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High school exit exams in Europe and Poland

High schools around the world use various exit exams to assess their students' skills and knowledge and establish their competencies for higher education. In different countries, seniors take them at different ages, and those evaluations themselves vary from one national education system to another.

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The case of Poland is especially interesting as the structure there includes features appearing in other national systems, and is unique, having compulsory education until the age of 18. It has also undergone serious changes recently.

Secondary education in Poland vs major European countries

The Polish high school exit assessment (called "matura") is equivalent to the British A-Levels or the US Advanced Placement Exam. 

Poland used to have primary schools lasting six years, followed by 3-years long middle (lower-high). From there, pupils proceeded to 3-years long high or 4-years long technical schools. That structure was similar to the one used in France. Recently, however, the Ministry discontinued middle (lower-high) schools and returned to 4-years long high or 5-years long technical schools.

In the UK and other Anglosphere countries, education systems usually limit compulsory school age to 16. Primary school pupils all proceed to high schools. There, teenagers can choose between studying until the age of 18 and then taking their exit exams (A-Levels), taking up apprenticeship or employment.

In contrast, Germany has an entirely different, much more complex educational structure. It includes Gymnasiums (academic high schools), Gesamtschule (comprehensive schools), Realschule (secondary schools) and Hauptschule (lower secondary schools), all ending with different exams. Only after an academic high school can a student proceed to university, while comprehensive school students can continue their education in technical colleges.

In Spain, after primary school, students proceed to Educacion Secundaria (secondary school). They remain there until Grade 10. To do a degree at a university or a college, they must then complete a two-year-long Bachillerato. Spanish high school students don't take exit assessments. To proceed to higher education, they must take selectividad exams organized by universities.

New 2023 high school exit exam in Poland 

The new exam system in Poland regains compulsory exit exams at the age of 18 or 19. It  introduces, however, new challenges for both students and teachers without incorporating the required additional preparatory classes. As a result, teaching and learning processes can substantially benefit from online assessment tools.

The new exit exam will not be as demanding as the old one, introduced in the 1990s. It will, however, significantly increase the difficulty level compared to those made into law in 2005 and 2015. Changes in required subjects: Polish language, mathematics and foreign language spark the most controversies. As of 2023, all students will have to demonstrate skills and knowledge far exceeding previous requirements. 

High school teachers complain about the lack of time to prepare for the transition. Until recently, they had no clue on what to expect. Also, numerous educators complained that changes went too far and that the new curriculum is too demanding for their students.

New Polish language high school exit exam

Raising the bar makes Polish language teachers distraught about the possible outcome. They now face an expanded literature curriculum, which totals nearly 50 titles as opposed to the 15 they were accustomed to.

The Ministry of Education and Science and the Central Examination Board revolutionized the assessment scoring. It will be possible to obtain 50% without even putting pen to paper on the essay part of the exam. In 2023, the maximum total score for the use of Polish and history of literature tests will be 35 points. The same score cap applies to the 400 word essay. To pass the exam, students will need no less than 30%. That is 21 points.

This revision makes tests an even more crucial part of the assessment, thus changing the way in which teachers now have to prepare their students. Online assessment software will prove to be a perfect tool for this task. The high number of points allocated to test-form assignments is an ideal motivating factor for online learning, both in digital on-site classes and remotely. Remote evaluations can provide significant assistance in teaching with its advanced features such as: 

  • self-grading single- and multiple-choice questions, perfect for verifying skills and knowledge of seniors and to prepare them for test assessments,

  • self-grading short open-ended questions, that eliminate 'lucky shots', require broad knowledge and verify it more effectively. They also save teachers' time with the automated grading feature,

  • instant feedback, set up by the teacher. Shortly after the remote assessment, students receive detailed statistics of their correct and incorrect answers,

  • ability to support teaching processes with electronic devices, such as school desktop and laptop computers or tablets.

New mathematics high school exit exam 

Of all the required courses, the mathematics exam has the lowest success rate. This situation has remained unchanged since the science of numbers was reinstated on the list of compulsory subjects (it had been optional for the previous 25 years).

Under these circumstances, a new curriculum combined with no extra mathematics classes makes teachers uncertain of the outcome for their students. Significant changes also include revised grading rules, with more questions worth 1 or 2 points. There will also be an increased number of fill the gap, true/false, and matching questions.

It opens up possibilities for using remote evaluations. Having little time for rehearsals, teachers will have to give their students more homework. Online assessments excel in assisting learning maths with dedicated features such as:

  • advanced equations editor, that supports all kinds of operations present on the new high school exit exams, including addition, subtraction, exponentiation, roots, and even functions and logarithms,

  • online homework, which eliminates the problems of cheating and copying, as well as supports independent work. It can activate at any preset moment and gives access to a wealth of immediate, insightful data while helping the student understand their strong and weak spots,

  • end of lesson quizzes, tests that seniors can take on school computers or tablets, and even their own smartphones. This feature gives teachers access to detailed information on how many students understood the lesson's topic,

  • hands-free grading of single- and multiple-choice, true/false, and short open-ended questions. With Tesportal, teachers don't have to spend hours grading assessments. It saves them a lot of time as students will have to take numerous tests to be ready for exit exams.

English language on the new high school exit exams

English is the most often chosen foreign language. The new curriculum raises the bar from B1 to B2 for the basic and from B2 to C1 for the extended level. Just like in the case of mathematics, the number of English class hours in school remains unchanged. Teachers will thus have to do more work in less time. With online tests, however, they will effortlessly assess the knowledge of their students, determine their progress and assess educational needs.

Implementing online homework, quick end of class tests and mock exams is the perfect way to mitigate the challenges imposed by the Ministry and properly prepare seniors for the 2023 exams. 

Remote education and assessments in the light of the new Polish high school exit exams

The COVID-19 pandemic had a twofold impact on the level of knowledge and opportunities of those seniors who will take the new exam. On one hand, 18 months of remote education reduced the quality of teaching, since everyone had to get used to the new reality. On the other hand, however, it opened the brave new world of online tools supporting remote education that were previously unknown or omitted.

Students and their teachers will now find it much easier to deal with the new curriculum. They will be able to split it into parts for in-school and remote learning. 

Online skills and knowledge assessments give detailed insights into which students require more attention to achieve their goals and which cope well with individual education. All of that data will be visible in the form of tables and lists. Educators will use that knowledge to dedicate their time to those that need it the most.

Furthermore, the advanced question editing options offered by our platform allow teachers to draft tests while being able to see exactly how they will look during the actual exam. Online assessments benefit students too as with every test taken they get used to this form of evaluation. As a result, during the real thing, they will not waste time reading guidelines multiple times to make sure they understand the tasks.

New rules, new possibilities 

The changes that the new high school exit exams bring can be overwhelming for teachers and students alike. In the recent case of Poland, it’s important to remember that essentially, exams there are just returning to rules from 20 years ago.

If students in those days were able to achieve great results and proceed to higher education, then present-time seniors can do that too. It will be much easier for them now. They have at their disposal a modern, advanced online tool. Remote evaluations provide the assistance that educators from decades ago couldn't even imagine.

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