SCIENCE AND EDUCATION


Five years pass since foundation of State Examination Center

Baku, April 15, AZERTAC

Each country is implementing a relevant policy to ensure sustainable development against the background of global challenges in the world. Education reforms are significantly important for the sustainable socio-economic development of the country.

The successful future of any country is measured by the quality of education in the country. Modern world countries, including all developed countries declare education to be a strategic priority and recognize that the future development of their countries depends on the quality of the education system.

Improvement of education is an important part of the development concept in any country. President Ilham Aliyev’s attention and care to the improvement of education confirms that this factor is one of the important strategic directions of state policy and perhaps the most substantial.

Consistent steps taken by the state provide impetus to the education system formation based on modern principles of governance. The implemented reforms, increasing volume of investments in the Azerbaijani economy lead to the development of science and education, social spheres, and institutions, as well as create ample opportunities for high-level human resources growth suitable for various fields. This process is carried out through professional human resources development, as well as creating broad conditions and opportunities to study abroad for young people.

The State Examination Center (SEC) is one of the institutions that have a special place in the implementation of normative legal acts adopted in the education sphere, selection and development of personnel for the civil service.

The SEC is a public legal entity and was founded by the Decree of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev dated April 11, 2016, to administer the competitive selection of civil servants, final certification of general education students, centralized admission examinations for secondary special education institutions, bachelor's and master's degrees (basic medical education and residency) in higher education, and master's degree at the Azerbaijan National Academy of Sciences.

With the establishment of the SEC, the Civil Service Commission under the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan and the State Student Admission Commission of the Republic of Azerbaijan were abolished, and a single organization - a public legal entity, which is performing the duties and functions of both institutions, was established. Although a public legal entity is not a state body, it is engaged in the policies and activities of national and (or) public importance and serves the public interest. It is no coincidence that the governing body of the SEC is the Board of Directors. The Board consists of a chairperson, two deputy chairpersons, and four members acting on a community basis, and all members participate in decision-making.

Today is the 5th anniversary of the establishment of the State Examination Center. During these years the Center has carried out and continues to work consistently and purposefully to fulfill the tasks arising from the state programs, decrees, and orders issued by the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan.

Having a brief look at the path passed, we should talk about the achievements, challenges, innovations, international relations, and cooperation.

First of all, we would like to state that the main principle of the SEC is transparency. The Center sets great store to comprehensive public awareness at all stages of the student enrollment and civil service recruitment campaign, ensuring the transparency of the admission process, public participation in the management of the admission process, and the organization of community control in this area. The content of the exams has always been open. The whole procedure and separate stages of the admission campaign were covered on the Internet, "Abituriyent" magazine, and other media means.

The implementation of the State Examination Center's responsibilities is accompanied by the involvement of hundreds of thousands of people in one way or another in mass processes every year, and the Center takes the necessary steps to manage these campaigns at the highest level.

2 million 936 thousand 294 people took part in various exams conducted by the State Examination Center since its establishment in 2016.

Over the years the SEC has intensified its work on the application of information and communication technologies in mass processes, and has implemented a number of new projects in this area. As always, ICT has been utilized in all stages of the admission process for undergraduate, graduate and residency levels of higher education, in the final exams of secondary school students, as well as in the civil service providing e-services to millions of citizens.

E-service projects served by the SEC have been used 35,962,868 times over the past five years. These are considered to be the most widely used e-service projects implemented by government agencies.

A number of new services have been created in connection with the application of ICT in mass processes.

Every user (applicant, bachelor, candidate) who wants to benefit from both electronic and paid services provided by the State Examination Center, has been creating a personal account since 2017. The personal cabinet is created once and used constantly. The used services, exam results, and other information are reflected in the user's personal account. Up today, the number of users with a personal account is 596,330, and the number of access to the accounts is 6894601.

