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Sunday, June 16, 2024

Syrian baccalaureate exam: Another Assad form of torture

An after-exam scene; Credit: Al-Watan

The higher education system in Syria revolves around the aggregate marks obtained in the Baccalaureate exam, especially in scientific disciplines, which are subject to a competitive selection system when applying to scientific colleges. When asked about the Baccalaureate exam, many Syrians recall it as one of the worst experiences of their education process. But last Sunday, June 2, Syrian students are believed to have faced the worst exam the country has ever seen.

The indescribable frustration experienced by many students during the Math exam manifested itself in various ways. Some fainted, others screamed, and some cried and wailed. Social media was flooded with comments discussing the issue, with many harshly criticizing the exam’s difficulty and the impossibility of solving the questions, according to some opinions.

One student emphasized she had never seen such difficult questions, saying “I’ve never seen questions like this in my life.” 

Al-Watan, a privately owned regime-affiliated newspaper, surveyed the opinions of some female students who took the exam and bitterly described their experiences. One student emphasized she had never seen such difficult questions, saying “I’ve never seen questions like this in my life.” 

Another student stated that she was convinced that the examiners intentionally ensured that no one would pass the subject. A third student indicated that she believed the purpose was to prevent any student from reaching medical school, mentioning that she had spent so much time studying that she had only gotten an hour and a half of sleep.

One student, with tears streaming down her face, mentioned that one of the problems was worth 50 marks, criticizing the new mark distribution system that makes passing seem like a dream. One mother added, “Is there a war between us and them?” implying that the questions were designed to be impossibly difficult.

Syrian authorities announced last week, before the start of the Basic and Baccalaureate exams, that they would cut off the internet and mobile communications to prevent any cheating or smuggling of weapons.

Syrian Math teacher Riyadh commented on the “Mathematics in Syria” Facebook page, placing all the blame on Syrian students:

“Up until now, a large number of our students do not know how to study this subject. It relies on solving problems, understanding the question well, solving it, and linking it to concepts learned in previous years and this year. It is a cumulative subject that depends on previous years, and our students neglect those years. I have many students who are unaware of how to solve first and second-degree equations, which they learn in the baccalaureate. So how can they understand a curriculum that depends on those concepts? Neither private tutors nor schools can help if the students do not help themselves in this regard. In this case, the students blame the questions for being difficult.”

Many students complained about the difficulty of the exam questions in both the literary and scientific sections, describing them as “impossible, unexpected, and unfamiliar.”

Typically, the Baccalaureate is a scientific certificate that varies by country and refers to the high school diploma, enabling students to enter universities. In Syria, however, it is considered the “test of a lifetime” due to the difficulty of its challenging exams.

On Sunday, Syrian regime officials from the Ministry of Education dismissed objections to the difficulty of the mathematics and geography exams for Syria’s High School Baccalaureate exams. Many students complained about the difficulty of the exam questions in both the literary and scientific sections, describing them as “impossible, unexpected, and unfamiliar.”

Educational mentor Iman Z., a Math specialist, told SYRIAWISE that the questions were “unfamiliar compared to those in past exams, and the first problem contained a scientific error in the intersection point of the three planes, which greatly confused the students.”

The Chief Math Examiner in the regime’s Ministry of Education stated that the Math questions were clear, precise, and aligned with the educational indicators of the curricula, covering all aspects and skills of the prescribed textbook. He noted that they were designed to cover all levels. Similarly, the Chief Geography Examiner for the literary branch of the Baccalaureate stated that the questions were clear, comprehensive of the entire curriculum, and suitable for students of all levels, considering good, average, and excellent students, according to statements reported by the pro-regime Dama Post website.

Educational advisor Wael D. shared his opinion with SYRIAWISE saying that the initial questions were “significantly more difficult than the subsequent ones, which is unacceptable for comprehensive ministry exams. Some questions had four parts, while others had only one, which greatly affects the students’ scores,” adding that “Our children are not experimental subjects, and the education officials must investigate what happened last Sunday in the Math exam for Syrian students.”

A number of high school students in Syria broke down in tears due to the difficulty of the exam questions in both the literary and scientific sections. The students expressed their frustration, pointing out that the mathematics and geography questions were impossible, unexpected, and unfamiliar.

The regime-affiliated newspaper, Al-Wahda, reported that many high school students left the Math exam last Sunday in a state of collapse and tears. The newspaper added, “It seems that the Ministry of Education measures its success by the level of student breakdowns; the harder the questions, the more responsible and successful the ministry appears.”

558,865 students in all branches of the general secondary certificate began taking their exams, while the basic education certificate exams will start on Monday morning

The newspaper also noted that the difficulty of the exams was a “clear and direct message to those who demanded the return of the supplementary exams, making them pay multiples in effort, hardship, and tears.”

The regime’s Minister of Education warned against students resorting to cheating methods in the basic and high school certificate exams that started last Sunday. He pointed out that the penalties for cheating could result in imprisonment for the father, mother, and doctors if they are found to have participated in cheating cases.

Starting from Sunday morning, 558,865 students in all branches of the general secondary certificate began taking their exams, while the basic education certificate exams will start on Monday morning, according to Al-Watan newspaper.

Student Ibtisam J. spoke to SYRIAWISE saying “All of the questions were mandatory, and the optional question that was present in previous years’ exam models was removed. There was also an error in question five.”

Student Nada B. shared with SYRIAWISE that the Baccalaureate was a turning point in her life: “I hope for a re-examination as my future is now in ruins.”

1 COMMENT

  1. The purpose of education is to provide students with the tools that they need to be successful in life. It appears that Syria ministry of education is deliberately setting their students up for failure.

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