Teenagers Overseas Take Fewer Tests, But Stakes Are Higher

NPR (4/30, Turner) reports that while American students take a lot of tests, their overseas counterparts’ exams have much higher stakes. Dylan Wiliam, a professor emeritus of educational assessment at the University of London, notes that “at the age of 16, almost every child in England will take probably about 15 or 20 substantial examinations,” which determine if they complete high school, adding that the exams also “determine which universities you’re offered places at.” Finland has one standardized exam at the end of high school that involves almost 40 hours of testing. Pasi Sahlberg, a visiting professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, commented on the test, “unless you do very well with this one examination...some of these dreams that you may have...will become very difficult to fulfill.” In Japan, universities have their own entrance examinations, as do high schools. Williams noted that, internationally, teacher input has little effect on college admissions: “Basically, it’s how well you do on those exams.”