Image: Wim Stevenhagen

Exam student deserves air in times of crisis

For many high school students, the central exams start tomorrow. Due to all corona restrictions, students are allowed to cross out one box. Does that lead to calculating behavior? And will the diploma be worth less in the future? "It is not for nothing that an adjustment is made. The circumstances are also different from normal and the performance that students deliver is certainly no less great than normal."

"I'll put my name on the test and then I'll be gone." Remco Vrancken, teacher at the Arentheemcollege in Arnhem, heard a student say the last thing. Why would you still learn history, French, German or geography if that subject can be canceled anyway?

At the end of last year, it was already announced that exam students may spread their central exam over two periods this year. Profession-oriented profile subjects in pre-vocational secondary education are concluded with a school exam instead of a central exam. In February this year, education minister Arie Slob (ChristenUnie) made even more decisions for the students who have to take their final exams in this pandemic school year. Schools can receive extra money to organize more supervision for these children; a total of 37 million has been earmarked for this. There will also be an online platform with all the explanation of the exam material. However, the most important and most rigorous measure is that students may omit one non-core subject. The final mark of the crossed-out box therefore does not count in determining the result. Detail: the grade remains visible on the final list and can only be crossed out if a student has failed and can still pass as a result.

Teachers are disappointed with the so-called 'thumb arrangement', he wrote NRC Handelsblad the day after that decision. How should they still motivate their students for their subject?

Breathing space

“That is difficult,” says teacher Vrancken. He himself teaches Dutch, the students still work hard for that, but he sees the opposite in non-core subjects. “I talked about it with my colleagues last week. It's a bit double. There are really students who already know which subject they are going to cancel and who do nothing more for it. I have colleagues who teach a non-core subject and are in class with a lot of unmotivated students. On the other hand, it gives students who are struggling this year, some air, breathing space. That is also worth something. ”

“I have colleagues who teach a non-core subject and who are in the classroom with a lot of unmotivated students. On the other hand, it gives students who are struggling this year, some air, breathing space ”

A tour on Facebook along different teacher pages shows different situations and visions. Yes, say other teachers, there is calculating behavior. 'I hear from my chemistry and German colleagues that many students have already decided to use it insufficiently for their subject,' says Lia Cordia, Dutch teacher at VMBO in Rotterdam. 'But please, let's not pretend that these are entire tribes. I see it little by little. ' Najia Edi is a teacher of French and English. She sees that students have lost their motivation for French (not a core subject). "They are already thinking about not allowing Frans to count anymore." Edi does not see that in English, which is a core subject. "There is just another resit there." Richard Hendriks, French teacher, says that the comment 'Sir, I don't do anything for French anymore because I cross it out anyway' is a frequently heard comment in his 6 VWO class. Els Mulder-van Franeker has two exam students who have already 'dropped' her subject French, as they call it themselves. "They've already stopped showing up for school exams." She finds it strange that this rule makes it possible to immediately delete an entire box.

Image: Wim Stevenhagen

Bang

Yet there are also students who are still committed to the courses to be crossed away. 'I was afraid of it,' says Agnes Wiesenekker-Drooger, also a French teacher, 'but my students from 5 havo do not want to avoid them enough because the grade will be on the final list. They don't want to have any unsatisfactory marks for further education. ' Teachers Frans Marja Rietveld and Cynthia Elsinga also indicate that they do not see any calculating behavior. 'Not yet experienced', says Rietveld. 'A number of students have just retaken this week to increase the average,' says Elsinga. Mathematics teacher Henk Vegter says about this: 'Most people absolutely want to get a full diploma. A few are not interested and they no longer do anything at all for one subject. '

“If students drop a subject, it is something they are not good at and which they do not want to do anything with. A teacher of mine once said: 'in your exam year you have the most general knowledge of your whole life' ”

How bad is it, a big fat insufficient, which officially does not count? Do students suffer from an inferior 'corona diploma' for the rest of their lives? Remco Vrancken thinks it will all be fine. “If students drop a subject, it is something they are not good at and which they do not want to do anything with. A teacher of mine once said: 'in your exam year you have the most general knowledge of your whole life'. After that, that general knowledge will decrease, because there are a lot of courses that you will no longer do.
Mathematics teacher Marco ten Hoff agrees. "Nobody ever looks at your high school diploma again, everything revolves around the sequel."

Umbrella

“To blame graduate students for calculating according to the applicable standards is just as unwise as people to blame them for taking an umbrella with them when it starts to rain,” says Michel Couzijn, researcher and didactic at the University of Amsterdam and a teacher himself. “Unlike last year, the current examinees have suffered a large part of their school time from corona and that leaves its mark on the exam preparation. They awarded them that one extra insufficient. I will be at the finish line applauding. ”

The VO council is also not concerned about the calculating behavior or the value of the diploma. “An exam always leads to calculating behavior,” says spokesperson Linda Zeegers. "This measure will also ensure that students will see how they are doing and what they are working extra hard for, or not." As far as the diploma is concerned, Zeegers is also clear: “No, it is certainly worth no less. It is not for nothing that an adjustment is being made. The circumstances are also different than normal and the performance that students deliver is certainly no less than normal. ”

Skeptical

The term corona diploma is not well received by many teachers. 'If everyone keeps saying that the corona diploma is worth less, we will automatically believe in it,' says Tessa Wijshake in the Facebook group for French teachers. "These children learn and grow in another valuable way that is not in the books, but that makes history." The National Action Committee for Pupils also rejects the term. “I don't think we should determine the value of a diploma on the basis of a few weeks of exams,” says chairman Nienke Luijckx. “That is short-term thinking. We often forget that these students have developed and developed in a school for four, five or six years and have learned much more than just for the final exams. ” Luijckx hopes that students will make use of the available schemes. "They deserve that."

“We often forget that these students have developed and developed in a school for four, five or six years and learned a lot more than just for the final exams”

In addition to air, the measure can also give students hope, says Lia Cordia. She had a girl in her class that stood three-five. Her parents got divorced last year and then that corona crisis came over. “She had already resigned herself to sacks. Until she heard that she could get an extra fail. That gave her so much peace and confidence. Like: when even the government sees that we are having a hard time. Then she decided to go for it again. Now she is zero fives. I think she will just make it. ”

Cordia gave a speech to her mentor group last week full of increasingly nervous graduate students. “I mainly see children who work very hard and are stressed. "As long as I don't get sick." "As long as I don't have to be quarantined." "Am I going to make it all right?" The light has gone out a bit, I notice, while they still have to deliver a great performance. ”
Cordia gets "frankly quite pissed off" when she hears the word 'corona diploma'. “People should stop using that term and the media even more so. I tell my students, 'When someone says you have a corona degree, you say' thank you '. Corona means crown in Latin. You should see that diploma as the crowning glory of hard work in a very difficult and exceptional time. ”

This article appeared in the May issue of the Education Magazine, which was published early this month at AObmembers fell on the bus. read here more about all the benefits of it AOb-membership.

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