A special thank you to Katharine Laco, World View Assistant Program Manager, for her help in creating this issue and to World View friends who shared stories, adding a unique and personal perspective this month!
The teaching style in Argentina is “learning by rote” where students copy notes from the blackboard into a “carpeta” or binder. Students are marked on the neatness and accuracy of their copying, and they are tested three times a year on the contents of their “carpeta.” In all subjects the exam pass rate is 7 out of 10. Students who do not pass their exams in every subject at the end of the school year are held back to repeat the year.
The Costa Rica Ministry of Education requires testing of all students (private and public schools) at 6th grade, 9th grade, and the end of high school. The students must pass the exams to receive their high school diploma. The 6th grade exam, referred to as “Pruebas Nacionales de Sexto”, tests students in Math, Social Studies, Science, and Spanish. The 9th grade exam adds English, French, and Civics. The final exam covers the same subjects. Upon passage, a student receives his/her high school diploma or bachillerato.
Under the current education system in India, students are required to take three to four exams per academic year before they are promoted to the next grade. At the end of 10th and 12th grades, students sit for a school board exam. These exams are conducted either statewide or nationwide, and are centrally prepared, administered, and graded. Performance on these exams is crucial for seeking admission to universities and colleges and to gain access to prestigious careers. Due to the importance of exam performance, students begin attending coaching classes at a young age and often continue their studies during school vacation.
At the end of 5th grade, non-compulsory national tests are offered in Swedish, English, and Math. These tests have a diagnostic purpose, helping teachers understand their students’ learning. Teachers consider not only the answer but also how students work the problem. Students can express their knowledge in different ways using pictures, words, and symbols. Also, the assessments include group and individual work as well as self-assessment. In 9th grade, the national tests are compulsory, but they may still include group work or an oral component. In upper secondary school, Swedish students are tested at the end of each course.
In Taiwan, students spend junior high preparing for the national senior high school entrance exams which they take at the end of 8th grade. Their scores determine which high school they can attend. Although school officially ends at 5pm, junior high students often stay until 8 or 9pm for supplementary instruction. Schools also hold “optional” supplementary classes during winter and summer vacation. In many cases, participation is mandatory. Once in senior high school, students then strive to score well enough on the national university entrance exams so they can attend a four-year university in Taiwan.
Tunisian students attend six years of primary school, and at the end of the sixth year, they must score above 50 percent on an exam in order to progress to the lower secondary level. After three years of lower secondary education, students sit for another exam. Upon passage, students receive the Diplôme de Fin d’Études de l’Enseignement which is required to begin secondary education. At the end of the fourth year of secondary studies, students take the Examen National du Baccalauréat which tests them on six core subjects. Only students attaining a diploma can pursue post-secondary education.
Students in Zimbabwe complete seven years of primary schooling before taking four nationally-set exams in Math, English, Shona or Ndebele (local languages), and Content (a combination of science and social science). Students take the national exams in November, as the school year runs January to December. Secondary school consists of four years of “O” level and two years of “A” level curriculum. Exams in “O” and “A” levels are offered in June and November, and exam topics range from biology and chemistry to metalwork and fashion & fabrics. As in the United States, grades of A, B, and C are considered passing.
At the final exam, before the test was given out to a class of 20 students, a Biology professor said to the class, "I am very happy to have you as my students this semester. I know all of you have been studying hard, and many of you will enter medical schools this fall. Therefore, I have an idea for today's test. If any of you will give up taking the test today, you will automatically get a “B”. Hearing this, the students were surprised and excited. Many of them got up and walked to the professor. They thanked the professor, signed their names and left the classroom. After they left, the professor looked at those who stayed and offered them a final chance to leave. One more student got up, signed his name and left the classroom. The professor then closed the classroom door and looked at the small number of students who stayed. He said to them, "I am very pleased with the confidence you have with yourselves. All of you get an “A”.
More from China
We cannot think of any celebration for the end of the class such as those we see in U.S. However, mostly at the K-12 level depending upon schools/teachers, 'graduation-like' ceremonies may be held on the last day of semester where a class's top 3 academic achievers are honored with certificates and gifts (books, pencils, pens, etc.).
