Egypt's well-established and decades-old system of high school final exams, known as Thanaweya Amma, has been abolished as of the end of the 2019/2020 academic year, Egypt's Education Minister Tarek Shawki announced in a presser on Tuesday.
The high school final exams, which determine university prospects based on grades obtained, will be replaced by a new electronic module as of the upcoming 2020-2021 school year.
The exams will no longer be unified and will be taken and evaluated electronically, without any human intervention, Shawki said.
The exams will be based on multiple-choice questions and students will know their results once they are finished, he noted.
The ministry will issue four versions of the exam at the same difficulty level, with students allowed to retake any subject in a second-round without any grades deducted, which revives the improvement exam system that was in place until the 1990s.
"The improvement exams will return as we do not want the Thanawaya Amma exams to be a matter of life and death," he added.
Over the years, dozens of Thanaweya Amma students have taken their own lives during the course of the final exams, and after receiving undesired marks and under parental pressure to achieve.
"The diligent student will join the faculty he/she wants," Shawki said.
"The concept of equal opportunity does not mean that the exams must be standardised... the exams will be different but have the same level of difficulty," he pointed out.
"The new system will put an end to exam leaks and cheating," he stressed.
In the past few years, Thanaweya Amma exams have been repeatedly leaked and shared on Facebook and WhatsApp.
The minister assured that the science, mathematics, literature divisions of Thanaweya Amma will remain unchanged.
Limited school attendance
Egyptian schools are set to resume activities in September and October under a hybrid plan that will give students from kindergarten through high school the option of attending class in-person two or more days a week to reduce density at classrooms amid the coronavirus pandemic, according Shawki.
Shawki elaborated on the state's plan for the new school year, saying the ministry is issuing general instructions for all schools nationwide, but that it is up to each school's headmaster to announce a schedule for students.
Less than three months before the end of the 2019/2020 academic year, Egypt suspended in-person classes at schools and universities as part of sweeping anti-coronavirus measures, introducing a new research paper system as an alternative to written and oral exams for all grades, except for final year students, who sat for in-person exams in June and July.
According to the minister, the new school year 2020-2021 will start on 17 October at all Egyptian schools, with only international schools allowed to start earlier on 15 September.
"We were thinking about how [to solve the issue of] accommodating over 23 million pupils and over 1.3 million teachers, as well as administrative employees, amid the pandemic. The solution cannot be generalised over the country's schools, but rather each school will have its own solution," the minister said.
He added that the ministry will suggest that educational directorates allow pupils from kindergarten to third grade to attend face-to-face classes for four days at double-shift schools and only three days a week at single-shift schools.
Pupils from the fourth to the sixth grade can attend school from two to three days a week.
The ministry also will suggest allowing each preparatory and high school student to attend school at least two days a week.
The educational resources for students from the third primary grade to high school will vary from educational TV channels and online platforms established by the ministry, he added.
The minister said that all anti-coronavirus safety measures must be in place, including keeping a safe distance of 1.5 meters between students.
He said that morning line ups will not be suspended, but each school's headmaster will determine which students will stand in the queues.
Shawki stressed that the students should refer to their respective schools to know what they should do during at-home days.
Last month, the country's Supreme Council of Universities announced that the next university academic year will begin on Saturday 17 October, with the implementation of a “hybrid education” model aimed at reducing the density of students inside education halls.