CAIRO: On Tuesday morning, thanawiya amma students were either flocking to their schools or logging onto the internet to check their grades, hoping to put a happy ending to the saga of this year’s leaked and difficult exams, and stressed-out students committing suicide.
While checking the grades was a relief for some, it was a nightmare for others. One suicide was reported thus far, while state-run newspapers said this year features the “lowest thanawiya amma grades.
According to Al-Akhbar, 81.4 percent passed in year two and 69.6 percent passed in year one. Minister of Education Yousri Al-Gamal announced the students who made it to the top 10 list. This year featured 31 students in comparison to 51 last year.
According to Onkosh.com, a website which posted the grades, the average scores ranged from a minimum of 72 percent to a 100 percent. Out of this, 2.47 percent of the students got grades above 95 percent, 22.86 percent got between 85 and 95 percent, and 45.6 percent got below 73 percent.
Reports indicate that the majority of students got much lower grades than what their teachers and family predicted for them. One student in Minya governorate, Phillip Moussa Sayed Zaki ended his own life after scoring 53.4 percent, reported Al-Masry Al-Youm.
“The grades this year are much lower than any other year but at the same time they are higher than our predictions after we saw the exams, said Mohamed Haroun, economics and statistics high school teacher.
On a visit to a school on Tuesday, Daily News Egypt found the majority of students with a grim look on their faces. “All students’ grades went down with the exception of one student [at our school], said Osama Fathi, an Arabic teacher.
Hanaa Ashraf, who expected a 98 percent grade got 93 instead, “I got my grade before it was officially posted, I thought I had the lowest but then I found a lot of my friends and relatives getting in the 60s and 70s, she said.
Thanawiya amma exams are notorious for their difficulty, but this year the exams beat all expectations with questions that students have repeatedly described as “insolvable and outside the syllabus.
“The problem with the exams this year wasn’t their level of difficulty, it was the fact that students weren’t prepared for these types of questions. Everyone knows thanawiya amma is all about memorization and students memorize the syllabus by heart but they were tricked because all the exams this year required analysis and comprehensive thinking not memorization, said Haroun.
“I’m really happy with this quality and level of exams because it accurately tests the abilities of the student, he added. Although students criticized the difficulty of the exams, highlighting the fact that they are used to questions that require memorization and then found analytical questions, it may be what education in Egypt needs to improve. One student, Mohamed Ehab, who got 74 percent, told Daily News Egypt, “I remember absolutely nothing from the syllabi; if they repeated the exams for me I wouldn’t know how to answer a single question.
The grades of the ever controversial mathematical subjects, which include calculus, statistics and physics, were “poor, according to the teachers. The top student in the Sheraton Heliopolis Language School lost five points in calculus and three in physics so “it must have been a really difficult exam, said school principal Fatma El-Hout.
In addition, statistics, a subject where an easy grade is usually guaranteed, was also marked with unprecedented difficulty, drastically dropping the average score.
El-Hout explains that the number of students wanting to join the arts division has increased in comparison to those who choose to study sciences, due to the better grading opportunity the latter offers. “The main concern of any thanawiya amma student now is the grade they get not the knowledge they gain, she said.
“Thanawiya amma is no longer a certificate, it is a competition where the final score [in this case the grade] is everything, said Haroun.
Students and their parents aim for the highest grades possible in order to get into a good university, the definition of a “good university in Egypt being medicine or engineering.
“People want these schools because of the social perception it is associated with, being a doctor or an engineer automatically puts you in this high standard in society, however they are not considering the demands of the labor market right now, said El-Hout.
The ever-decreasing popularity of the faculty of agriculture is an example education experts often refer to. In a country that once took pride in the agriculture nature of its economy, the faculty of agriculture now accepts the lowest grades (50-60 percent of the final score) because high-scoring students don’t want to join – not even their less fortunate counterparts. On its part, the Ministry of Education has reportedly raised the requirements for the top universities in order to decrease the number of applicants. However, people are questioning the government’s motive behind this with the majority saying the state wants to push more students towards joining private universities.
The education market is rife with private institutions offering education, including in engineering and medicine, for lower requirements and higher tuition fees than their public counterparts. The tuition fees range from LE 60,000 a year to few thousands.
“Students like the idea of going to a university that is air conditioned, they have a Mc Donald’s on campus and have the option of taking the number of subjects they want every semester, explains El-Hout.
But with tuition fees ranging from LE 8,000 to LE 20,000 per semester, private universities are financially draining for the parents.
“Students think that if their parents can come up with the money for private tutoring then they sure can get enough for a private university, added El-Hout.
On the other hand, private universities have their positive side. “Private universities solved a lot of problems, especially for the exceptional students who tend to get overwhelmed during the exams period and don’t get the grades they deserve. But at the end of the day it all comes down to the financial abilities of the parents, said Fathi.
Mohamed Ehab and Ahmed Khaled are two students who aimed for engineering; however with grades of 73 and 74 percent respectively, private universities are their only option. “I’m going to go to a school of engineering no matter what, said Khaled. But for some students, a private university is not an option even if it is affordable. “A private university is not an option for me, public universities are much better and I won’t waste all this studying and the effort I exerted during the past two years on a private university, said Mohamed Osama Zaghloul, who wants to study engineering but now can only hope that “any faculty would accept him with a 90 percent score.