New sec­ondary school sys­tem to be com­put­erised, im­ple­men­ta­tion re­mains un­clear

The Daily News Egypt - - FRONT PAGE - By Sarah El-Sheikh

THE MIN­ISTRY OF ED­U­CA­TION PLANS TO PRO­VIDE ALL SEC­ONDARY SCHOOL STU­DENTS AND TEACH­ERS WITH TABLETS

For years, “thanaweya amma” (sec­ondary school) has been a night­mare for Egyp­tian stu­dents, stir­ring among them fears and doubts of not reach­ing their goals, as in many cases, the fi­nal to­tal of their grades was the main rea­son that hin­dered some stu­dents from en­ter­ing the fac­ulty of their dreams. Par­ents spend large amounts of money on pri­vate tu­tor­ing, as well as school tu­ition fees. Stu­dents de­pend on pri­vate lessons more than school classes dur­ing the thanaweya amma stage to learn the sub­jects they will be tested on.

Thanaweya amma is Egypt’s sec­ondary school cer­tifi­cate, re­quired to ap­ply to uni­ver­si­ties and higher ed­u­ca­tion in­sti­tutes.The sys­tem in Egypt is very com­pli­cated, as stu­dents are re­quired to study a num­ber of sub­jects, in which grades of each sub­ject are com­bined to come up with the to­tal that will de­ter­mine which fac­ulty he or she can ap­ply for.

“Through­out the year,I spend too much money on pri­vate classes,I do all my best to of­fer a good at­mos­phere of study­ing for my daugh­ter. Still,I can­not guar­an­tee that she will re­ally suc­ceed with high grades, to en­rol in her dream univer­sity in the spe­cial­i­sa­tion she wishes to study and work in, no mat­ter how hard she stud­ies, as al­ways, fi­nal ex­ams of thanaweya amma are an ob­sta­cle,” said Amal Tha­bet, a mother of a thanaweya amma stu­dent com­plet­ing the science spe­cial­i­sa­tion.

Stu­dents of­ten dream of top notch fac­ul­ties that al­ways re­quire the high­est grades. In Egypt, thou­sands of youth have not been able to study in their most de­sired fac­ul­ties be­cause they failed to reach cer­tain grades to study in one of the coun­try’s three prom­i­nent uni­ver­si­ties, Cairo, Hel­wan, and Ain Shams. In some cases, par­ents send their sons to pri­vate uni­ver­si­ties where they can study their dream spe­cial­i­sa­tion, but in the trade-off is large sums of money.

Stu­dents never get the chance to see how their tests were graded, but in­stead, get a re­port about whether their ex­ams were graded fairly, as well as the op­tion to re­ceive a re­grad­ing.

Ed­u­ca­tional ex­perts have al­ways crit­i­cised the syl­labi of the sub­jects of thanaweya amma, as­sert­ing that they are not of in­ter­est to stu­dents and that they are not well-trained to study such sub­jects. In ad­di­tion to that, they fur­ther com­plained of the dif­fi­culty of ex­ams that al­ways in­clude tricks not suit­able for the learn­ing lev­els of stu­dents.

The sec­ondary level is three years long. Dur­ing the first year, stu­dents study sub­jects of both spe­cial­i­sa­tions avail­able in the sys­tem. For the last two years, stu­dents study only the sub­jects of the spe­cial­i­sa­tion they choose. In the Egyp­tian thanaweya amma, stu­dents will choose ei­ther the sci­en­tific or lit­er­ary route, to the con­trary of other coun­tries, where there are other spe­cial­i­sa­tions, such as nurs­ing, information sys­tems.and in­dus­trial as well as hu­man and so­cial stud­ies.

Re­cently, the Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion changed the sys­tem to cal­cu­late the fi­nal grade based on the fi­nal year, though stu­dents must now study ex­tra sub­jects.The new sys­tem was in­tro­duced af­ter decades of com­bin­ing the last two years as the fi­nal grade.

In 2017, Egypt’s Ed­u­ca­tion Minister Tarek Shawky an­nounced that a new sys­tem will re­place the tra­di­tional thanaweya amma sys­tem in the aca­demic year 2018-19.The new sys­tem will can­cel the scor­ing sys­tem of cal­cu­lat­ing to­tal grades to switch to a grade point av­er­age (GPA).

The GPA sys­tem will eval­u­ate stu­dents based on per­for­mance of course­work and elec­tron­i­cally graded mul­ti­ple-choice ex­ams, while the cur­rent sys­tem eval­u­ates only stu­dents’ an­swers on fi­nal ex­am­i­na­tions. The up­com­ing thanaweya amma sys­tem will grade stu­dents based on the three years of study in that ed­u­ca­tional stage, in­stead of the fi­nal year in the cur­rent sys­tem.

