Wednesday,18 July, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1158, (25 - 31 July 2013)
Wednesday,18 July, 2018
Issue 1158, (25 - 31 July 2013)

Ahram Weekly

Testing times

The thanaweya amma is an annual rite of passage for students. As usual, reports Reem Leila, the exam season has been dogged by reports of cheating and complaints that questions were too hard

Al-Ahram Weekly

The thanaweya amma (secondary school certificate) year has always been a tough one for pupils whose choice of university and faculty depends on the results. This year exams were held on 8 June with 422,000 students taking part. There were 1,426 examination centres across the country and more than 900 rest houses were set up by the Ministry of Education for exam supervisors at a cost of LE12 million. That the exams were too difficult is a perennial complaint of both pupils and their parents. The Education Ministry insists the exams were set according to the abilities of average students. Of those being tested more than 97,000 secured a place among the top tranche of students — scoring the requisite 96.6 per cent for the science section or 94.1 per cent for arts sections — thus qualifying to begin their university applications on 21 July. They will be followed by those placed in the second, then third, tranches.

The Defence Ministry helped secure the thanaweya amma exams this year, securing the delivery of test papers and providing security for schools, says Reda Mosaad, the head of the ministry’s General Education Department, dismissed last week by ministerial decree but who will remain in his post until the end of July.

“The Armed Forces agreed to transport exam papers on military planes to areas in Upper Egypt — including Minya, Assiut, Al-Wadi Al-Gadid, Sohag, Luxor and Aswan — and to border governorates,” said Mosaad.

Students can make computer applications for university places at centres set up on campuses each of which has a minimum of 300 computers set aside for the use of applicants. Cairo University has three centres, Ain Shams eight, Helwan two, Alexandria six and Assiut University three.

“Until now 75,000 students have applied to different universities,” says Mohieddin Mubarak, an employee at Tanseek, the central clearing office for university applicants.

Rumours that the thanaweya amma English exam had been circulated by some pupils from Daqahliya governorate on Facebook, Twitter and other instant messaging applications — students reportedly sent photos of the paper to teachers who in turn forwarded them the answers — were denied by the Ministry of Education only to be later confirmed. It was not the only example of malpractice. There were reports of completed Arabic language papers — Arabic language was scheduled for the first day of tests —being circulated among those sitting the exam.

Mosaad denies answers were leaked. The problem, he says, involved small numbers of students who finished the exam early then shared the answers via Facebook and Twitter. “Those responsible have been identified and will be banned from taking exams for two years,” he said.

It would not, however, be the first time answers had been given to pupils. Three years ago a students in Minya had to re-sit their exams after it was discovered that papers had been leaked in advance of the tests. One teacher was suspended as a result of the scandal.

The ministry has initiated a hotline — 19468 — for students’ complaints and to answer any queries.

Though it has long been acknowledged that the education system, and the thanaweya amma in particular, needs radical overhaul, successive governments have failed to undertake the necessary reforms.

In response to perennial complaints about the curriculum and the difficulty of exams, the Ministry of Education issued a press release in which it said the examinations committee had determined an average student could answer 75 per cent of the questions and above average students 90 per cent.

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