Round table discussions: How to ensure regularity of the state matura

January 4, 2023

The cycle of discussions on the efficient implementation of the state matura exam ended with a meeting on regularity in the organisation and implementation of exams. Both experts and the general public see this topic as one of the biggest challenges for the implementation of the state matura, so the goal of the round table was to discuss promising practices in other countries, prescribed procedures and possible instruments for ensuring the regularity of final exams, so that through cooperation various institutions found adequate solutions.

The regularity of the state matura exam implies three key aspects - the secrecy of exam materials, security of distribution and ensuring regularity during the exams themselves, said in the introductory part of the meeting the director of the Croatian National Centre for External Evaluation of Education, who was a guest-participant of the round table. Talking about the experiences of organisation and implementation of national graduation in Croatia, he referenced the regularity of the process.

In the following part of the meeting, the regulations governing the implementation of the state matura in Serbia were presented. The legal framework has been set, and the details should be regulated by internal acts of the institutions in the coming period. Instructions for conducting exams, which already include all regulatory elements - rules of conduct for students and detailed instructions for all participants in the process, including instructions for storing and returning tests - could grow into a regulation that would be binding and have higher legal force. The participants agreed with the proposal to monitor these measures at the beginning, to see if the existing acts are sufficient and to indicate where additional intervention could be made before entering into the amendment of laws and regulations.

Considering that one of the reasons for the faculty's opposition to the state matriculation exam being part of the enrollment criteria is doubt about the regularity of the process, the round table opened up space and discussions on how the faculties conduct enrollment exams and ensure the regularity of the examination procedure. As an example, the procedure for organising the enrollment exam at the Faculty of Pharmacy was presented. Recommendations that emerged from the consultative discussions held with representatives of higher education institutions were also mentioned: wherever possible, open spaces and halls in schools should be used for the organisation of matura exams, teachers from other schools should be on duty and representatives of the university should participate in the exam supervision.

During the discussion, representatives of the Centre for Examinations pointed out that specific procedures for the organisation and implementation of the final exam at the end of primary education are more rigid than those in neighbouring countries. The State Matura Project included one slight difference concerning the existing procedure by introducing a code of ethics and a guide for the work of working groups. When it comes to high-risk exams, nothing must be left to chance, and signed documents should cover everything; it was pointed out that there must be a straightforward procedure and transparent rules for each participant.

Based on the existing procedures for the final exam at the end of primary education, guidelines for the state matura will be prepared. Possible problems should be pointed out and possible solutions offered as soon as possible.

In the continuation of the meeting, participants agreed that the most problematic so far was the result assessment and the testing itself, given that the assessment control confirmed that certain schools flagrantly violated procedures. Therefore it was suggested that teachers from other schools would be engaged in the control of the testing process, and solutions and good practices from enrollment exams will be used, i.e. mixed order of answers in the tests, and distributing all students based on alphabetical order. Also, the possibility of abuse during the assessment should be prevented at the state matura examination by scanning and external assessment of the tests.

Schools should include in their internal acts the rules of conduct related to the conduct of exams, and it would be good to take them as much as possible from the Rulebook, which would include parts of instructions.

In discussions with faculties, the problem of mistrust was apostrophised as a vital issue, so it was suggested that faculty representatives be allowed to attend the matura exams. Although such an option was offered to them during the piloting, and they did not accept it, this option should remain open, with the appropriate accreditation process, i.e. compliance with security procedures.

Seriousness and consistency in the implementation and supervision of the procedures required by the state matura are not a standard in our society, it was concluded at the end of the discussion, but the state matura should, like in neighbouring countries, become a model of reliability and a key anti-corruption measure in education. Only when the entire professional and general public are convinced of matura's regularity and effectiveness will they fully accept it. The way to that is through detailed procedures carried out exceptionally consistently and thoughtfully.