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  • GRADING IN UPPER SECONDARY SCHOOLS

    AND THE MATRICULATION EXAMINATION

    Faculty of Behavioural Sciences/ Centre for Educational Assessment / http://www.helsinki.fi/cea/ Sirkku Kupiainen / Forum Criteriorum 2015

  • John Bishop (1998) has singled out CBEEES as the form of examination

    most germane for advancing student achievement.

    He defines CBEEES through five characteristics:

    • student’s accomplishment in the exam has real consequences

    • the exam defines achievement relative to an external standard

    • the exams are organized by discipline and keyed to the content of

    specific course sequences

    • the exams signal multiple levels of achievement in the subject, and

    • the exams cover almost all secondary school students

    The Finnish matriculation examination has traditionally aligned well with

    the model, reflected in status as qualification for tertiary education and as

    feedback to schools regarding their implementation of the curriculum and,

    hence, working as a guideline for assessment in the different subjects.

    CBEEES CURRICULUM BASED EXTERNAL EXIT EXAM SYSTEMS

    Sirkku Kupiainen / Forum Criteriorum 2015

  • Yet, major reforms regarding both the upper secondary syllabus

    and the matriculation examination have endangered the role of the

    matriculation examination as providing this feedback due to

    fracturing the student body into different subgroups sitting for the

    different exams comprising the matriculation examination.

    • Reform of the structure of general upper secondary studies.

    • The abolition of the mandatory status of the exam in the other

    national language (Swedish / Finnish).

    • The dividing of the earlier one exam for all the natural science /

    socio-humanistic subjects to ten different subject-specific exams.

    Sirkku Kupiainen / Forum Criteriorum 2015

  • During the 1990s and early 2000, the traditional three-year structure of

    the general upper secondary curriculum was abandoned and the syllabus

    of each subject was divided into independent six-week-long courses,

    offered successively within five periods during the school year and ending

    each with a course-specific exam at the end of the period.

    The mean of these forms the ‘grade point average’ (GPA) used when

    applying into the universities of applied sciences.

    Students are to build their own syllabi from these courses, most often

    including to their programme five or six courses per period.

    THE UPPER SECONDARY SYLLABUS

    Sirkku Kupiainen / Forum Criteriorum 2015

  • Students’ choice of courses is governed by the distribution of lesson

    hours stated in a Government decree (FNBE, 2003, pp. 252–258) with

    the compulsory syllabus comprising eighteen subjects.

    On side of these, many students study additional foreign languages at

    either the advanced (continuing from the comprehensive school) or at the

    basic level and many schools offer a variety of additional courses.

    The requirement for graduation is 75 courses of which 47 are mandatory

    (51 for students of A-level mathematics).

    In addition to these, the matriculation exam in each subject is based on

    ‘national specialisation courses’ which all schools have to offer regularly

    not to impede students’ examination plans (FNBE, 2003, p. 255)

    Sirkku Kupiainen / Forum Criteriorum 2015

  • The number of both the mandatory and the specialisation courses per

    subject varies considerably, leading to widely varying personal syllabi

    and, reflecting this, to exam choices in the matriculation examination.

    The matriculation examination comprises 39 different exams in 24

    subjects (some at different levels).

    Each student has to sit for at least 4 exams (mean 5.5) of which Finnish /

    Swedish (mother tongue or as ‘second language) is mandatory.

    The other three exams have to be chosen from among: mathematics (A-

    or B-level), A-level foreign languages (E, G, F, R, S), the other domestic

    language (A- or B-level Swedish or Finnish), and any of the ten exams in

    the natural and socio-humanistic subjects.

    Sirkku Kupiainen / Forum Criteriorum 2015

  • Mandatory Specialisation Total

    Finnish/Swedish 6 3 9

    A-level language 6 2 8

    B-level language (S/F) 5 2 7

    C-level language 8 8

    A-level mathematics 10 3 13

    B-level mathematics 6 2 8

    Physics 1 7 8

    History 4 2 6

    Biology 2 3 5

    Chemistry 1 4 5

    Psychology 1 4 5

    Religion / Ethics 3 2 5

    Philosophy 1 3 4

    Geography 2 2 4

    Social studies 2 2 4

    Health education 1 2 3

    The Finnish school grades run from 4 (failed) to 10 (excellent)

