Basel to change its Matura programme because of ChatGPT

Basel to change its Matura programme because of ChatGPT

With stories about ChatGPT continuing to dominate the headlines, it was perhaps only a matter of time before its impact was felt in the classroom: officials in Basel have confirmed that it will change its exam system in schools to counter the effects of ChatGPT and other chatbots.

ChatGPT forces reform in Basel school system

Speaking to the Baseler Zeitung, Judith Hindermann, head of secondary education in Basel, confirmed that the city was going to change the format of the Matura - the Swiss equivalent of A-levels, SATs and the IB diploma - because of ChatGPT.  The new rules will come into force on August 12, 2024, meaning they will apply to exams in the 2025 / 26 school year.

Under the new rules, oral examinations will account for half of Matura grades rather than a third. These oral exams will be expanded to include a Q&A-esque section with the examiner, to make sure that students “have dealt with the material in depth”, Hindermann explained. 

Basel teachers given tools to root out AI-generated papers

When it comes to written work, students will be more closely supervised by teachers during the writing process. Submitted papers will also come with a new student declaration, certifying that all the written work has been attributed correctly.

Teachers will be given more tools, such as Copy Stop, to help detect work that was created by AI. However, Hindermann noted that the best measures against ChatGPT come from staff: "Teachers know their students and their limits. AI writes better than 90 percent of the population. If students suddenly produce much nicer sentences, teachers should pay attention.”

Students in Switzerland already submitting AI papers for Matura

In explaining the move, Hindermann said that they wanted to “prevent someone from doing nothing for six months and then using AI to write a paper at the push of a button.” The Basler Zeitung added that there have already been cases of Matura students using AI to write official papers.

However, the head of secondary schools was quick to assure that the new rules do not amount to putting their head in the sand and denying the impact ChatGPT has on the modern world. Instead, the rules will state that while it cannot be used to write whole essays, chatbots can be used as a source if properly cited. “Such AI tools are used in everyday life. And we want to stay as close to reality as possible in Basel,” Hindermann explained.

Oral exams put introverted students at a disadvantage argue teachers

The Baseler Zeitung noted that the changes have not gone down well with some teachers, who told the newspaper that the new rules put shyer and more introverted students at a disadvantage by making the oral exam more important. They added that the new prominence of oral exams also means that Matura exam grades will become more subjective.

Jan de Boer


Jan de Boer

Editor for Switzerland at IamExpat Media. Jan studied History at the University of York and Broadcast Journalism at the University of Sheffield. Though born in York, Jan has lived most...

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