Due to the implementation of the new model to the final exam on the general secondary education level (9 years) starting from 2017, the final exam on the full secondary education level (11 years), and the admission exams to higher education institutions starting from 2019, written test items (free and situational type) in various subjects has been included to the tests. A new system has been applied in the SEC to check the written work of students on such items in the exams. The methodical and software of the system were developed by the employees of the SEC. Many measures have been taken to ensure safety, efficiency, accuracy, transparency, and quality during the marking process of written items. Before the outbreak of the pandemic, the marking process was carried out in the computer-equipped examination halls, designed for this purpose, which meet the relevant safety requirements. The marking process has been carried out online (remotely) since 2020. More than 270,000,000 (twenty-seven million) written items have been marked for far.

As a pilot project in 2019, software and hardware based on Face Recognition technology were used to identify exam participants during admission to some exam buildings. The main purpose of applying this technology is to speed up the admission of entrants to the examination building and to prevent a stranger’s entrance to the examination building instead of the registered entrant.

It is well known that the Appeals Commission is formed in connection with the results of each examination conducted by the SEC. The process of receiving applications to the Appeals Commission and the appeal process have been carried out online (remotely) since 2020. Over the past year, an online appeal process was organized for about 6,000 applications.

Moreover, the Center's specialists have developed “Music School-Graduate” information system (2016), “Civil Servant Career Guide” software system (2017), “Civil Service Reserve Personnel List” information system (2018), “Foreign and suspended educational institutions graduates registration system”, “Candidate-interview electronic information system” (2019), “Pupil-graduate system” - web service software program providing information on graduates of general secondary and full secondary education to the electronic system of the Ministry of Education (2020), automated web service software for “Transfer” and “Issuance of diploma forms to educational institutions and verification of authenticity” portals for the Ministry of Education (2016-2020), system providing civil servants with a certificate of length of their service to present to the State Agency for Housing and Mortgage and Credit Guarantee Fund of the Republic of Azerbaijan - “Length of Service of Civil Servants” system (2017-2021), “Register of experts participating in aptitude test” program system (2020), system of online obtaining and checking certificates on graduation and entrance exam results (2020-2021), as well as improved the Register of Civil Servants, Pupil-graduate, Student-Graduate systems and other existing software over the years.

During the operation of the State Examination Center, changes were made in the content of school-leaving and admission exams, as well as other various examinations, admission programs and rules, and certain improvements have been achieved. At the same time, the SEC has started to conduct new types of exams and provide new types of services to citizens.

- In 2016-2019 a new exam program and models were developed for general secondary (9-year), full secondary (11-year) education levels and the admission exams to higher education institutions based on the relevant subject curricula.

- In 2017, for the first time, the final exam for general secondary (9-year) education level was conducted based on a new program and model.

- Applicants were given two chances to take part in the admission exams held for a certain specialty group within the current academic year. Applicants taking part in both exams have the opportunity to determine which result they participate at the competition with.

- Starting from this year, training courses on Azerbaijani language, Russian language, mathematics, chemistry, physics, biology, history, geography and English language are organized in connection with the preparation, examination and verification of assessment materials for final and entrance exams. The courses were attended by e-registered teachers, methodologists and last-year undergraduate students of pedagogical higher education institutions studying in the relevant subject, as well as masters studying at those institutions. During this period, 202 courses were organized: 63 in Baku, 139 in the regions and 18 training courses on "Zoom" online platform. 2082 people who successfully completed the course (1513 in Baku, 569 in the regions) received certificates. Their personal information is included in the "e-Database". These people are involved in the examination of exam materials as a marker.

- 1653 call centers have been launched to respond more quickly to citizens' appeals.

- In 2018, applicants have the opportunity to participate in the competition, both in the specialties of one (or two) of groups I-IV, and in the specialties of group V.

- In order to improve the performance of hall supervisors, increase the level of professionalism and involve the general public in the examination process as a hall supervisor, a project to certify the activities of hall supervisors has been implemented since 2018. Currently, the database of certified supervisors consists of 1272 people. It should be noted that, in general, the base of exam supervisors to be involved in the test exams conducted by the SEC is about 1,000 people, and the base of supervisors is more than 16,000 people.

- In 2019, for the first time, the final exam for full secondary (11-year) education and the entrance exam to higher education institutions were held on the basis of a new program and model. The entrance exam for higher education institutions for specialty groups I-IV was organized in two stages. There is a chance to pass the second stage of the entrance exam twice.

