Estonia equalises

June 13, 1997

From Tokyo to Tallinn attempts are being made to overhaul traditional university matriculation

Estonia has introduced a standardised, nationwide university entrance exam, in spite of vociferous protests from the teaching profession.

The new exam is to be marked by a panel of external examiners, and the candidates will receive their marks several months later. Under the old Soviet regime, the exams were conducted by the teachers themselves.

Teachers argue that differences in school curricula could mean that some candidates might not have the appropriate knowledge.

The main feature of the new system is a six-hour exam, with a choice of ten topics drawn at random from a larger range on the morning of the test. Only when the 14,000 candidates are at their desks, with their standardised answer-books and jotters before them, are the subjects revealed - read out over national radio.

Despite protests, the system ran smoothly. Alongside stock favourites for topics such as "Journalism and its impact on society" came more imaginative options, including "We're on the road to change", and "Bridge over troubled waters."

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