Om nasjonale tester av skoleelever i Europa

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Eurydice-rapport: Nasjonale tester av skoleelever i Europa: mål, organisering og bruk av resultater

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Rapport lagt fram av Kommisjonen (Eyrodice) 16.9.2009

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BAKGRUNN (fra rapporten, engelsk utgave)

The national testing of pupils is becoming increasingly important across Europe as a means of measuring and monitoring the quality of education, and structuring European education systems. This study was undertaken at the request of the Czech Presidency of the Council of the European Union during the first half of 2009. In the Czech Republic, interest in the topic is linked to a national policy debate on the possible introduction of national testing as an instrument for improving the quality of education.

The purpose of the study is to provide a comparative review of the development, aims and organisation of national tests in the countries of the Eurydice Network (1) and to gain an understanding of how test results are used in the educational career of individual pupils, as well as at school and system levels.

For this report, national testing ¡V which is only one form of pupil assessment ¡V is defined as ¡¥the national administration of standardised tests and centrally set examinations¡¦. These tests are standardised by the national education authorities or, in the case of Belgium, Spain and Germany, the top-level authorities for education referred to here as the ¡¥central level¡¦. The tests contain centrally set procedures for the preparation of their content, administration and marking, and for the interpretation and use of their results. National testing is carried out under the authority of a national or centralised body and all examinees take the tests under reasonably similar conditions. Tests for detecting developmental problems, which are administered to certain children at the beginning of compulsory education, as well as tests organised for admission to secondary schools that specialise in the teaching of certain specific subjects, are not included. Various standardised guidelines and other tools designed to assist teachers in undertaking forms of pupil assessment other than national testing are also beyond the scope of the report.

The study covers national testing for summative or formative purposes. It discusses objectives and uses related both to the career of individual pupils, such as the award of certificates, streaming, or help for learning, and to the aggregated results of groups of pupils which are used as one of the criteria for the evaluation of schools, teachers or local authorities, or for the monitoring of the education system as a whole. Both compulsory and optional national tests are considered, as are sample-based national tests.

The reference year for the study is 2008/09 and information relates to education at ISCED levels 1 (primary education) and 2 (lower secondary education). National tests that have not been fully implemented in the 2008/09 school year are also included. ISCED levels 1 and 2 correspond to the period of full-time compulsory education in the great majority of countries covered here. In countries in which compulsory education continues into part of ISCED level 3, no tests that take place beyond ISCED level 2 have been considered. Reforms planned for subsequent years have also been included. Only the public education sector is described, except in the case of Belgium, Ireland and the Netherlands, in which the grant-aided private sector is also covered because it accounts for the majority of school enrolments. Moreover, in Ireland the vast majority of schools are defined legally as privately owned but in fact are fully state funded and do not require payment of fees by parents. In the National Testing of Pupils in Europe: Objectives, Organisation and Use of Results Netherlands, equal funding and treatment of private and public education is enshrined in the constitution.

For the purposes of the study, the various national tests across Europe have been divided into three broad categories:

• The first group consists of tests which summarise the achievement of individual pupils at the end of a school year or at the end of a particular educational stage, and which have a significant impact on their educational careers. In the literature these tests are also referred to as summative tests or the 'assessment of learning'. Their results are used to award certificates or to take important decisions concerned with streaming, school choice or progression from one year to the next, etc.

• The second distinct group of national tests are primarily intended to monitor and evaluate schools and/or the education system as a whole. ¡¥Monitoring and evaluation¡¦ here refers to the process of collecting and analysing information in order to check performance in relation to goals and to take corrective action where necessary. National test results are used as indicators of the quality of teaching and the performance of teachers, but also to gauge the overall effectiveness of education policies and practices.

• A third group of national tests are mainly for the purpose of assisting the learning process of individual pupils by identifying their specific learning needs and adapting teaching accordingly. These tests are centred on the idea of 'assessment for learning' and may be broadly described as 'formative assessments'.

The report consists of three chapters, a summary of key issues and an annexe containing country tables.

Chapter 1 entitled 'pupil assessment in Europe ¡V the context and emergence of national testing' provides an overview of the development of national testing over recent decades and the underlying reasons for its increasing use.

Chapter 2 on the 'aims and organisation of national testing' contains detailed information about the purpose of such testing and the conditions under which it is undertaken, including its frequency, subjects tested, types of questions, the use of information and communication technology (ICT) and bodies responsible, etc.

Chapter 3 deals with the 'uses and impact of national test results'. It examines the use made of test results for purposes relating to individual pupils, schools, local authorities and the entire education system, with a special focus on the arrangements for reporting results. The impact of national tests is discussed in the case of countries that have undertaken national surveys or held policy debates on this topic.

In addition, detailed descriptions of the context and organisation of national tests in the majority of participating countries are available on the Eurydice website. Also included on the website is a review of research results concerning the impact of national tests, which has been undertaken by an external expert (2).

As regards the methodology used for the purpose of data collection, the Eurydice Unit within the Education, Audiovisual and Culture Executive Agency developed a ¡¥guide to content¡¦ in close consultation with the Czech Eurydice Unit and experts from the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports of the Czech Republic and the Institute for Information on Education. The comparative analysis is based on responses to this guide from Eurydice National Units. The report has been checked by all National Units except that of Bulgaria, and all contributors to it are acknowledged in a separate final section.

(1) Turkey has not contributed to this report.
(2) Nathalie Mons (August 2009), Theoretical and Real Effects of Standardised Assessment.

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