- Applicants receive applications, choose a specialty, etc. "Abituriyent Consulting Centers” have been established in Baku and other regions to provide free assistance.

- It was decided to keep the results of the final (entrance) exam held at the level of IX and IX grades valid for two years.

- For the first time, persons (sub-bachelors) who have received a “sub-bachelor” professional degree at the secondary special education level have the right to be admitted to higher education institutions through competition without participating in entrance exams.

- For the first time, on the internationally accredited educational programs "International Baccalaureate Diploma Program", "Advanced Level of General Certificate of Education" and "Advanced Placement" Applicants have the opportunity to be admitted to higher education institutions out of competition.

- The SEC has started a socialized project "Visualized lesson" to help students and abituriyents. The topics in the textbooks within the project are presented in audio form - in the form of a visualized lesson using video material, illustrations, photographs and various tools.

- In 2020, the SEC has implemented the admission campaign under the Cabinet of Ministers of the Republic of Azerbaijan, taking into account the recommendations of the Operational Headquarters to prevent the spread of coronavirus infection (COVID-19), only in compliance with all conditions set by the Operational Headquarters.

- Taking into account the complex epidemiological situation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the impact of measures to prevent its spread on the teaching process, the programs of final and entrance exam subjects have been revised and simplified together with the SEC and the Ministry of Education. Temporary rules have been applied to final and entrance exams.

- Psychological education and support services have been provided to abituriyents, their parents, as well as citizens within the framework of the "Individual Development Support" project of the State Examination Center. On the SEC’s Facebook and YouTube channels, as well as on the Project's "Positive Intelligence" page have been posted about the various topics – videos on COVID-19 pandemic, personal development, beliefs, habits, motivation of learning and its models, stress and its management and other issues, articles on the elimination of psychological stress during the quarantine regime. An educational video on the COVID-19 pandemic in 3 languages has been presented.

- Psychological services have been provided to exam participants through the Call Center at the SEC. Later, the e-psioloq.az portal has been launched. The page contains articles on various topics, interesting videos and psychological tests. The page contains articles on various topics, interesting videos and psychological tests.

- Taking into account the special quarantine regime, all final and entrance exams (Azerbaijan and russian section) for 9th and 11th-grade students, civil service and residency entrance exams posted on the otk.az portal have been made free of charge until July 2020 in order to support abituriyents and graduated students. 104,614 entries have been registered by 35,265 users on more than 40 types of free exams activated on the portal (some users signed up for several exams).

- In order to provide methodological assistance to abituriyents, video lectures (152 videos) on the topics of admission programs in all subjects have been prepared and posted on the YouTube channel of the SEC.

- A new e-service has been launched in order to cancel the application of the "Abituriyent's e-application" for admission to higher education institutions and vocational education institutions.

- Since 2020, foreign languages for admission to PhD, since 2021, foreign languages for Philosophiae doctor exams have started to be organized by the SEC.

- The "Online Queue" registration system has been launched to ensure the appeals of citizens.

- The "ProctorDIM" program, developed by the specialists of the SEC for conducting online exams, has been presented and a number of mock exams have been held.

- The rules of admission to the master's degree have been further simplified and the exam was held in one stage.

During these years, by the order of the Ministry of Education of the Republic of Azerbaijan, scientific-methodical monitoring and evaluation of 163 revised and improved textbook sets (textbooks and methodical aids for teachers) for secondary schools (together with Azerbaijani and Russian sectors) were conducted and final conclusions were prepared and sent to the Ministry.

