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The format of the USE needs improvement

© Форпост Северо-Запад / Павел Долганов

Russian schoolchildren are taking their United State Examination (USE) in July. As before, this format of final exams has attracted a lot of criticism, and many of them are fair enough. The main complaint is that in the current conditions gaining knowledge is no longer the goal of high school students. They're no longer 'geared' to learning in general, but to passing the test.

This leads to the fact that, applicants who are unable to think broadly and volumetrically, won't enter to universities. They are trained through the Unified State Exam to overcome some small difficulties, to conquer certain barriers. But their intellectual baggage, their ability to analyze, to create, to take the initiative... leave much to be desired. In essence, there is a roboticisation of adolescents, which does not contribute to the formation of personality.

But let's be honest: the world has not yet invented another system that, firstly, would eliminate the human factor and the corruption component, and, secondly, would equalize the chances of talented children from the regions to enter the best universities in the country with Muscovites and residents of St. Petersburg. Of course, this system is far from perfect and obviously needs adjustments. But it works, and that is the main thing.

There are, of course, a lot of shortcomings. For example, there are no clear threshold requirements, like in the West, where both pupils and parents understand the "conditions of the game", which are set for 3 to 5 years, rather than changing annually. In mathematics, for example, these could be up to five hundred similar problems with clear solution principles. If they are approved and known, then we eliminate a huge social problem: stress of parents and students, which they begin to feel a few years before the Uniform State Exam for fear of failing it.

In addition, our assignments have weak content, moreover, they are becoming simpler and simpler every year. And this further reduces the level of knowledge requirements for pupils. In this regard, in my opinion, it would be appropriate to divide the USE into two stages. If you write the tests in their current form, you get a conditional "three". If a higher grade is needed, you should take the exam with a commission or pass more difficult written tests.

At the same time, we should strive to create a comfortable environment for students where they can perform at their best. They are under tremendous nervous strain, which some may not be able to cope with. Especially if it is hot outside and there is no air conditioning in the room, but the children are not allowed to open windows, or carry water with them. Such cases are recorded and they certainly do not beautify our education system.

I am sure that the proposal to complicate the content part of USE will be received with hostility by many. Especially high school students themselves, irrespective of their grades. But we should not forget that the quality of their knowledge and skills is a fundamental condition for the economic development of our country. Its foundations are laid precisely at school. And the better prepared young people are when they leave secondary school to attend higher education, the better the chances are that Russia will remain socially stable in the future. It will remain a competitive, strong power capable of withstanding the challenges of the times.

At the entrance to South Africa's largest university, Stellenbosch University, there is a very wise saying. "The destruction of any nation does not require atomic bombs or the use of long-range missiles. All that is required is to reduce the quality of education and allow students to cheat in examinations." There is not an ounce of exaggeration in this thought, especially when it comes to engineering universities. After all, their task is to create a talent pool for the domestic industry, to train professionals who will work, without exaggeration, with space technologies.

Our applicants do not come from nowhere, they come to us from schools. And we very much depend on what baggage of knowledge and personal qualities necessary for further study (diligence, desire for self-improvement, and so on) they graduate from there.

Unfortunately, in its current form the USE results do not fully reflect the quality of this baggage. This means that the format of the Unified State Exam really needs to be improved.

Vladimir Litvinenko, Rector of St. Petersburg Mining University

Source: Rossiyskaya Gazeta