What is wrong with the Unified National Test (UNT)?

In 1999 the new system of assessing the school graduates of the Republic of Kazakhstan – the Unified National Test (UNT) was introduced in the field of education for the first time. Since that time it has being counted as the most vital and widely used way of assessing the Kazakhstani school leavers and the admission test to higher educational institutions (OECD, 2014). However, it is argued that there are some challenges regarding the UNT, they are: checking the quality of knowledge, and psychological pressure for school graduates.

To begin with, one of the main purposes of the UNT is assessing the quality of school graduates’ knowledge. However, the test is not likely to be check students’ real knowledge as its questions are designed to check only ‘factual’ knowledge rather than quality. Commenting this issue, Kanat Nurov, the representative of the scientific and educational portal “Aspandau”, said it was high time to exclude the questions asking the facts because they did not make students ready for problem solving (ENT sposobstvuet “utechke mozgov”, 2013). He suggested it would be better to replace such questions with real life tasks which students could use in their future lives. Looking at the UNT questions, one can notice without any obstacles that mr Nurov is absolutely right, and I suppose this issue should be dwelled on.

Another problem which the UNT faces with is that many Kazakhstani school graduates are pushed psychologically during both pilot and actual testing. Based on my personal experience, I can say that even if student knows the right answer for the task, he/she may choose wrong answer because of psychological pressure. For instance, I saw personally how some students started crying during the test because they studied the material, but could not remember each small detail. Moreover, unfortunately, sometimes tragic occasions used to take place after the UNT: some school graduates are seemed to suicide after getting the results of the high stake test.

Summing up, the UNT is being paid a lot of attention nowadays. Different stakeholders are raising the question of the reliability and validity of the UNT. Some people tend to defend the Unified National Testing system, saying that it is the most honest way of checking pupils’ knowledge, while others are completely against the UNT, asserting that it is forcing the pupils to learn by heart only the answers to particular questions without broadening their knowledge. And what is your opinion in this point? Should it be replaced by other forms of external assessment or not?


ENT sposobstvuet “utechke mozgov” iz Kazakhstana [UNT promotes “brain drain” from Kazakhstan]. (2013, November 5). Retrieved from https://tengrinews.kz/kazakhstan_news/ent-sposobstvuet-utechke-mozgov-iz-kazahstana-244971/

OECD. (2014). Reviews of National Policies for Education: Secondary Education in Kazakhstan, OECD Publishing. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264205208-en


2 thoughts on “What is wrong with the Unified National Test (UNT)?

    1. Dear Philip, I really appreciate your comment. Having read Ariya’s truly nice blog on the same issue, I realized I am not the only one who cares about the quality of the high value exam for school graduates in Kazakhstan. I believe in order to solve the problem people should start from the root of it rather than endless talking about the existence of particular obstacles. That was the thing Ariya did. I completely agree with her points of view. Since we experienced the UNT personally we know all the benefits and drawbacks, for this reason I think you are the ones who can make changes for the improvement of the field of education in Kazakhstan. Also, I am happy to be among future young scholars who do not want to look ideally only on important paper, but also try to identify the problems.


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