Like a growing number of countries worldwide, Kyrgyzstan offers standardised testing to determine entry into higher education. The tests, commonly called by their abbreviation ОРТ (Общереспубликанское тестирование or ORT, Republic-wide Testing) were introduced in in 2002, a first for Central Asian countries. Another stand-out fact is that the ORT is run by a non-governmental organisation, the Centre for Educational Assessment and Teaching Methods. This is largely US-funded.
The tests are based on students’ abilities and not directed towards their knowledge of what they have learnt in secondary (high) school. From a comparative perspective, this is akin to the interviews undertaken by applicants to Oxford and Cambridge: the idea is to see how a student applies what they do know and their learning styles to new problems. You don’t necessarily have to get the problem right, but you do have to be able to show how you’ve worked it out.
De Young argues that the Minister of Education at the time the tests were introduced was passionate about the need to reform higher education, ‘never more than when she described what she understood as the ability of university rectors to pocked tuition fees paid by students and/or to sell supposedly free (scholarship) slots to the highest bidding students’ (De Young, 2005, p45). This explains the separation of the testing function from government structures. This independence has held and the tests have been lauded by e.g. the Vice President of the Russian Academy of Education: “The tests are high quality. You can trust them and they have stood the test of time.” (my translation from ru, source: http://edu.gov.kg/ru/presscentr/novosti/191-obscherespublikanskoe-testirovanie-v-kyrgyzskoj-respublike.html).
The number of students sitting the test has been in the 30,000s since year 2 of their existence – see table [ru] at the Ministry of Education’s site. The tests can be taken in Russian or Kyrgyz – but as of this year, not in Uzbek. Fergana News [ru] suggests that this is part of a trend to remove everything Uzbek from Kyrgyzstan e.g. with Uzbek media being closed and Uzbek language being removed from universities. So the government is not quite independent of the process.
To end this piece, take a look at New Eurasia’s lovely photo montage [text: ru] from 2011 showing a ‘day in the life’ at a test centre. It demystifies the process through a series of photographs that even show students doing the exams. The students’ relief at the end of the series is palpable!
Good luck to everyone taking the tests this May!
De Young, A., (2005) Ownership of Education Reforms in the Kyrgyz Republic: kto v dome hozyain? European Educational Research Journal, 4 (1).