- Students start at the age of 7 and attend Unified Comprehensive Basic School until age 16. At that time they take the only national test, the National Matriculation Examination, which is used to help determine if students go on to Upper Secondary School or Upper Vocational School (with 1/6th of the time spent in on-the-job training) for the next three years. The exam is offered twice a year and retakes are allowed.Many teachers and the author feel that even this one exam has the negative impacts of teaching to the test, narrowing the curriculum, and stress.
- Students can transfer between these schools and take courses in both if they wish. After that there are trade schools and universities for further education. Students not ready for upper secondary schools (5%) can attend a voluntary 10th grade of basic school or leave school. In 2008, 93% completed one of the upper secondary schools. Secondary schools have replaced semesters with five or six periods per year. The system is not based on fixed grades and allows greater choice. This allows students to finish at their own pace. At all levels, the focus is on a more flexible, open and interaction-rich learning environment, where an active role for students comes first.
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