The Education for Employment (E4E) in BiH project hosted a three-day methodological training on the theme “External examination of student achievements: Exam development” in Zenica, from January 25 to 27, 2023.
Around 50 participants from all over Bosnia and Herzegovina attended the program, which was primarily focused on secondary school students’ mathematics and linguistic literacy. They were mostly secondary school teachers of mother tongue and mathematics appointed by relevant ministries, as well as members of pedagogical institutions entrusted with guaranteeing educational quality.
The purpose of this training was to familiarize teachers of the mother tongue and mathematics with the procedures for developing valid, reliable, and objective tests of student achievement, as well as to involve teachers in the preparation of quality tests for conducting external exams, which was planned as part of the project Component 4 – Human Resources Development in Education Sector.
“This first three-day training module is focused on organizing external tests and developing test requirements. We have effectively developed the ideas and foundations for the construction of external tests in reading and mathematics literacy. We based them on the PISA examinations, which are the most internationally renowned assessments in the field of student literacy, with the advantage of being able to compare different systems and curriculum. I am really pleased with the training participants, and I believe we accomplished a great deal,” explained Josip Šabić, the expert for external examination on the E4E project with the PhD in psychology, and the researcher at the Institute for Social Research – Center for Research and Development of Education in Zagreb.
He also stated that, as part of this training, a draft of the Examination Catalog will be produced, containing all relevant information about the developed examinations. Primarily it will be intended for students and teachers, but also for all other interested parties. In addition, Josip Šabić announced a second training session on generating test tasks, which will take place in February 2023.
Considering the overall lack of understanding among teachers regarding methods of evaluating progress, ministries of education, pedagogical institutions, and schools have expressed strong interest in this type of training.
Alma Skopljak, a Bosnian language and literature teacher at Visoko High School, and Dževahira Dizdar, a Bosnian language and literature teacher at Zenica’s Meša Selimović Elementary School, attended the training in Zenica. Both participants are associates of the University of Zenica’s Faculty of Philosophy in the field of literature in BCS languages, and they evaluated the content of the training as particularly valuable and appropriate.
“For me, this training is a highly motivating experience. Previously, out of curiosity, I took the PISA examinations to better understand what was being assessed and how it was being examined. On my own initiative, I attempted to include this into my teaching. Now we have the opportunity to explore this issue in much greater depth, from the inside, and I can already see the prospect of using this form of assessment in the field of mother language,” said Alma Skopljak. She further emphasized that these kind of sessions are beneficial since the academics themselves modify their own paradigm of thinking in this way.
“I strongly hope that the colleagues attending this program will not only grasp and implement the gained information in their teaching, but that they will also, in collaboration with other colleagues, raise the attention of the authorities to the need to alter our educational system. As long as our students earn such poor scores on the PISA exams, it is obvious that something needs to be changed,” prof. Skopljak remarked.
Dževahira Dizdar was also overjoyed to be able to attend this program, in which participants are progressively and methodically presented with useful knowledge.
“This is a very broad topic, and it will most likely take a long time for it to properly take root in our country. However, this training and the knowledge we get from it will greatly assist us teachers in developing critical thinking and reasoning skills in our students, which is now lacking in our system. This can truly help to overcome the educational system’s reliance on mere repetition of learned content,” said Džervahira Dizdar, emhasizing that after the training she would officially transfer the acquired knowledge and useful information to her colleagues and representatives of competent educational institutions.
External examination of student achievements on a regular basis is a standard practice for monitoring educational outcomes in well-developed education systems throughout the EU and worldwide. These tests allow policymakers to monitor the state of education and develop plans based on valid, reliable, and objective data.
As a part od the project activities, the Working Group (WG) for the Preparation and Implementation of External Exams created a draft of the Operational Plan for Conducting External Tests, which could be used as a sustainable model for arranging similar examinations in the future
In the event of an extension of the Education for Employment project, a pilot project of external examinations will be implemented in selected high schools from all over BiH.
In order to overcome the high unemployment rate and a huge mismatch of the education and training systems with the demands of the labour market, the EU funded project “Education for Employment, BiH” aims to produce human resources in line with the labour market needs in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The project assists BiH authorities in improving capacity and structure for planning the educational process and quality of educational outcomes.