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Cheating, corruption, air raids during the NMT, and other risks of admissions campaign 2022 — in interview with education ombudsman

Amidst the full-scale invasion of Russia, the admissions campaign in Ukraine has undergone significant changes: the EIT (external independent testing) had to be replaced by a multi-subject test, which should take into account all the emergency conditions affecting Ukrainian applicants.

Today, thousands of Ukrainian applicants have become migrants, refugees or live in the temporarily occupied territory.

Therefore, the main task of the state under these circumstances is to organize and hold an admissions campaign in an honest and transparent way, like the EIT, and to do everything to bring back the young generation of Ukrainians to Ukraine.

In an interview with The Page, education ombudsman Serhiy Derhachov explains the main risks and peculiarities of the multi-subject test.

Multisubject test in the occupied territory, for IDPs and refugees

What risks may arise in the organizational part, in particular, in testing migrants, refugees, and those in the occupied territory?

It is impossible even theoretically to hold a national multi-subject test (NMT) in the temporarily occupied territories because on the one hand it is very dangerous, and on the other hand, there is no Internet connection in these territories, so there are no technical possibilities.

Testing will be held in temporary examination centers only in safe territories of Ukraine and abroad. Unfortunately, the greatest risk for applicants from the temporarily occupied territories is that applicants who are there will have very few opportunities to get to a safe territory to pass tests because of the danger, someone may not be allowed through at checkpoints.

For all applicants on the territory of Ukraine, in particular, displaced children, there remains a risk of air raids during the testing. If an air raid starts during the test, the applicant will be able to interrupt the test and will be moved to a safe place until the air raid is over.

After the air raid is over, they will continue to take the test from the minute they stopped it. But if the air raid lasts for several hours, then the applicant will have to retake the test during an additional session on another day.

Testing rooms must be technically well equipped: Internet connection, power supply, because even under normal conditions problems can arise, and especially — during war. Therefore, where possible, it is necessary to provide backup power in case of a power outage. There should also be a hideout or bomb shelter in the room.

Synchronization of testing in time is important abroad, because the time between countries is different.

What children, in your opinion, will find it difficult to pass the test — refugees or those occupied?

It is difficult to compare, because children who remain in the occupied territories have their own difficulties, and children who are abroad have their own ones. We all understand that, unfortunately, as I have already noted, not all applicants in the occupied territories will be able to get to a safe territory to take the test. Also, children in these territories have to, first of all, save their own lives and those of their loved ones, hide in basements, and prepare for testing under shelling.

The applicants-to-be who are abroad, depending on the host country, sometimes have to study remotely at their educational institution and in parallel with the educational institution of the host country. This creates a double burden for them. They also go through an adaptation period: to the language, educational institution, peculiarities of the country, etc., which causes additional difficulties.

According to Serhiy Babak, head of the Committee on Education, Science and Innovation in the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, for applicants who are abroad, the possibility of holding the NMT in European countries, in particular, in educational test centers in the capitals of these countries, is being considered. Relevant work is being carried out, and there is already a preliminary agreement on creating such centers, in particular, in Poland, Germany, and Italy.

What about children from the USA and Australia?

Time synchronization is critical to holding the test. Therefore, it is impossible to organize the process of passing the NMT in America, Australia, or Asia. The only thing that remains to be advised to applicants in this situation is, if possible, to plan to temporarily return to safe territories in Ukraine for the exam to take the test or to a European country where the test will be held.

According to the Order of the Ministry of Education and Science No. 434 of April 12, 2022 on organizing and holding the NMT, within a certain period of time, the applicants will be able to confirm the willingness to pass the NMT on their information page of the test participant and choose the name of a convenient locality for passing the test.

To what extent does the organization of the admissions campaign correspond to mobility? There are a lot of resettlers who continue to relocate. Will it be necessary to be attached, is relocation envisaged, for example, over the hostilities?

Everyone who registered to participate in the testing on their Information page must confirm their willingness to take this test and also inform the organizers about the region in which they will be located within a certain period of time. There will be a feature on the Applicant Information Page that will allow them to change the place where they are going to take the test. According to the Order of the Ministry of Education and Science No. 434 of April 12, 2022 on the Organizing and helding the NMT, from May 20 to June 7, the applicants will be able to confirm the willingness to take the NMT in the main session on their Information page of the NMT participant, and from June 21 to July 7, choose the name of the locality where it will be convenient for the participant to take NMT during the main session. It will be possible to confirm the willingness to participate in the additional session from July 8 to 12, and to choose a convenient locality for participation in the additional session — from August 1 to 10.

Therefore, until applicants pass the test, they must either remain in the region indicated on their Information page, or then come to the specified region to take the test. Because, depending on the region the applicant will be located in, he or she will be assigned to the appropriate testing center.

How evaluation will be made during multi-subject test-2022

Oral questioning — how will it be held? And is it possible to guarantee the fairness of the evaluation…

Unfortunately, the admissions test only in the form of an individual oral interview contains significant corruption risks.

According to the recently approved Procedure for Admission to Higher Education in 2022, the interview implies a face-to-face evaluation of the applicant’s preparedness in one, two, or three subjects (components). Based on the results of this interview marks are given for each subject (component) on a scale of 100-200 or a decision is made on a negative evaluation of the applicant ("inadequate").

