The repeal of the unsuccessful measure for external examination is not populism

External testing – guarding the untenable. Photo: Screenshot

The results of the Macedonian students pertaining to the reading and understanding ability as well as critical approach in reading of written materials, mathematical aptitude and natural sciences aptitude were among the lowest four of all the countries that conduct this testing, and Macedonia is among the lowest ranked countries, superior only to Dominican Republic, Algeria and Kosovo.



The Deputy Minister of Education in the Interim Government, Spiro Ristovski, from VMRO-DPMNE, reacted to the announcement of the new parliamentary majority to repeal in a summary proceeding the external examination for the elementary and high school pupils and tried to present this step as populistic, anti-reform, as well as detrimental to the students and their future.

With the plan to repeal the external examination, SDS is taking the Republic of Macedonia back in time. No matter how much the parents are satisfied with this anti-reform, populistic measure, it’s clear that it will be detrimental to the potential and success of their children. Perhaps today there are many who don’t want to or can’t accept this reality, but when the students will try to find their place in the labor market, they are going to experience exactly what we are talking about today.

[Source: ВМРО-ДПМНЕ, Date: 19 May 2017]



We assess Ristovski’s statement as incorrect, because according to the available materials we’ve managed to investigate, which contain testimonies and experiences of both teachers and students, there’s hardly any argument that can support the position of the Deputy Minister, who says that the repeal of the external examination will be “detrimental to the potential and success of their children”. On the other hand, there are plenty of well-argued testimonies by educators, parents, students, as well as politicians involved in the sphere of education policy, who have analyzed the external examination and its consequences on the success and the future of the youth.

Numerous problems and weaknesses of the system have been detected over the years of implementation of the external examination, which have had an adverse effect on the general success of students and their academic and professional future as well. Both teachers and students have been pointing out to the weaknesses, and the revolt culminated with mass high school protests, boycott of lectures and protests in front of the Ministry of Education in 2015.

The results of the external examination, which show decrease of the achieved success, are yet another clear confirmation that the reforms in the Macedonian education system, implemented by VMRO-DPMNE during its 11-year rule, the external examination being the most drastic measure, are poor. In 2015, the state level GPA was 3.26 [out of 5, our remark], which is lower than 2014, when the GPA was 3.6.

Maybe the most vivid example of the negative influence that the educational reforms have had on Macedonian students, their acquired knowledge and therefore their future, are the results of the PISA testing, conducted by OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) in 2015.

PISA testing is an international knowledge testing, i.e. testing of the so called “functional literacy” of 15-year-old students from 72 countries worldwide. The PISA tests are standardized international tests taken by each country voluntarily. The idea is to enable each country after every testing cycle (which usually takes place every 4 years) to see where it stands and to define its own educational policy according to those results. Taking into account that the testing has been carried out with 4.000 students in this country, the results can be considered highly relevant. The results of the Macedonian students pertaining to the reading and understanding ability as well as critical approach in reading of written materials, mathematical aptitude and natural sciences aptitude were among the lowest four of all the countries that conduct this testing, and Macedonia is among the lowest ranked countries, superior only to Dominican Republic, Algeria and Kosovo.

The teachers have clear-cut explanation why the external examination has negative consequences on students: Results from past external exams, numerous educators say, do not paint the real picture of students’ knowledge and teachers’ work. The professor at the Faculty of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, Nenad Novkovski, who was also a Minister of Education in the government of Ljubco Georgievski (1998 – 2002), briefly summarizes the main weaknesses of the external examination:

The model for the external examination was laden with some unacceptable contents that created unsurmountable problems. This goes especially to the introduction of sanctions for both students and teachers based on the grades from the external examination. Some sanctions were irrational, such as the failing grades in the diplomas  and the others were drastic, such as the dismissal of teachers based on the difference between the grades they gave and the external examination grades.

As professor Nikolina Poposka from the Bitola gymnasium puts it, the external grades lack validity because they value luck or memorized data instead of knowledge, understanding, application, analysis, synthesis, value and creation, as the criteria of the Bureau and the Bloom’s taxonomy impose.

We had a case when a professor received wrong set of questions, for another subject, then in the children hacked the examination, and we reported that to the Ministry of Education but nobody responded and everything was covered up. Answering questions by typing on a keyboard is not even mechanical learning, if you happen to have several lucky students with poor knowledge, your career will go up in flames, Poposka says.

As an elementary school teacher, I believe that the external examination should be repealed, because this reform doesn’t improve the quality of testing in any way and it’s highly contradictory. On one hand, they say it doesn’t affect the students’ GPA, but it will still affect the admission. As stakeholders that can detect the anomalies with the aim to improve this entire process, teachers, school psychologists, parents aren’t even consulted, says Maja Ivanova, teacher from Skopje and member of the Teachers Plenum.

The Minister of Education in the first government of Nikola Gruevski, Sulejman Rushiti, deduces that the external testing was not implemented because of government’s concern for youth’s future, but because of specific political motives:

I think it should be repealed and the entire education reform package should encompass compatible models aiming at improving the process, instead of establishing political control over the teaching personnel. I believe that education has to be immensely modified, but the change of policies related to education must come first.

University professor Risto Malchevski (FON) shares the same position:

Picture this, just because of the external testing, you have the opportunity to take away somebody’s 1.5 monthly salaries, no matter if his students win prizes in state accredited competitions or is he/she has published scientific and expert papers.

According to Xhelal Zejneli, professor of Albanian language and literature, the poor practices implemented in the education via the external examination are only to the detriment of students:

Positive result cannot be achieved by external examination, whose realization is sheer formality, and the student who has a poor grade, i.e. an F, gets an excellent grade, an A, by copying. 

In Zejneli’s opinion, today’s education in Macedonia doesn’t contribute toward better future of students:

Schools don’t promote students who are prepared for further education. Of course that there are good students, but the state’s education policy and the society don’t take enough care of them.

The arguments demonstrate that the external examination hasn’t had positive effect on the potential and success of children, thus its repeal definitely won’t have pernicious influence on them, as Spirovski claims. Hence, his statement is assessed as untruthful and manipulative.




Assessed by: Jugoslava Dukovska

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This article was created within the framework of the Project to increase the accountability of the politicians and political parties Truthmeter implemented by Metamorphosis. The article is made possible by the generous support of the National Endowment for Democracy(NED) and The Balkan Trust for Democracy (BTD), a project of the German Marshall Fund of the United States, an initiative that supports democracy, good governance, and Euroatlantic integration in Southeastern Europe. The content is the responsibility of its author and does not necessarily reflect the views of Metamorphosis, National Endowment for Democracy, the Balkan Trust for Democracy, the German Marshall Fund of the United States, or its partners.

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