    SUBJECTS & COURSES IN THE SYLLABUS FINNISH/SWEDISH/SAMI AS MOTHER TONGUE AND/OR LANGUAGE OF INSTRUCTION, SWEDISH/FINNISH AS THE SECOND NATIONAL LANGUAGE, ENGLISH AS THE OBLIGATORY ADVANCED-LEVEL FOREIGN LANGUAGE, MATHEMATICS, BIOLOGY, GEOGRAPHY, PHYSICS, CHEMISTRY, HISTORY, SOCIAL STUDIES,PHILOSOPHY, PSYCHOLOGY, RELIGION OR ETHICS, HEALTH EDUCATION, PHYSICAL EDUCATION, MUSIC, ARTS, AND EDUCATIONAL AND VOCATIONAL GUIDANCE.

    Sirkku Kupiainen / Forum Criteriorum 2015

  • Mandatory Mandatory & Specialisation B-level mathematics 7,05 6,98

    B-level Swedish 7,06 7,00

    A-level mathematics 7,39 7,31

    A-level English 7,54 7,49

    Biology 7,59 7,57

    Chemistry 7,66 7,45

    History 7,67 7,68

    Philosophy 7,73 7,71

    Finnish/Swedish 7,74 7,69

    Social studies 7,78 7,77

    Religion 7,79 7,78

    Geography 7,81 7,83

    Physics 7,86 7,48

    Health education 7,92 7,94

    Psychology 7,97 7,86

    COURSE GRADES (SAMPLE OF 2000 STUDENTS IN 37 SCHOOLS)

    Sirkku Kupiainen / Forum Criteriorum 2015

  • Female Male B-level mathematics 7,04 6,85

    B-level Swedish 7,33 6,57

    A-level mathematics 7,39 7,25

    Chemistry 7,45 7,43

    A-level English 7,47 7,52

    Physics 7,51 7,41

    Biology 7,64 7,48

    History 7,66 7,70

    Social studies 7,82 7,70

    Geography 7,85 7,80

    Philosophy 7,88 7,47

    Finnish 7,96 7,32

    Religion 7,98 7,49

    Psychology 8,10 7,54

    Health education 8,23 7,54

    GENDER DIFFERENCES

    Sirkku Kupiainen / Forum Criteriorum 2015

  • It is apparent that the number of courses and the grades awarded in

    them guide students’ choices regarding both the subjects studied at

    school and the exams included in the matriculation examination.

    This is especially the case for weaker students – and girls – who do

    no aim into the STEM fields.

    This can be seen especially in the sky-rocketing rise in popularity of

    Health education once it was introduced into the examination in 2007.

    COURSELOAD, GRADES, AND EXAM CHOICES

    Sirkku Kupiainen / Forum Criteriorum 2015

  • • The correlation between students’ school grade in a subject (mean for all

    courses) and their grade in the respective exam in the matriculation

    examination varied between r = .49 and r = .80 (Religion/Ethics and A-

    level English, respectively) with a mean of r = .69.

    • The relations are relatively low with students’ school grade explaining on

    average only 48 % (24 % – 64 %) of the variance in their exam success.

    • Among the natural science / socio-humanistic subjects, only the grades

    in Physics, Chemistry, and Psychology explained (or predicted) more

    than 50 % of the variance in the matriculation exam.

    • This might provide too little information to the student but offers even

    less to the schools regarding the students who study the subjects at

    least to some length but do not partake in the exam.

    • Yet, the correlation between students’ overall matriculation examination

    attainment (mean of all exam grades) and their GPA was relatively high

    at r = .79, with no gender difference, implying the force of both as a

    general indicator for academic achievement.

    RELATION OF SCHOOL AND EXAM GRADES

    Sirkku Kupiainen / Forum Criteriorum 2015

  • The unfairness caused by the Gaussian grade distribution in the

    matriculation examination is most apparent in the relative success of

    students – especially girls – sitting for the A-level math exam.

    Their grade in Mathematics, Physics, and Chemistry can hardly represent

    correctly their relative aptitude in them!

    And the students of B-level math should not even bother to try them...

    ATTAINMENT BY MATH AND GENDER

    Sirkku Kupiainen / Forum Criteriorum 2015

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