Education minister says school-leaving exam results alarming but not tragic

Not a tragedy - at least not yet - is how the country’s Education Minister Josef Dobeš is rating the results of a recent school-leaving exam in a trial run. Those were announced earlier this week showing that almost a third of students had flunked, receiving fails in subjects like English, German and Math.

The recent trial run of the high school leaving exam could hardly have gone worse: around a third of almost 100,000 students receiving a dreaded F. Failure rates included 34% in English, 40% in German, 22% in Czech and a whopping 48% in maths. With the official introduction of the new state school-leaving exam only half a year or so away, many are aghast the result could be so dismal. Despite the numbers, Education Minister Josef Dobeš on Monday remained optimistic:

“It would be a tragedy only if teachers and students approached the real test next year with the same approach they had to the trial run. There is of course an alarming element which points to the quality of the education system and that is in math: the level on the test for math was only slightly higher than the ninth grade.”

Josef Dobeš, photo: CTK
In the minister’s view, a number of factors contributed to poor results in the dry run, among them that many students didn’t take the test as seriously as if it had been the real thing; still others may have boycotted it for personal reasons and some have questioned poor wording in the exam or that it included material students may not have covered yet.

In any case, now is the time for both students and teachers to get down to brass tacks: Mr Dobeš made clear on Monday that the exam, which has an easier and more difficult option for more aspiring students – would not be simplified one bit and he urged students who will take the exam next year to study hard. He also expressed the conviction that teachers would work closely with their pupils to better prepare them for the real test. Just as importantly, interested pupils will have a chance to take a second trial run in March, to see if they’re better prepared.

As for the education system as a whole? Minister Josef Dobeš stresses it faces extensive reforms and that major hurdles lie ahead:

“One thing is to introduce uniform checks on quality and another is to make the whole system more effective. Consider the fact that there are some schools that are only 60 or 70 percent full, so we need to improve on that. A third point is changing financing a very difficult issue we are only just opening. We will look abroad for possible models and steps we could take.”