Study visit to Slovenia and Croatia: Matura is like a house, and it is built from the ground up

January 4, 2023

A study visit to the State Examination Center of Slovenia (RIC) and the National Centre for External Evaluation of Education (NCVVO) was organised at the end of October 2022 for the representatives of the Ministry of Education, both Institutes, the National Education Council and the Council for Vocational and Adult Education, to become more familiar with state matura systems in the region, exchange experiences with colleagues and define recommendations for implementing the state matura in Serbia.

On the first day of the visit, the participants received detailed information about the role of RIC in the educational system of Slovenia, the legal basis governing the state matura exam, technical and logistical support for the organisation of exams, preparation of exam materials and evaluation.

-  Matura is like a house, you have to start from the ground up. We also needed several years of preparation before introducing it into the system. It is a process that is almost impossible to speed up. And when you finally introduce it, you need several years of stable implementation. Students organised protests against matura in our first year as well, and not everything went smoothly here either. But a few years of stable implementation are enough to build trust, especially among teachers and school principals. After that, everything is more manageable - said Darko Zupanc, long-term director of the State Examination Centre from Ljubljana, at the beginning of the visit.

RIC opened its doors wide to colleagues from Serbia. With great enthusiasm and patience, they talked about all aspects of graduation, explained why they applied specific solutions, and openly talked about the mistakes they made at the beginning and how they overcame them.

         Take care not to make the mistakes we made. Patience is also essential - it takes a few years of data collection before you can start returning something from the databases to the school system, and it takes a few years to see the first changes in quality. Above all, stability, constant work and continuous care to ensure that matura is regular is the key - Darko Zupanc shared his experiences.

The Ministry of Education played a crucial role in Slovenia when, despite the opposition of a part of the public, more than twenty years ago, it introduced the state matura exams decisively. Everything else was up to the RIC.

-  Trust is necessary; there is no other recipe. If we had lost confidence, especially in those early years, I'm not sure we would have matura now, because there were a lot of opponents of final exams. From the beginning, we have had clear protocols that are not just written on paper; we literally live them. Regulations, regulated systems, and compliance with laws are crucial because if some omission happened, it would be news not only for the media but also for all those who do not like matura - warned the director of the RIC.

Exciting and inspiring was the part of the visit during which participants discussed data analyses, their importance, and how they can be used within the system.

-  After several years of implementing the matura, there is so much good and important information for the education system, information essential for quality that can be excellent guidelines for teachers and principals on how to improve and advance the system - Zupanc points out.  

A similar atmosphere and willingness to cooperate prevailed during the two-day visit to the National Centre for External Evaluation of Education in Zagreb. The director of the Centre, Vinko Filipović, prepared an intensive program with his colleagues, through which they presented the key elements and segments of state matura in Croatia - from preparation and implementation, through databases and cooperation with schools, to ensuring the quality of state matura.

 - In the beginning, it wasn't as great as our presentation looks today. And even now, there is still a lot of room to improve the quality of the state matura exam, both in terms of organisation and, more importantly, in terms of content regarding the exam quality. In this sense, what is very important is that we have the support of our relevant ministry and that the state matura is perceived as something important not only for the secondary education system, but for the education system as a whole, because it also affects the faculties as admission criteria, and the entire pyramid of education - from preschool to higher education - explains the importance of matura, director Filipović.

The challenges faced by NCVVO are almost identical to those described by their Slovenian colleagues. Some of the solutions they implement in practice differ to some extent. Still, they describe the importance of the matura for the quality of education in an identical way.

 -  For the state matura exam to be successfully conducted, a whole series of factors are important - from the technical-organisational ones, through professional ones, to the support of the schools, which is the most important. Without teachers in schools, without exam coordinators who organise everything at the school level, without principals who are most responsible for everything that happens in the school, we could prepare for the matura exams perfectly, we could have perfect logistics, but if only one of them in schools fails, we have a problem. It is a very complex system. It is up to the Centre to organise well and to prepare for good exams. Still, about 20 thousand school teachers participate in it, and only if one is less concentrated at some point can the whole exam fail in a moment - warned Vinko Filipović.

Representatives of the Agency for Science and Higher Education confirmed that the beginning was rocky. During the meeting with them, representatives of the Ministry of Education, the National Education Council and the Council for Vocational and Adult Education had the opportunity to hear more about how the results of the state matriculation exams are used for enrollment in higher education institutions and how this process has changed over time.