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‘Russ’ keen to move up exams

Norway’s non-socialist political parties want to move up the date of high school students’ final year exams to before the Constitution Day holiday on the 17th of May. They think it makes much more sense for the graduating students called ‘russ‘ to celebrate and party after their exams, instead of before them.

Partying high school students known as "russ" in Norway have renewed hope for getting their final exams out of the way before graduation celebrations can begin. PHOTO: Elizabeth Lindsay
Graduating high school students known as “russ” in Norway have renewed hope for getting their final exams out of the way before graduation celebrations can begin. PHOTO: Elizabeth Lindsay

The suggestion to move the final exams to a date before May 17th came from the leader of the Norwegian Young Conservatives (Unge Høyre), Paul Joakim Sandøy, at the Conservative Party’s three-day national meeting over the weekend. It received majority support from his party, and could soon become reality if the Conservatives (Høyre) win this September’s general election.

Two of Høyre’s potential coalition partners, the Progress Party (Fremskrittspartiet, Frp) and the Christian Democrats (Kristelig Folkeparti, KrF), also support moving up at least the written final exams as do many high school students. They want to get the toughest exams out of the way before celebrating the end of 13 years of school.

The final year celebrations currently take place from late April until May 17, a time Norwegians traditionally call “russetiden.” It’s a long period of partying when very little actual school work is done, and classroom attendance is low. Russetiden is a lot of fun for many, but it’s also associated with heavy drinking, partying and some incidents of violence every year. It can also be an anxious time for many students, because they still need to be studying for final exams that loom when the party period is over.

The Labour Party (Arbeiderpartiet) made the decision several years ago to move final exams until after May 17th, with “russetiden” before that date. They hoped that students would party less when they still had exams ahead of them, and they also wanted them to have a longer school year.

Many “russ” students, however, are not in good shape when they actually come to sit for their final exams, and there is a sharp rise in the use of antibiotics among students during the party season. Among final year students interviewed at Oslo’s high school for business students (Handelsgymnasium), many support moving up the exams. “I have heard so many stories about how russetiden ruins the exams,” 18-year-old Maria A. Solstad told Aftenposten. “At the end of the day it’s about our exam marks.” Fellow student Sofie Overrein doesn’t believe the current system has any dampening effect on the partying.

AUF open to change
Eskil Pedersen, head of Labour’s youth organization AUF, told Aftenposten that while AUF is open to moving both russetiden and the exam dates, the organization hasn’t yet reached any conclusions.  “We believe it’s important to listen to pupils’ and teachers’ organizations and let them find good solutions. It’s also important for us that the school year does not become shorter, and that students have the same amount of time to get through the curriculum.” Under the current system, all students have the right to a set number of teaching hours per school year.

The current government held a hearing on the issue but postponed making any decisions. While Høyre, Frp and KrF all want to move the exams until before the 17th May, they propose conducting oral exams, which are less comprehensive, some time in June. The school year would not be shorter, they argue, and the students would have the same number of teaching hours as they do now.

Among the non-socialist parties, only the Liberal Party (Venstre) is skeptical about the move. Party leader Trine Skei Grande told Aftenposten that she didn’t see why partying should dictate what happens at school.

Views and News from Norway/Elizabeth Lindsay

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