Academic journal article Trames

National Examination Scores as Predictors of University Students' Performance in Estonia

Academic journal article Trames

National Examination Scores as Predictors of University Students' Performance in Estonia

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

The efficiency of teaching at universities and colleges is a frequent topic of public discussion in Estonia and other countries. The question of why student drop-out rates vary across different higher educational institutions is an important issue from the perspective of educational policy coordinators as well as for every student. For example, six year graduation rates are commonly used in U.S. to measure efficiency in different types of universities. The studies show that public universities have lower completion rates than private institutions there. Scott et al. (2006) criticise this approach and argue that public colleges are able to do more with less. They show that with equivalent resources and student populations, the percentage of graduating students in public schools would be slightly larger than in private schools.

The completion rates of private and public universities in Estonia do not show the same pattern as seen in the U.S. Completion rates in Estonia are lower in private universities than in public universities. So the results of the studies in the U.S. are not directly applicable to Estonian conditions. But still the question remains: if the financing and the abilities of the students were held constant in Estonia, would the completion rates of private schools still remain lower?

Most students start their studies with the aim to graduate successfully. But during the time of study they become subject to risks that can hinder the completion of their studies. The most notable of these risks are changing the major, interrupting the studies and (final) exams (Meulemann 1995:174). These risks occur in different periods of the study time. The current article concentrates on the risks of interrupting and lengthening the studies.

Extension and interruption of studies can be examined on the level of the individual or on the level of the institution and society. The reasons for interrupting or extending the studies can be individual or institutional. Individual reasons include academic abilities, motivation and life course. Institutional reasons are connected with the university or college the student attends and educational policies. According to Meulemann (1995), the main reasons behind the interruption of studies are individual and not institutional. However, passing or failing exams does depend on the conditions at the particular higher education institution.

1.1. Institutional reasons of incomplete studies

A number of institutional reasons of incomplete studies can be mentioned. Research has particularly focused on the quality of teaching, the regulation of studies and resources needed for teaching and learning (Desjardins et al. 2002, Hall and Harper 1981, Schroder-Gronostay 1999). Other possible factors are the unclear structure of the organization, the insufficient preparation of the academic personnel and bad organization of exams (Lewin 1995, Selzer 1985). Examination of these factors has suggested that students from bigger and state-financed universities should have a lower risk of interrupting or prolonging their studies. The admission and student funding policy of the university can play also an important role. For instance, self-funding students are less likely to drop out (Smith and Naylor 2001).

1.2. Individual reasons for incomplete studies

While analysing the students' progress at a higher education institution, pre-university variables should be considered. Many researchers focus on the students' results and academic abilities as factors of interruption and prolongation of the studies (Aitken 1982, Giesen 1981, Gold 1988). The research shows that the higher the university student's average high school grade in mathematics or sciences, the more likely the student is to graduate in time (Baron-Boldt 1989, Giesen 1981, Meulemann 1995). In addition, low academic abilities are considered to be one of the most important factors that could result in prolongation and interruption of studies. …

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