Almost a third of Lithuanian school graduates who took the national mathematics exam this year failed it, highlighting the deteriorating standards of science teaching in the country.
Over 15,000 school leavers took the math exam this year and 67.6 percent cleared the minimal score required to pass it, the national graduation examination results announced on Wednesday show. Eighty-two percent of math exam takers passed it last year. Fewer than 1 percent got the top mark this year, compared to 1.5 percent in 2019.
While the academic year was interrupted by school closures due to the coronavirus pandemic, examiners say the passing score was lowered this year to accommodate it. Moreover, the results of other graduation exams do not show any drop in students' performance.
Rūta Krasauskienė, the director of the National Agency for Education, said that exam results were a giveaway of deteriorating standards of science teaching in Lithuania.
“Clearly, there is a [deteriorating] trend in sciences and, sadly, it's a long-term consequence,” Krasauskienė told LRT.lt. “We have to stand back, take a deep breath and make important steps. And there can be no quick change, it requires consistent work.”
According to her, international surveys have also been showing deteriorating results in math and life sciences among Lithuanian students. “These are systemic problems we need to urgently address.”
She said education authorities started updating school curricula and “we are all looking forward to the changes”.
“The logical, critical thinking is very much lacking in our curricula. Mathematics is a difficult subject, just like physics, computer science, where you have to know a lot of things, general competences are not enough. [...] Consistent work has to start in primary school,” Krasauskienė told LRT.lt.
Meanwhile English was the subject where Lithuanian students performed best. Ninety-nine percent of the 18,000 takers passed the exam and 9 percent received the top score.
Minister pledges systemic change
The poor exam results have highlighted the need for systemic change in general education and greater assistance for students, Education Algirdas Monkevičius said on Wednesday.
According to the minister, updated general education curricula will be rolled out in some schools this September and will eventually be introduced nationwide.
“We have to make students interested and motivated to learn math, and to use new methods to foster analytical thinking and applied mathematical skills,” Monkevičius said in a press release.
The ministry also plans to step up assistance to students preparing for math and science exams.