily so by another, so there was no consistency," said Mr Szaleniec. "The new system will be better for everyone, particularly the student who will know what criteria are being applied and what awaits him or her in the examination room."

The nowa matura will also double up as a school-leaving and university entrance test.

However, some teachers have opposed the changes because they feel that a uniform system undermines their role.

Mr Szaleniec added: "One of the reasons we have left ourselves a few years to bring in the new examination is to change the culture among teachers. They were deeply suspicious at first but they are slowly coming around.

"Now they can see that by having a clearly-established criteria for teaching and examining, it is easier to monitor progress and achievement and they can derive a feeling of professional satisfaction."

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