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Implementation of assessment policy - Finland

General Educational Assessment

Schools are themselves responsible for evaluating the education and/or training that they provide and for participating in national or international evaluation work. Instead of specialised staff, evaluation is carried out jointly by school management and teaching staff.

National evaluation consists of a sample-based national testing of learning results and analysis of the local curriculum. The main actors in national educational assessing are The Finnish National Board of Education and The Finnish Education Evaluation Council.

In general, there is vocational and adult education - Education Evaluation Council - which is an independent body evaluating education and learning, developing evaluation and promoting research into evaluation. It serves the Ministry of Education, education and training providers and educational institutions.

The Academy of Finland, operating under the auspices of the Ministry of Education also plays an important role in the production of educational research. In 1995, it launched an extensive research programme on the effectiveness of education, which is being co-financed by the educational and labour administrations. In this programme, individual research projects usually last several years and employs a number of researchers.

National Evaluation of Primary and Secondary Education

A further aim of the national evaluation system is to support educational institutions and teachers in the continuous reform of education on one hand, and to produce and convey diverse, up-to-date and reliable information on the functionality and results of the institutions and the entire education system, on the other. Internationalisation makes it all the more important to compare Finnish education with developments in other countries. Information obtained through evaluation is needed as a basis for making decisions on the solutions that will direct the future of education.

The principles and targets of the national evaluation of education are as determined by the Ministry of Education. The evaluations conducted by the National Board of Education primarily concentrate on educational results and mainly aim to serve the national education policy decision-making and the development of education at all levels. The evaluation of the education sector is based on follow-up, research and expert information, as well as on international comparisons. 

The national evaluation system of education consists of three sections:

  • evaluation system of learning results
  • production of indicators
  • evaluation projects with varying topics (situational or thematic evaluations) 

The indicators are created so as to produce long-term information on educational trends and the operational capacity of the education system. Two types of indicators are being produced. Firstly, there are annual indicators, which are fewer in number and aim to cover the continuous production of the most significant numerical monitoring data on educational results. Secondly, for more detailed reviews on the state of education produced regularly every few years, extensive periodic indicator data is compiled from the various sectors of educational results.

Evaluation studies investigate educational results, factors influencing them and the effects of the development work, using scientific methods.

The evaluation of educational results concentrates on comparative evaluation at the national and international levels, evaluation of the state of education in individual fields of education and types of institution, as well as thematic evaluation. Comparative evaluation means that the main educational results are compared with national and international information, changes that have occurred or objectives that have been set.

Evaluations of the state of education and thematic evaluations mean the diverse evaluation of a certain sector (such as comprehensive school or SNE) or an educational subject field (such as lessons in natural sciences).

The planning and implementation of national evaluation are based on transparency and network co-operation with educational institutions and their maintaining bodies. The organisations to be evaluated and the individuals working within them must be duly informed about the purpose, timing and consequences of the evaluation.

Evaluation must give space to local objectives, interpretations and expectations. The underlying principle is that those being evaluated are aware of the evaluation criteria and have the opportunity to present their own views concerning the evaluation and its results. Furthermore, it is also important to ensure student involvement in the evaluation of education.

The results of the evaluation and the methods and materials applied are public. Educational evaluation information is produced for use by education authorities, political decision-makers, educational institutions and their maintaining bodies. Naturally, the members of the general public are also interested in how the education system works and the kind of results achieved.

Targets of national evaluation include:

  • demand for and supply of education, access to education and student flows
  • the structures and operations of the education system and its constituent parts
  • the connection between the quality and resources of education
  • education policy development trends and changes in education services
  • the relations between education and other sectors of society
  • the curricula and lessons
  • learning results and effectiveness of education. 

The system to evaluate learning results covers basic education and vocational education and training. The system includes the preparation of tests and their pilot testing, their organisation, analysis of results and making conclusions. The evaluation of learning results in basic education is carried out regularly in main subjects on a sample basis.

The purpose of the national evaluation system of learning results is to produce information on the quality of these results. The results of these evaluations are utilised in the development of the education system and national core curricula as well as in practical teaching work. The results are also used to monitor the achievement of equality in education.

A separate Finnish Education Evaluation Council in connection with the Ministry of Education has been acting since August 2003. It is responsible for planning, co-ordinating, managing and developing the evaluation of education.

The System of Self-Evaluation

Education providers are responsible for self-evaluation of the education they provide and they are expected to participate in national and international evaluations.

As the decision-making powers and responsibilities of educational institutions increase, their need for self-evaluation is becoming all the more important. In addition, administrative norms and criteria for funding have recently been applied to steering institutions towards paying more attention to the self-motivated evaluation of their own organisation. The state budget and the national core curricula have been the strongest methods of steering self-evaluation. Since the educational legislation, introduced 1 January 1999, educational institutions have been obligated to evaluate their own operations and effectiveness. The national evaluation of educational results is also partially carried out on the basis of the institutions’ self-evaluation.

In 1993, the Finnish National Board of Education launched a project to develop self-evaluation practices and evaluation culture. The aim of the project was to develop suitable self-evaluation models for different types of educational institutions. Models were developed for basic education, general upper secondary school and vocational and adult education and training. The development of the models endeavoured to allow for the diversity of educational institutions and school forms, alternative approaches, strategic priorities in the evaluation of educational results as well as international development trends. The result was an evaluation model of educational results which is primarily used in national evaluation but which also functions in self-evaluation.

The starting point of self-evaluation is that it supports learning and the development of operations both at the individual and community levels, whilst also providing help in management. The aim of self-evaluation is to help individuals at institutions to form an integrated idea of the operations and to make the activities transparent to external interest groups. Knowledge of one’s own situation provides better opportunities to face the challenges coming from the surrounding environment.

The development and evaluation of operations require consideration and definition of common values, visions and ideas, knowledge of one’s own resources as well as awareness of expectations and requirements of external interest groups. Together with mutual agreements this knowledge provides the foundation for the elaboration of detailed development strategies, objectives and evaluation criteria. Self-evaluation can be used to establish whether the operations have conformed to the objectives and the measures to take in order to maintain or further improve the quality and educational results of operations.

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