Estonia’s state exams will be gradually digitized, with plans to make them entirely electronic by 2027. Estonian and foreign language exams will be among the first to be digitized in 2025, followed by high school exams in 2027.
Education and Youth Board (Harno) believes that electronic exams are useful for measuring the skills students need for their future workplaces. Additionally, the digitization of exams is expected to reduce the burden on teachers. “We’re in the process of paper assessment now – lately we had the Estonian language exam, and now we have to wait eight weeks before the results come back. Why? Because our good teachers mark the papers. This can be done much faster on the computer,” said Aimi Püüa, the head of Harno department.
2025 – digitizing language exams
The first exams to be digitized will be Estonian and foreign language exams in 2025. However, not all exams can be digitized, as some pose unique challenges.
Ene Tannberg, the director of Tartu’s Miina Härma High School, said that not all exams are suitable for electronic format. For example, mathematicians raised concerns about digitizing math exams since a problem may have multiple correct solutions, and it may be challenging for a machine to identify all of them.
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“To what extent can a machine identify all these things?” Tannberg said. She also noted that English language exams could be partially digitized, but the oral section should be carried out by another person.
While English language exams can be partially digitized, Tannberg and Püüa suggested that the oral section should still be conducted with another person to ensure accuracy.
While electronic exams are expected to speed up the assessment process, there is also a risk of accidental errors. “Fingers go in a different order, swap letters, whatever. There can be mistakes that you might not notice. You wouldn’t make them if you were writing by hand,” Tannberg said. To address this issue, Püüa suggested the use of a spell-checker during the exam.
Several test exams for Estonian, Estonian as a second language, and English have already been conducted, and more evaluations are planned for early 2024.
Preliminary results suggest that schools and students do not find e-exams particularly challenging or new, as they have had experience with electronic testing in various forms. The new e-examination system aims to be maximally flexible and focus on examinee-centric solutions, taking into account various aspects and scenarios.
A public debate on the organizational aspects of electronic exams is expected to begin at the end of 2023, once the first test results have been analyzed and necessary improvements have been made. Harno plans to evaluate the success of basic school e-exams in 2025, and if they are not successful, the system will be further developed. The Ministry of Education and Research plans to continuously refine the model based on test results and feedback, engaging with schools for further discussions and adjustments.
Read the full articles on the ERR News: - Estonia moves to digitize state exams by 2027 - It will take at least two years to introduce e-exams