The new state maturitais designed to be more comparable, prestigious and objective. Itis also expected to become more pertinent for higher education institutions and employers.

Attempts to reform the maturita examination (examination that completes the ISCED 3A, or ISCED 4A, general and vocational programmes) and implement what is known as the ‘state maturita’ in the Czech Republic have a long history. The first changes were introduced by the New Education Act in 2004. Owing to the lengthy debates that took place, the implementation of the new state maturita was postponed to 2011. This delay was criticised but it allowed the country to learn from the mistakes of other former Eastern Bloc countries. There was a lively nation-wide discussion about the state maturita - its quality, necessity and relevance.

The new maturita examination consists of common general part and a vocational part, and it is possible to select the level of difficulty. School leavers from ‘gymnasium’ schools sitonly the common part, while leavers from all other types of secondary school take both the common and vocational parts. The Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports is responsible for the centrally prepared, standardised common part, while the vocational part is set, implemented and evaluated by individual schools. In October 2010, pilot testing took place to practise the organisation of written exams and to test the logistics, organisation and reliability of the technological infrastructure for the new maturita. Feedback from schools helped to detect and eliminate technical problems. The regular state maturita was launched in early May 2011 in 1264 schools in the Czech Republic. Almost 100 000 students enrolled for the exam and about 20 % of them failed.

The module tested in 2011 allows students to take two compulsory exams in the common, standardised part. The first compulsory exam is in Czech language and literature and in the second students can choose between mathematics and a foreign language. In addition to the compulsory exams, students can take maximum three non-compulsory exams. The module described here will also be valid for 2012, while changes approved by the government in October 2011 will first be implemented in 2013 when three exams in the common part will be compulsory.

The vocational part of the maturita exam consists of two or threecompulsory exams and a maximum of two non-compulsory exams. The content of the vocational part is specific to each school and is set by its Directoron the basis of national and school curricula.

The range of knowledge and skills that can be tested in the standardised part is set out for all study programmes in so-called catalogues of requirements. The catalogues are published by the Ministry at least two years in advance of the examination date.

The state maturita remains controversial and the subject of ongoing public debate. The 2011 exam was monitored by the Czech Schools Inspectorate and lists of the most successful schools were published. Remarks by teachers were analysed to ensure that in 2011/2012 the organisation of the exam will be easier, less bureaucratic, less stressful and smoother. This exam will become a basis for the system of evaluation and quality assurance in the future.