Monday, June 23, 2014


This week is exam week for the 8th graders of Romania.  Essentially, they have 2 (or 3 - see below) big exams, after which their futures (or the next 4 years of those futures anyway) are decided.  Roughly, how it works is this: Over the 4 years from 5-8th grade they have been receiving marks for everything they do at school, and this continuous assessment goes towards their final grade.  But it only constitutes 25% of the total, and the exams they are taking this week make up the other 75%.  But they don;t have exams in all the subjects they have been studying, just 2 (or, as I said, 3, in some cases).  So there are large amounts of subjects that have almost no weight in this process - Physics, English, chemistry, geography, history, biology, etc etc are all sort of left behind here.

The exams that they do have are in Romanian (that was this morning, Monday), and maths (that's on Wednesday). For those kids whose first language is not Romanian, they also have an exam in "limba materna" - in my daughter Bogi's case (and the case of 90% of Harghita County, and about 7-8% of the country) that means Hungarian. Seems a bit unfair that they have to do 3 rather than 2, but them's the breaks. (It will be this way after the 12th grade too).

Next year, from the 9th grade, they will all be at high school.  These tests will decide (a) what "track" they will be able to take in high school, and (b) what high school they can go to.  Because while there isn't any form of streaming in the Romanian system, the "good" high school can choose the "good" students to fill its places (this happened to me too when I was at school choosing sixth forms, so it;s not exactly a Romania-specific issue).  So it does make a difference.

Over the years the weighting of the continuous assessment and the exams keeps changing (to the point where you only really find out what it will be during that final, 8th, year.  4 years ago, there was no test at all, and it was all on continuous assessment.  Last year it was, I think 50/50.  Now the test is dominant.  I'm intellectually opposed to the primacy of the test as a form of assessment, but the argument that I hear a lot from parents is that in schools in villages, everyone knows everyone and the teachers tend to give higher marks during the year than do teachers in towns.  Thus when the reckoning comes, kids from villages end u taking the places in the "good" schools, squeezing out the town kids who have had much tougher teaching and more exacting standards.  I have no idea if that's true but it sounds like a valid concern - especially in a community like this where it's very rural and this is the point at which kids from a large hinterland are all feeding in to a few schools, all in the town.  The national test, it is thought, at least provides a level playing field.

Anyway, the stress will all be over in 2 more days, and then it's just about trying to jump through the bureaucratic hoops to get to your chosen school.

Today, then, the kids are not 100% happy, but just to wrap this up, here is a video that Bogi's class made to celebrate the end of school.  You get to see lots of shots of the town and it is really, genuinely  a very high quality video.

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