The scientific-methodical and enlightenment work carried out by the SEC is presented to the public through various issues of the "Abituriyent" journal. The journal consists of official documents related to the admission of students to higher education institutions at various levels of education, necessary instructions and guidelines (recommendations) for applicants, candidates, and students, a detailed description of changes in the admission process, examination subjects programs, sample assignments, and methodological materials. Over the past 5 years, the editorial office of the "Abituriyent" journal has published 111 journals (59 issues and 52 special editions) in the Azerbaijani and Russian languages and its special editions namely “Special aptitude examinations”, “Master”, “Residency”, “Civil Service”. In 2016-2021, based on textbooks for grades 1-11, 126 “Assessment Tasks” booklets (in Azerbaijani and Russian), subject aids, “English Dictionary”, “Azerbaijani Spelling Dictionary” taking into account the learning outcomes of the relevant subject curricula were redesigned. For the first time, assessment booklets for primary grades (grades 1-4) were prepared in Azerbaijani and Russian. In addition, materials for those preparing for exams on the new curriculum, high school students and teachers (16 in Azerbaijani and Russian), test sets (24 in Azerbaijani and Russian), materials for those preparing for residency (Azerbaijani and Russian - 12), materials for those preparing for admission to the Master's degree (in Azerbaijani - 2 (Informatics and Logical Thinking)), for those interested in admission to the civil service "Civil service" - 2 (a set of instructions for those preparing for the civil service recruitment competition and test assignments for the Civil Service Admission - Test Examination Stage), materials on the results of scientific and statistical research in the Azerbaijani language - 77 ("Gender aspects of student enrollment" ("Women in Statistics"), "Agricultural specialties in statistics" and “Oil and gas specialties in statistics” and statistics by regions (74 separate booklets for each region) were published.

For those preparing for the exams and for use in the teaching process, online mock exams for each unit (8,800 tasks), each subject (28,535 tasks) of textbooks for grades 4-11 in 2019-2020, as well as for the final and admission exams, have been developed and posted on the otk.az portal in accordance with the assignment models used in residency, master's and civil service recruitment.

In Azerbaijan, as in the rest of the world, the efficiency of the state apparatus is ensured through the work of civil servants. The quality of services provided by the state to citizens, the implementation of national decisions on the ground directly depends on the level of professionalism of civil servants. The importance of the activities of civil servants for the state and society as a whole requires a high level of their professional abilities, moral and psychological qualities.

According to the Decree of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan No. 860 dated April 11, 2016, the selection of personnel for the civil service, control over compliance with the rules of ethical conduct by civil servants, maintenance of the register of civil servants and other related functions are included in the SEC’s responsibilities.

The main activities of the Center are to ensure the implementation of state policy in the field of civil service, to make proposals for improving the legislation on civil service, competitive selection of candidates for civil service, studying of the implementation of civil service legislation, monitoring compliance with ethical conduct in civil service, to take appropriate measures to increase professionalism, implementation of civil service education, creation and improvement of electronic systems for civil servants' Registry and Job management.

A centralized evaluation and multi-level selection system are applied in the process of recruiting citizens to the civil service and appointing civil servants to higher positions, with the aim of ensuring the selection of the most deserving civil servants and increasing the efficiency of state bodies.

In this regard, the creation of a healthy competitive environment in the selection process for civil service positions should be assessed in a broader context than its direct purpose. Thus, healthy competition and fair selection not only stimulate civil servants and civil service applicants to improve their professionalism, but also increases the interest in education among young people and adolescents, and allows promising young people to boldly make long-term career plans.

This system logically complements the centralized admission system applied at different levels of higher education and instills in society sustainable learning and healthy competitiveness as the main criteria for progress in life. This, in turn, will lead to a healthier attitude of citizens to education and career and, as a result, strengthen the human capital of our country.

During the 5 years of the Center's activity:

- 35 test exams and 75 mock exams for civil service were held. Out of 30959 candidates who took part in the test exams, 10794 people successfully passed and gained the right to receive a civil service certificate.

- 52 competitions for civil service recruitment, 31 general interview announcements were posted and 291 announced internal interviews were conducted. At the same time, the interview stage of the competition for 10,192 positions, the general interview for 1,262 positions, and the internal interview for 2,200 positions were announced.

- In order to prevent the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) in the country, to ensure the right of citizens to participate in public administration and to meet the staffing needs of public authorities during the announced special quarantine regime, as well as to minimize human contact in interviews starting from July 1, 2020, civil service interviews were conducted in an online format.

Although the SEC planned to conduct 41,346 interviews for civil service positions, 15,702 interviews were conducted, including 12,091 competition interviews, 1,815 general interviews and 1,796 internal interviews. 3568 interviews of them were conducted online.