The new sys­tem is sched­uled to be im­ple­mented at the be­gin­ning of the new aca­demic year, next Septem­ber, to all stu­dents, ex­cept those at in­ter­na­tional schools. Stu­dents will have 12 ex­ams in each sub­ject through­out a year of study, of which the scores of the high­est six ex­ams in each sub­ject will be taken into ac­count.

The minister said that stu­dents will take the elec­tronic tests in­stead

THE MEM­BERS OF THE COM­MIT­TEE HAVE DIF­FER­ENT CON­CERNS RE­GARD­ING THE NEW SYS­TEM

of pa­per ones to im­prove the sys­tem and stu­dent eval­u­a­tion. Ex­ams will not be uni­fied for all stu­dents, though de­tails are not yet clear how they will dif­fer. He also said that the tests will be ad­min­is­tered sim­i­larly to the English pro­fi­ciency Test of English as a Foreign Lan­guage (TOEFL) ex­ams, adding that sec­ondary schools will be sent the ex­am­i­na­tions shortly be­fore test dates to avoid leaks of exam ques­tions.The past few years wit­nessed leaks of thanaweya amma fi­nal ex­ams through pages on so­cial me­dia, which forced the min­istry, on sev­eral oc­ca­sions, to change the ex­ams.

The Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion plans to pro­vide all sec­ondary school stu­dents and teach­ers with tablets. All of those will be free of charge, and high-speed wifi ser­vices will be pro­vided in schools. Stu­dents will have books, in ad­di­tion to the tablets as ad­di­tional ref­er­ences.

Par­lia­men­tar­i­ans have ex­pressed con­cerns re­gard­ing the new sys­tem pro­posed by the minister. Colum­nist Ashraf El-Bar­bary said in an oped in pri­vately-owned Al-Shorouk news­pa­per that still the minister needs to present a clear strat­egy as to how the new sys­tem will be im­ple­mented in pub­lic schools, par­tic­u­larly in re­mote, ru­ral ar­eas that lack ba­sic fa­cil­i­ties and ser­vices.

Mem­ber of par­lia­ment’s com­mit­tee for ed­u­ca­tion and sci­en­tific re­search Mostafa Ka­mal said that the new sys­tem has many “neg­a­tives,” adding that par­lia­ment will hold com­mu­nity di­a­logue ses­sions on the new sys­tem. Ka­mal sug­gested that to change the sys­tem, it is nec­es­sary to amend the coun­try’s law on sec­ondary ed­u­ca­tion and to dis­cuss pro­posed ar­ti­cles. He said the changes will likely be chal­lenged in par­lia­ment, and then ap­proved, which will take long time.

The mem­bers of the com­mit­tee have dif­fer­ent con­cerns re­gard­ing the new sys­tem. Par­lia­ment is still wait­ing for the Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion to send it the plan to hold discussions and com­mu­nity di­a­logues with ed­u­ca­tional ex­perts.

Ga­mal Sheha, head of the com­mit­tee, as­serted that the sec­ondary school sys­tem will only change by amend­ing the law, and that he is not sup­port­ing the sys­tem, but is still wait­ing to hear discussions of ex­perts and the minister, as he feels that the new sys­tem “may turn thanaweya amma into a trade and increase pri­vate lessons.”

Egypt will sign a deal with the World Bank for $500m to fund the government’s plan for the sys­tem, to sup­port in­creas­ing ac­cess to qual­ity kin­der­garten ed­u­ca­tion, im­prove the qual­ity of learn­ing, and adopt tech­nol­ogy as a ve­hi­cle to achieve re­form ob­jec­tives. Egyp­tian Pres­i­dent Ab­del-Fat­tah El-Sisi or­dered all tablets used in ex­ams to be man­u­fac­tured in Egypt, in co­op­er­a­tion with the Min­istries of Mil­i­tary Pro­duc­tion and Com­mu­ni­ca­tion and Information Tech­nol­ogy.

PAR­LIA­MENT IS STILL WAIT­ING FOR THE MIN­ISTRY OF ED­U­CA­TION TO SEND IT THE PLAN TO HOLD DISCUSSIONS AND COM­MU­NITY DI­A­LOGUES WITH ED­U­CA­TIONAL EX­PERTS

THE PAST FEW YEARS WIT­NESSED LEAKS OF THANAWEYA AMMA FI­NAL EX­AMS THROUGH PAGES ON SO­CIAL ME­DIA, WHICH FORCED THE MIN­ISTRY, ON SEV­ERAL OC­CA­SIONS, TO CHANGE THE EX­AMS

Thanaweya amma stu­dents sit­ting a fi­nal exam

Minister of Educ­tion Tarek Shawky

Head of par­lia­ment’s ed­u­ca­tion com­mit­tee Ga­mal Sheha

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