The last year of undergraduate studies is usually the most important and stressful for all senior students. It is time for writing bachelor’s thesis and prepare for final state examinations. However, there is one more challenge left before successful completion of bachelor’s studies – External Assessment of Educational Achievements (EAEA).
EAEA is a test which was introduced in 2011 by the Ministry of Education and Science, in order to evaluate the level of knowledge possessed by students and quality of programs provided by higher education institutions (State Program on Education Development, 2010). EAEA is undertaken at the beginning of the final year of studies and has four main directions: education, law, social sciences and hard sciences. The assessment pursues several goals, the major ones are: monitor the current situation of education quality, assess the effectiveness of educational processes and present the comparative analysis of educational services provided by different institutions (Committee for Control of Education and Science, 2012).
The previous initiative in the assessment of educational achievements – Intermediate State Control (ISC) had the same mission but with the differences in goals and implementation process. More specifically, the basic distinction between EAEA and ISC is the refusal of any sunctions such as accreditation commission or inspections for higher education institutions which presented not sufficient results during the assessment. Additionally, students who are not successfully performed at ISC could be expelled; the results of EAEA do not affect the students’ academic achievements or ability to graduate from the higher education institutions (Committee, 2012).
The data collected throughout the country is usually used by the Ministry of Education and Science in order to monitor the situation over the quality of educational services provided by accredited higher education institutions, and also develop recommendations and suggestions in order to improve and strengthen the programs. The results of EAEA can also be helpful in creating national ranking list of higher education institutions. Thus, the assessment has great impact on the quality improvement in higher education institutions and can provide necessary information for constituent groups in Kazakhstan.
The participation in the assessment is voluntary and institutions have a choice to select students who will take a part in test. Even being the recent initiative EAEA attracts higher education institutions and each year involves more and more universities to participate. The attractiveness of the assessment and general positive attitude towards improvements in the quality of higher education system can be understood as a proof that the right direction in reforms has been chosen.
However, there are some challenges in implementation and organization processes. First of all, being at the last year of undergraduate studies, students experience stress; being pressed by their final state examination, diploma work and compulsory internship. In this context, additional examination seems to increase the stress level and influence on their academic performance. Even though, results of EAEA don’t affect on students’ future academic indicators it is still important examination and students try really hard revising materials and preparing for the test.
Secondly, the attitude of the teachers, who believe that preparation for EAEA, is more important that studying the core courses. This situation occurred at my university when instructors had shifted the focus on the test preparation, rather than on classes of the program’s curriculum. To anticipate such situations, students and faculty should be well informed about the main purpose of assessment and do not be destructed from their primary studies and responsibilities.
Finally, as higher education institutions have an opportunity to select students for test, they provide the policy of selecting only talented and well-prepared students. It is undoubtedly increases the credibility of institution but do not provide the real situation with education services’ quality. Thus, the results cannot be fully trusted as the majority of institutions present their best students instead of providing maximum variation of students with different level of academic achievements. Hence, the monitoring body itself should select students for participation in order to ensure the variety of students’ profile.
Summing up, despite on some imperfections of the assessment, the results of EAEA provide more complete and comprehensive overview of the quality of the programs provided by higher educational institutions and undoubtedly, will facilitate the process of modification and enhancement of the competitiveness of higher education system in Kazakhstan.
Committee for Control of Education and Science. (2012). Instruction for External Assessment of Education Achievements Implementation. Retrieved from: http://control.edu.gov.kz/ru/content
Ministry of Education and Science of the Republic of Kazakhstan. (2010). State Program of Education Development in the Republic of Kazakhstan for 2011-2020.