Remote learning lowered the marks at graduation examination

Kadri Tammepuu
, ajakirjanik
Estonian language exam at Kadriorg German Gymnasium.
Estonian language exam at Kadriorg German Gymnasium. Photo: Tairo Lutter
  • The present system makes it easy for the state to compare the pupils’ results.
  • Returning to the old system could be considered in the future.
  • Remote learning reduced the pupils’ willingness to answer orally.

According to the preliminary results of the state examinations published by the Education and Youth Board, the national average score decreased somewhat as compared with earlier years, while the results of the Estonian language examination remained the same as in previous years.

Upper secondary school graduates had to take a state exam in Estonian, mathematics and a foreign language, and a total of almost 23,000 exam papers were assessed.

“The scores for the Estonian language exam dropped the most,” admitted Merike Kaste, the director of the Kristjan Jaak Peterson Upper Secondary School in Tartu. “Young people read less and attending school also broadens their horizons. However, this year's class has had seven months of remote learning over three years, some unvaccinated youths even for eight and a half months. On the other hand, the essay topics were more directed at civil society.”

Regular Estonian average

According to Kaste, the graduates of their school are regular Estonian average. “If the best pupils scored 95–96 in the examinations before the corona epidemic, they now scored barely 90l.” This year also saw more low scores, which dragged down the school’s average, but the narrow mathematics score was better than the national average.

The state examination in mathematics could be taken based on a narrow or broad mathematics course. However, those who studied the subject in depth did better: the average result of broad mathematics exam in Estonia rose from 50 points last year to 55.5 this year, while the narrow math exam dropped from 43 points to 32 points.

Ene Saar, the director of Tallinn Secondary School of Science, explained the wide gap in mathematics with the fact that those who have chosen the broad course of mathematics have a definite goal to study the subject in the future or take an entrance exam to the university in mathematics. On the other hand, mathematics is compulsory for everyone, including those who are not interested in the subject. In the School of Sciences, all graduates took the broad mathematics exam.

The present system makes it easy for the state to compare the pupils’ results. In the future, restoring the old system could be considered: the language exams were compulsory, but instead of mathematics, the pupils could choose another subject where they could show their best capabilities,” Kaste said.

Maximum result is not the goal

“In the Secondary School of Science the exams went as expected and all graduates will finish school,” Director Saar said. Consistent work brings results. Four secondary school graduates in the whole country achieved the maximum score in the Estonian language exam. “If half of them are from our school, it should be very good. Also in mathematics several students scored 100 points. Of course, maximum score is not the goal, but that the graduates reach results which correspond to their abilities,” Saar said.

This year, the youths had to work harder to be on an equal footing with the graduates of the previous classes. “The young people were hit by the closure of schools in both the tenth and eleventh grades. We realized early on that vaccination keeps the schools open, and we agreed that everyone who can be injected should do it for the common goal. We were saved by the fact that thanks to the high vaccination rate, the school almost did not need to use remote learning in the autumn or spring,” said Saar.

“After the end of remote learning last year, we saw that bringing the youths back to school was a serious challenge for the teachers. They quickly adopted the habit of going to the computer straight from the bed every morning and believed that this would be enough,” Saar recalled.

“An upper secondary school pupil is not yet an adult who can control himself and do what is necessary without effort,” Director Kaste emphasized as well. Remote learning reduced the pupils’ willingness to respond orally because there had been less direct communication, which in turn increased the number of young people with mental health concerns – the problems at home and managing everyday affairs were reflected in their academic scores as well.

In the upper secondary school in Annelinn, Tartu, all lessons took place according to the timetable, but that was not enough for good results. Four of the 260 graduates failed to pass the exams in the Kristjan Jaak Peterson Upper Secondary School this spring. “Being in the same room [with the pupil], the teacher creates a suitable climate and influences the young people with his/her personality, which is not possible in online learning,” said Kaste.

Graduation examinations 2022

• 10,126 pupils took the state examinations this year, 8,227 of them upper secondary school students, 1,452 vocational education institutions’ pupils and 447 have previously completed secondary education.

• There were few graduates who missed the exam.

• The least – 4 percent – dropped out of the Estonian language exam as a second foreign language, 6 percent of those who registered did not attend the mathematics and English language exam.

• 8,664 people passed the mathematics exam and 15 were removed from the exam. Removal means cribbing or other dishonest practices.

• The results of the examination can be challenged before the Board of Appeal of the Ministry of Education and Research until June 28. The final report of this year's examination results will be announced in July.