In my country, Colombia, the college admission process begins with a standardized test (similar to the SAT, but longer and more comprehensive) administered by the Instituto Colombiano para el Fomento de la Educación Superior prior to high school graduation. It is recognized nationally as the most important test since it qualifies students according to their actual academic skills and impacts acceptance outcomes at public and private colleges. When I took it in 1981 the highest possible score was in the low 400s and the minimum in order to pass and be able to graduate from high school was 213. The minimum to be able to apply for college was 250. More than 280, was considered a good score; above 300, was considered a very good score, and more than 340 was excellent.
I did have my period of agony the day we were receiving our scores in front of the whole class! My twin sister was one of the first to be called and she got a score above three hundred. As more classmates were being called to go and get their scores, I was praying in silence, convinced I was probably going to get one in the low 200s and maybe not even be able to graduate from high school that year. When my name was finally called towards the end, I found out that my score was also above 300, and only one point different from my twin sister. Through the years we have proved to be identical twin sisters in more than one way, I guess! It felt GREAT!!!
When I was in secondary school in England in the late 70's early 80's, there was no stress relief for testing. At the end of each school year when testing would take place, many of the teachers would let us bring in board games and other forms of amusement that could be easily administered in the classroom. We would have impromptu chess and draughts (Checkers) competitions, Monopoly, Sorry and Connect Four games abounded, while some of the students simply read books. Parties used to be at the discretion of individual teachers, but if administered, were always subdued and by no means raucous extravaganzas. The most significant event at the end of the school year was the selection of the student who was "fortunate" enough to take home the class rodent for the summer holidays. Some classes had a rabbit, some had mice, ours was a gerbil. This was a high honor indeed, but being a rather rambunctious youngster, one of my teachers even referred to me as loquacious, I never was selected, which was probably just as well.
We did not have different rooms for different classes; the teachers came into the rooms which were divided according to the age of the pupils. I was in boarding school, and it was a long time ago! We had a big test at the end of the year to see if we would pass to the other grade and we also had an award ceremony at the end of each school year. We actually were given medals for each subject and behavior.
More from France
There are regular tests and exams throughout the school year in Germany. There are no EOGs. The exception is the very strenuous and important Abitur exams (high school exams after the 12th grade). The Abitur exams are cumulative and can cover anything covered in the last two years of high school.
More from Germany
We also do not have anything like AP or AP exams. At the end of the Gymnasium, very important end of school exams are administered as part of the Abitur examination. Similar exams (but not as challenging) are administered at the end of the 10th grade in order to determine whether a student qualifies for the upper level secondary school (grades 11 and 12) that lead to the Abitur with its certification to attend a university.
The only tradition not student-based like "irse de pinta", which means skipping school after a test or other time the opportunity was given, is the traditional end of the year festival. I particularly remember one festival where I dressed as a chicken and had to sing a song called "la gallina turuleca". Every classroom would organize a dance. Perfect coordination was achieved through endless practice. During these times our PE class was substituted with dance preparations. Parents would volunteer to make the outfits for the class or the teacher would find a place where we all needed to purchase the pertinent uniform. Despite the craziness of these festivals, I have fond memories of them. I remember looking forward to taking the tests so that we could end the semester with what we all thought would be a grandiose performance.
Tests were just a part of life in Russia. It is an expectation and the norm, so normally it is not something to be anxious about - it's not like it is a surprise of sorts. We have been having tests since elementary school, whether as dictations, quizzes or regular tests (no multiple choice usually, mostly show the work types of tests or essay writing). The finals in the higher grades often ended with flowers or chocolate souvenirs to each teacher as a "thank you" at the end of the year. The "big finals" included written and oral exams. Oral exams produce some anxiety as the pull of questions is quite large and you are in front of a panel of several teachers who will drill you. Once you are done, you may end up with a party to celebrate the end of the school year, or even better, an outing to an amusement park or a café.
Coming to America, I found it very surprising to see an increasing number of children freaking out about the tests and having sometimes debilitating anxiety, especially among upper classmen.
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