Fair or not –the UNT

Before the introduction of the UNT (Unified National Test) in 2004, the university entrance examination was taken in the form of oral examination at schools which is a legacy from the Soviet Union (Jumabayeva, 2016; Shamatov, 2012). According to Shamatov (2012), this form of examination was too subjective and easily involved corruptions which resulted in issues of equity as well as fairness for students from remote regions and poorer families. In order to address these issues, the UNT has been created to offer comparatively fair competition for all school leavers and cull the most deserving students by providing them with the state grants.

From some personal experiences of my classmates and friends in Kazakhstan, to some extent they agree that UNT indeed enabled them to compete with other candidates and have opportunities to apply for the universities they wish to study. “Without the UNT, I would never have the chance to study in University of Semey, not mention to continue my master study here (at Nazarbayev University)”, said one of my classmates (personal conversation, 2016). The issue of equity has been improved greatly by introducing the UNT, but there are still some problems related to the unfairness such as private tutoring and the discrepancies of the qualities of teaching between rural and urban areas. Jumabayeva (2016) illustrates that private tutoring becomes very popular and is generally considered very worthy since if students get high score from the UNT, they will not only benefit from not paying for the tuition fee for four-year bachelor study, but also get the good marks on their school diploma. “This is unfair for those who has studied very hard for the whole school period but happened to be unlucky on the testing day” (Jumabayeva, 2016, p.4). Besides, the teaching quality is generally lower in rural areas compared with urban schools, students from poorer families cannot afford the private tutoring; these cause some problems in terms of equity and fairness. However, some initiatives have been taken such as good incentives in terms of financial supporting as well as housing facilities are offered to attract talented and qualified teachers to rural areas. The unfairness exists everywhere in the world but we can still try our best to make the education system become more transparent for all social groups; since the quality of education is one of the most crucial factors determining the economical as well as social development of the nation.

To sum up, the UNT has been one of the most important educational reforms in Kazakhstan in recent two decades. It has achieved both success and setbacks. In general, it has improved the equity and transparency of the testing system; although, there are still some problems such as the content of the testing is considered to be “too shallow” to test the deep understanding, critical thinking ability of the candidates. I would like to agree with the conclusion of Jumabayeva (2016) that “the general structure of the UNT is good but the content needs improvements” (p.6).

References:

Jumabayeva, Z. (2016). The key drivers of the United National Test in Kazakhstan: A critical             analysis of its impact on school leavers. NUGSE Research in Education, 1(2), 16-20.                     Retrieved from: nugserie.nu.edu.kz

Shamatov, D. (2012). The impact of Standardized Testing on university entrance issues in                Kyrgyzstan. European Education 44(1), 71-92.  Retrieved from:         https://doi.org/10.2753/EUE1056-4934440104

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5 thoughts on “Fair or not –the UNT

  1. Dear, sharapat812,
    Being a person who passed through all stages of Kazakhstani secondary education system, this is what I would like to add to your post:
    We get what we deserve. After studying 11 years at school, the first “4” I got only by the results of UNT. But I believe that this was the price what I paid to have a chance to help my friends, I spent most of the time helping my friends and never had any regrets about that. Also, in fact, the UNT is not a difficult exam, and if one really tries and prepares, he or she can easily succeed. Starting from this year, the format of the UNT is changed, and the exam will be held in steps: one as an examination for graduating from the school, and the second is the exam for entering the university.
    Of course, we can wonder why only now the policy makers made a decision for changes, but let’s not forget that initially there was an interest in UNT from international organizations (who lend us $$$) and this may be a reason for the format of UNT.

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    1. Thank you, Uaxi, for sharing your cherishable memories about UNT with us. I understand that this experience is one of the most unforgettable and regretless choices you have ever made. The result of UNT does not show the actual knowledge competency of the candidate since the contents are almost based on rote-learning facts which requires merely memorizing rather that critical analysis and practical application. However, the most important change the UNT has brought to us is creating oppportunities for all students irrespective of their family backgrounds or social classes. Thus, this change has a good start but sill needs advancement and some changes.

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  2. Super post, Sharapat! (5/5) I’m glad to see you making use of the NUGSE Research in Education journal. This is a great introductory post to the UNT and the reasons that many have argued for its revision. It seems that part of the issue is testing culture in general, as KZ must ask itself how much value it wants to place on a single test. The other issues, such as content and format, are important, but could be much more easily addressed if there was some consensus on the value given to the exam and the score a student receives on it.

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  3. Dear Sharapat! Thank you for bringing this question to the table! Actually, the UNT is one of the topics which I am interested in. Regarding the question if it is fair or not, I think the UNT is not a fair way of assessing. In grades 9-11 I was taught the UNT was the fairest test to assess students knowledge by the headmaster of my lyceum. My lyceum was in the first place by the results of this test in Kazakhstan, and the school administration forced us to study hard in order to get the highest results. For this reason, I used to think the UNT is the best testing, however after my school graduation I realized that my friends from other school also showed good results despite the fact they did not prepare as hard as I did. Also, I got ‘A’ marks (5) from all the disciplines despite I always used to ‘B’ (4) from the history of Kazakhstan. In fact, as Abylay mentioned above, the UNT is not difficult test as it checks only the knowledge about facts, and there is no questions to check critical thinking or other skills.
    As I know the format of the test is changing this year, and I am eager to know its new version.

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    1. Thanks, Gulnar! I agree with you about the issue that he result of UNT does not show the actual knowledge competency of the candidate since the contents are almost based on rote-learning facts which requires merely memorizing rather that critical analysis and practical application. However, the most important change the UNT has brought to us is creating oppportunities for all students irrespective of their family backgrounds or social classes. Thus, this change has a good start but sill needs advancement and some changes.

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