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Poll: Clear majority of youth object to phasing out university entrance exams

A survey suggests that 73 percent of young people are opposed to a pending reform that would make matriculation exam results the primary deciding factor for tertiary education admissions.

Eemeli Grönlund, Mona Kaeophet ja Omar Atiye eivät pidä korkeakoulujen valintakokeista lupumista hyvänä ajatuksena.
Eemeli Grönlund, Mona Kaeophet and Omar Atiye of the Vuosaari upper secondary school oppose the reform. Image: Esa Fills / Yle

A new poll of those aged 15 to 29 suggests that close to three-quarters of young people in Finland are opposed to plans to change university admission procedures. About 24 percent of the respondents to the 2017 Youth Barometer agreed with the idea of replacing university entrance exams with matriculation exam results and vocational school certificates, while four percent couldn't say.

Finland's Ministry of Education and Culture has joined with the country's tertiary education institutions to come up with a plan for altering university admissions criteria. The goal is to make matriculation exam results and vocational school certificates the primary factor for tertiary education admission by the year 2020.

The reform would not eliminate entrance exams altogether, but the role of the exams and aptitude tests in admissions processes would diminish. The current system of weighing both the entrance exam and matriculation exam results at some institutions will be abolished completely, however.

In the case of admissions to Finland's university programmes in business, for example, six out of 10 students are accepted based on matriculation results alone. The remaining 40 percent are selected via entrance exams.

By the year 2020, the plan is to overhaul university admissions so that more students are granted admission solely on the basis of their matriculation exam or vocational school certificates. The role of entrance exams would be considerably diminished.

Young people prefer entrance exams

Helsinki first-year upper secondary school pupils Mona Kaeophet and Eemeli Grönlund feel that entrance exams and aptitude tests are still the way to go.

"That way you can see how much the applicant really knows about the topic. Decisions about whether applicants are good and should be allowed to continue their studies shouldn't be based on just their school certificates," Kaeophet says.

"I personally think that the big picture should be what matters. The grades you got on your end-of-school tests are just one part of an entirety," says Grönlund.

Both fear the reform would be especially bad for young people who still haven't decided what they want to do with the rest of their lives, or have lost their motivation to study.

"Many kids realise too late that they should start studying more. Poor matriculation test results could halt any future study plans altogether," Grönlund says.

Omar Atiye agrees.

"I think it's a bad idea. If you don't do well in upper secondary school, making up for it later is hard. The entrance exam is good for those kids that might come to their senses later," he says.

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