3873 candidates who successfully passed the interview, including 1984 for the competition, 667 for the general interview and 1222 for the internal interview were appointed to vacant administrative positions in state bodies.

Training modules on various topics related to civil service were developed and trainings were organized. About 5,000 citizens took part in the trainings. At the same time, the SEC has developed 10 training modules and their programs.on human resource management for senior civil servants

The SEC has prepared relevant draft laws, decrees and resolutions to improve the civil service legislation. A total of 1 civil service code, 15 laws, 16 decrees, 11 decisions and 5 draft orders have been prepared. Most of these projects have been approved and others are being discussed.

After the establishment of the State Examination Center, its activities on the implementation of international cooperation and strategic development projects in the field of assessment have been expanded year by year.

During these years, the SEC has been registered as a testing center for various international exams. Since 2016 TOEFL, then PTE-Academic (English language exam) by Pearson VUE, also since 2020 GRE (Graduate Record Examinations), ACCA (Association of Chartered Certified Accountants), TRKI (Russian as a foreign language), ICDL (International Computer Driving License), Cambridge English Assessment (Cambridge English exams) exams have started. Also, in connection with the verification of the results of international examinations, the accounts of the SEC were created on various platforms. Between 2016 and 2021, a total of 2,125 people took part in the above-mentioned (including SAT) exams.

Undoubtedly, the most successful event in terms of learning and sharing international exam, assessment and decision-making experience was the 45th annual conference of the International Association for Educational Assessment, held in Baku from 22 to 27 September in 2019. 116 scientific articles were presented at the conference, which was attended by 271 local and 259 foreign experts from 43 countries.

The activity of the SEC in the field of assessment was also positively assessed by international research institutes. Thus, in 2020, the National Research University Higher School of Economics of Russia published a collective monograph "Admission to higher education institutions in post-Soviet countries: Examinations as a tool for solving state problems." The monograph gives information about admission exams to higher education institutions in 6 post-soviet countries (Azerbaijan, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kirgizstan, Russia, Tajikistan) through the prism of state responsibilities. The monograph discusses national assessment systems based on the experience of each country. There is a separate article dedicated to the activities of the SEC.

The SEC also pays special attention to the study and application of international best practices in the field of civil service, as well as the promotion of Azerbaijani experience in this field.

The SEC has been cooperating closely with the European Union since its establishment. This cooperation is implemented through the EU Delegation to Azerbaijan within the framework of Twinning, TAIEX and SIGMA tools and programs.

In 2016-2019, the SEC implemented a project "Support to further reforms in the civil service system in Azerbaijan" with Lithuanian partners (the State Secretariat of the Republic of Lithuania, the Civil Service Department of the Republic of Lithuania and the European Social Fund Agency) within the EU Twinning Tool.

Within the framework of the SIGMA program, a project entitled "Improving the activities of internal control agencies in state bodies" has been implemented since 2018. The main goal of the project is to develop management in state bodies and increase the efficiency and effectiveness of the structural units performing internal control functions.

Another project implemented within the framework of the cooperation is the "Competency Model Validation" project. The Ministry of Labor and Social Protection, the State Agency for Public Service and Social Innovations under the President, the Food Safety Agency and the Baku Court of Appeal have been selected as participant state bodies in the pilot project with the support of international experts since 2020. The main goal of the project is to identify significant behaviors for effective labor activity and validate required competencies to hold positions by the method of job analysis in the civil service

In 2020, the project "Support to e-recruitment in the civil service system of the Republic of Azerbaijan" presented by the SEC under the EU tool TAIEX was confirmed. The aim of the project, which will be implemented in 2021, is to contribute to the further improvement of e-recruitment in Azerbaijan by studying the best practices of EU member states.

The SEC also continued its cooperation with Astana Civil Service Hub. The purpose of the Regional Hub is to establish an institutional network for the continuous exchange of knowledge and experience in the field of civil service between the participating states.

All this is brief information about some areas of activities of the SEC. Newly created and interesting activities are touched upon here. More detailed information on the activities of the SEC can be found in the "Abituriyent" magazines and via http://dim.gov.az/.

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