Egypt's Education Minister Tarek Shawky said on Monday that paper exams at national high schools (Thanaweya Amma) will be replaced by electronic tests this year in an effort to improve the system and student evaluations, Al-Ahram Arabic news website reported.
The minister said that the tests will be administered similar to the English-language Toefl exams, adding that high schools will be sent the exams shortly before test dates to avoid leaks of exam questions.
Every year, nearly 600,000 Thanaweya Amma students must take highly competitive exams in a number of subjects at the end of their final year of high school. The grades determine what universities and faculties students may attend.
Education reform plans have long been announced by the education ministry, yet no real measures have been taken so far, especially for Thanaweya Amma.
Shawky said in a parliament meeting that education reform will involve a shift from the current system of focusing on memorisation to ensuring that students understand the curricula.
The minister said that students will be tested on computers and/or tablets, and their answers will be sent to two professionals for correction, where an average of the two grades to determine the final marks. All tests will be corrected anonymously.
The new system should also help prevent a repetition of exam question leaks that took place in previous years.
In 2016, Thanaweya Amma test questions were leaked online through a Facebook page called Chao Ming. After the leak, the education ministry decreed that students must sit in for new exams, which led to a number of student protests.
The minister also said that the new correction process will be fair, and that the grievance filing system will be abolished.
Every year, a high number of students file grievances, after paying a fee, if they feel their exams were graded unfairly. The students do not get to see how their tests were graded, but instead get a report about whether their exams were graded fairly, as well as a possible correction of the grade if needed.
Shawky said that Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi has ordered that all tablets used in exams are to be manufactured in Egypt in cooperation with ministries of military production and communication and information Technology.
Funding for education reform
On Saturday, the World Bank said it will be providing $500 million to Egypt for a five-year education reform plan.
In a presser late on Monday attended by Shawky, education ministry spokesperson Ahmed Khairy said that the ministry welcomes the World Bank decision and is looking forward to receiving the funds to begin implementing the reforms starting September 2018.
The deal with the World Bank will be signed on 20 April in Washington, says Shawky.
The World Bank said the investment will support increasing access to quality kindergarten education, improving the quality of learning and adopting technology as a vehicle to achieving the reform objectives.
The education reform programme is in line with Egypt’s “2030 Vision” sustainable development strategy, which puts a strong emphasis on the critical role of education sector reform in the country's social transformation.
Shawky said during the presser that the funds will not be under the control of the Egyptian ministry, but they will be sent as instalments for separate projects.
The education reform plan is estimated to cost a total of around $2 billion, of which the World Bank will provide $500 million and Egypt will bear the remaining costs, Shawky said.