In accordance with Paragraph 11 of Section 7 of the Admission Procedure, individual oral interviews are held according to the EIT programs. But it is the chairperson of the Admissions Committee who approves the evaluation procedure based on the results of an individual oral interview, including the structure of the overall band score.

That is, there are no single criteria for holding and evaluating an individual oral interview for institutions of higher education, which gives rise to corruption risks both on the part of applicants and on the part of the head and employees of the institutions of higher education.

For example, parents, employees of the institution can "find ways" to agree on advance and illegal disclosure of the questions and "correct" answers of an interview for an applicant or on the appropriate evaluation of an applicant for a fee.

Also this year, it is the head of the higher education institution, and not the collegial body, who approves the rules for admission to a higher education institution and the regulations on the Admissions Committee of higher education. Which entails additional corruption risks for the election of the Admissions Committee by the head that is beneficial to him or her. Together with the National Agency on Corruption Prevention (NACP), we are working to minimize risks during the 2022 admissions campaign.

How is it possible to avoid abuse during the test, the so-called cheating and hints, for example?

As in the case of the EIT, applicants take NMT in temporary examination centers under the supervision of instructors. Each applicant will pass testing in a computer format in the system on specially prepared computers. All these conditions should minimize the risk of academically disadvantaged behavior of the applicant when taking the NMT.

The bank of testing tasks for the EIT is formed by the Ukrainian Center for Educational Quality Assessment (UCEQE), the tasks for the NMT are also formed by the UCEQE, that is, the secrecy of the tasks is ensured. The applicants cannot get a test task in advance and complete them in advance or give a task to complete instead of them, as, unfortunately, is possible during an admission exam in the form of an individual oral interview or a creative competition, for example, in design.

What is the general difference between the content of the NMT and the EIT? There is already an opinion that the questions will be easier. Will these be questions only from the school curriculum or additional ones too?

The questions will not be simplistic, they will be more key ones: because we need to choose them carefully in order to get a result that can be correctly ranked. So far there has been no real testing, we see only a demonstration test on the website of the Ukrainian Center for Educational Quality Assessment, which, in my opinion, captures this principle.

The tasks of each set of the national multi-subject test correspond to the current EIT program for each subject of the test. At the same time, there are certain important changes that the applicant needs to be aware of and which must be taken into account during preparation. For example, there will be no tasks on Ukrainian literature during the test, this should be taken into account.

The number of tasks in one or another section of linguistics generally corresponds to what characterizes the content of the EIT tests in the Ukrainian language. But the sections "Stylistics" and "Speech Development" are given somewhat less attention over the computer format of testing. There will be no open written short and long answer tasks, only tests.

Mathematics tasks correspond to the standard level program; there will be no open-form tasks with a long answer, but there will be 2 open-form tasks with a short answer.

Tasks on the History of Ukraine will concern only the historical period "History of Ukraine 1914 — early XXI century."

In your opinion, are these three subjects chosen fairly, because the children prepared others as well?

Ukrainian, Mathematics, and History of Ukraine are compulsory subjects that graduates must take during the State Final Certification (SFC). At the same time, Ukrainian language and Mathematics should be compulsory subjects of the EIT in 2022. Therefore, in any case, applicants-to-be should have already passed these subjects at the SFC and EIT.

Compared to EIT, the topics of the set of tasks on the History of Ukraine for the national multi-subject test have been significantly cut. They contain tasks related only to the historical period "History of Ukraine in 1914 — the beginning of the XXI century", that is, only those topics that used to be components of the SFC in the form of EIT. Therefore, the graduates who did not plan to take the History of Ukraine during the EIT and have not yet prepared it for the SFC have enough time to prepare for the set on the History of Ukraine.

Regarding the foreign language testing: in addition to English, Ukrainian schools also teach French, German, and Spanish. This means that it would be necessary to held at least four more foreign language exams and prepare separate tasks and test points for each of them. For lack of time, resources, and safety of the participants in the educational process, it is impossible to prepare the required number of tasks and rooms.

For the graduates who prepared Chemistry, Physics, Biology, a foreign language or other subjects for the EIT, their efforts were not in vain, because after admission, they will need the knowledge on these subjects in their chosen major.

Loss of graduates in Ukraine in 2022

Are there any forecasts of what part of the graduates we will lose, because many children are in Europe, and there a lot of attractive free education programs are offered to them.

I am not aware of such forecasts. According to the UN, more than 6 million people (adults and children) have already left Ukraine abroad. About half of them are children. But, for example, according to Forbes, by the end of April, 25% of refugees and IDPs had already returned home, however, these data are estimates and do not claim to be accurate.

Unfortunately, we do not yet know the exact data on the number of students by age. I would like to hope that gradually almost all Ukrainians who were forced to go abroad will return home.

At the moment, our main task is to show applicants the maximum support of the state during the admissions campaign and how much we need our young generation of graduates to come back to Ukraine. In particular, ensure that the NMT is properly organized so that the applicants feel they can safely take the test. Also, now there is a significant responsibility for each head of the higher education institution, who independently approves the rules for admission to his higher education institution, to show that the 2022 admissions campaign will be honest and transparent, and that all the struggle that is now taking place for our civilized future is not in vain.

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