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University Admission Based on Standardized External Testing Scores in Public Opinion Surveys

October 13, 2011

A national poll of the Ukrainian population was conducted by the Democratic Initiatives Foundation and supported by USETI Alliance. The total number of respondents surveyed by the national quota sample in the period from September 18 through September 27 in 2011 made up 2010 persons in all territorial administrative areas of Ukraine, specifically in 24 regions, the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol. The sample was quota-based and representative by gender, age (18-29, 30-54, 55 and above), level of education (lower than secondary, secondary schooling, university degree), place of residence type (capital city, regional centers, other cities r towns, villages) and regions of Ukraine. The error of sampling does not exceed 2.2%.

The obtained survey findings are compared with data obtained in the national poll conducted by the Democratic Initiatives Foundation and supported by USETI Alliance from March 24 to April 5 2011 using the same sampling principle. At that time, the total number of surveyed respondents made up 1801 persons with the error of sample 2.4% or lower.

Comparison of data obtained on two nation-wide surveys carried out in Aril and September 2011 indicates that a consistent public opinion has been established in Ukraine regarding support of the standardized external testing (SET) as a key university admission criterion. It is important that the SET receives favorable appreciation from proponents of different political forces. Institutionally-administered university entrance examinations are equally not supported by proponents of either the Party of Regions, “Batkivschyna” and the “Front of Change”.

The university admission system based on the SET scores implemented since 2008 is supported by the vast majority of the Ukrainian population, and this support is growing each year: in December 2008, the SET based system gained the support of 42% of the population (34% did not support the system), however in March 2011, this number increased to 46% (30% did not support the system), and in September 2011 the support grew to 50% (27% did not support the system). In the target group, which included respondents whose children, or children of their relatives or close friends, or who themselves sought university admission based on their SET scores, meaning that they were directly involved in such admission process, the level of support is considerably higher: 64% support the SET-based admission system (in March this figure was 55%) and 22% do not support this system (in March this figure was 30%).

Per public opinion, in the process of assessing knowledge of secondary school graduates most corrupt practices took place during the institutionally-administered university entrance examinations where 71% of the population indicated that corruption was very common and rather common (and among the target group respondents directly involved in admission process this number makes up 83%), while 13% indicated that corruption was rare or not common at all. As for school-leaving examinations at secondary schools, 50% of respondents consider corrupt practices to be very common and rather common (in September this number was 40%) and 36% think that such practices are not common. Per public opinion, corrupt practices are the least common during the SET: 30% think it to be common and 38% think that it is not common during test-taking.

Only 26% of the population judge university admission based on institutionally-administered entrance examinations to be more fair/objective (in March the proportion was 29%). All other respondents indicate that the new system is more fair and objective, however their opinions vary regarding various models of such system: 24% think that the most objective system is based on the external test scores only; 17.5% think that the most objective system is based on external test scores plus matriculation grade point average; and 12% think that the most objective system is based on external test scores, matriculation grade point average, and institutionally-administered entrance examinations. Among the target group, which included persons involved in external assessment-based university admission process, appreciation of fairness of the university admission based solely on the SET test scores is the highest (33%). The evaluation of objectivity of the assessment-based university admission using various criteria combinations was also affected by the successful enrollment: among those who gained admission to the university of their best choice 40% consider SET to be the most objective instrument, however among those who were enrolled just for the sake of being admitted to any school the predominant view is that the most objective approach is by conducting entrance examinations by universities. These findings mostly coincide with data obtained in the March survey.

Among those whose children, children of their relatives or close friends, or who themselves took part in external testing, 62% were completely or mostly satisfied with the way testing was conducted (26% were not satisfied).

The admission process in 2011 appeared to be more favorable for university admission seekers in comparison with the previous year. Among those who sought admission themselves, or whose children, children of their relatives or close friends tried to gain admission, 52% indicated that they were enrolled in the university of their choice (in the March survey this proportion was 43%) and another 30% indicated that their place of enrollment was not their best choice but anyway was a good option to study at. Only 9.5% (16% in the March survey) gained admission just for the sake of being enrolled, and only 4% of candidates were not able to secure enrollment.

The population revealed a considerably high appreciation of SET merits and capacities: 42% of respondents agree that it places everyone in equal conditions (25% disagree), and in the target group 54% think this way; 50% of respondents agree that the SET enables talented candidates to enter any higher education institution (27% disagree), in the target group 61% think this way; 52% of respondents agree that the SET encourages students to study (24% disagree), in the target group 64% think this way; 36% of respondents agree that the SET has reduced the level of corruption in university admissions (37% disagree), in the target group 45% think this way; 37% of respondents agree that implementation of SET has become a step forward in establishing just practices in the country (32% disagree), in the target group 46% think this way; 44% of respondents agree that SET enables universities to choose the best students (27% disagree), in the target group 54% think this way.

Major disadvantages of the assessment-based university admission are seen mainly in insufficient level of high school graduates’ readiness for testing (33%, and in the target group 33% think this way), imperfect test quality (31%, and in the target group 37% think this way) and lack of assurance that testing is conducting fairly (25% in the population and 30% in the target group).

In order to improve SET-based university admission, better preparation of students for test-taking should provide (45% in the population and 52% in the target group). It is also very important that higher education institutions should ensure publicity and clarity of their candidate enrollment systems (34% in the population and 40% in the target group), and inform candidates well in advance about their admission rules and procedures (28% in the population and 34% in the target group).

The majority of the population (52%) agrees that it is necessary to preserve special admission benefits (privileges) for certain categories of candidates – orphans (71%), persons with physical disabilities (43%), persons from the very poor families (41%). Regarding other categories enjoying certain benefits (privileges), the public opinion is generally much less favorable: only 28% agree to grant benefits to winners of Olympiads and contests, 27% agree to grant benefits to persons affected by the Chornobyl catastrophe, 25% agree to grant benefits to “Gold Medal” (Straight A) secondary school graduates, and 14% agree to grant benefits to village school graduates. After admission campaign 2011, there was a shift in the public opinion about granting privileges to candidates who attended preparatory courses at HEI: in March 37% agreed and 39% disagreed with this approach, while in September the public opinion appeared to be more negative: 31% supported granting such privileges and 44% were against it.

The majority of the population is generally against the proposal that apart from external test scores and matriculation grade point average the admission process should also consider results of institutionally-administered entrance exams: 43% (52% in the target group) think that this will lead to corrupt practices during admissions. 28% agree with the proposal regarding institutionally-administered entrance exams.

The decisive factor in a university enrollment procedure should be SET scores – this is the opinion of the majority of respondents (38% in the population and 49% in the target group). Grades on entrance examinations conducted internally by universities are considered to be more important by 19% of respondents (15% in the target group), and matriculation grade point average – by 13% of respondents (12% in the target group). Interview conducted by the university and motivation essay has very little support (5% and 3%).

Lately, the public has become noticeably more aware of the social importance of improving the quality of higher education. In the survey conducted in March, 32% of Ukrainians considered this issue to be among top priorities while in September this number grew to 38%. This concern crosses party lines with all three top parties (Party of Regions, Batkivshchyna and Front for Change) sharing the growing importance of this issue.


FINDINGS
of the Nation-Wide Survey “Attitudes to the External Standardized Assessment among the Ukrainian Population”

 
 

 


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