Necessary abolition of external evaluation of knowledge during coronavirus pandemic

Today, the Centre for Civic Education (CCE) submitted an Initiative to the Ministry of Education, Science, Culture and Sports for the abolition of external evaluation of knowledge for the 2020/21 and 2021/22 school year until the end of the coronavirus pandemic, bearing in mind the fact that pupils have not had classes in the usual circumstances for a year.

These days, a large number of parents and pupils have been requesting the CCE to contribute, in accordance with its capabilities, to the cancellation, i.e. abolition of external evaluation of knowledge for 9th-grade pupils, which is planned to be held on 6 April 2021.

This Initiative is based on many other reasons, starting with inadequate conditions caused by the coronavirus pandemic, due to which regular classes are reduced to a minimum of direct cooperation between teachers and pupils. This cannot be compensated by online teaching, courses and other online activities, and the burden also represents frequent changes of teaching staff for the school subjects, which affected the mental health of children who are constantly adapting to the new pedagogical and teaching structure. In all this, the most important part of acquiring education for primary and secondary school students, which is necessary for the final external evaluation, was missing.

The problem of not adopting complete work programmes particularly affects the pupils of the current ninth, eighth and seventh grade, but also high school students. This school year has been postponed for a month, which is the time that is mostly planned for the renewal of curriculum from the previous year that was also completed in extraordinary circumstances. Although the third quarter is not over yet, a return to online learning due to the increased number of people infected with the COVID-19 Coronavirus will certainly last until the end of this school year. Additionally, since the coronavirus pandemic is not abating, the beginning of the new school year will be questionable, and all this has a reflection in their knowledge level.

This year’s testing is scheduled much earlier than in previous years, although coronavirus infection rate reaches its peak. In this context, there is a high epidemiological risk of organizing external evaluation, because it can induce a spread of infection amongst pupils and teachers. Also, a large number of people are already self-isolated, i.e. many students will not be able to attend the external evaluation of knowledge.

High school students are in the same situation, therefore, CCE proposes the adoption of this initiative for high school external evaluation as well.

We note that the CCE was and remains an advocate of school admissions tests for enrolment in each subsequent educational level. We deem that these are forms of knowledge and maturity exams that all students must go through. But that must be conducted exclusively in the regular circumstances of education because otherwise the purpose of such exams would be lost.  Therefore, an exception should now be made and it is necessary to find understanding for the vulnerable group of young people in an extraordinary situation with no end in sight, to contribute to the preservation of children’s mental health at least through relief from deadlines and pressures during a pandemic.

Snezana Kaluđerović, Senior Legal Advisor