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Friday, 21 February 2020

Smooth mid-year as Egypt's high school students sit for electronic exams

Halfway through, computer-based exams are going smoothly

Reem Leila , Wednesday 15 Jan 2020
Egypt school students
The new education system is based on digital learning and removes curricula and test methods that depend mainly on memorising (Photo: Reuters)
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Final term exams for Grade 11 kicked off on 11 January and will last for 11 days. Around 590,000 such students are sitting for their electronic exams at 3,252 private and public schools all over the country.

Ninety per cent of those students have successfully taken their electronic exams after education directorates coordinated with the ministry’s concerned authorities to ensure proper functioning of computer tablets. Upon the ministry’s instructions, schools checked that tablets were working to avoid any technological mishap that might prevent a student from sitting for the final exams. 

According to Reda Hegazi, deputy to the minister of education, students of public and private schools and national institutes sat for their final term exams electronically. Around 140,000 students took their exams in hospitals and prison, in addition to home schooled students, according to the old system. Some 600 students sat for their written exams as their schools’ infrastructure was not ready.

The ministry’s monitoring chamber did not receive any complaints regarding the electronic exam process except for individual cheating incidents in which necessary legal measures were taken. It was reported after the Arabic exam that it was leaked. Minister of Education and Technical Education Tarek Shawki was reportedly frustrated with the news. “The ministry’s officials are exerting their utmost efforts to prevent leakage and cheating, yet the human factor remains a great challenge.” Society as a whole must play a big role in reforming the education system by refusing such practices, Shawki said at a press conference held after the Arabic exam.

Hoda Al-Masri, a Grade 11 student, said she faced difficulties when logging onto the server while taking her Arabic exam. “It took me more than 30 minutes to log on to the server and the supervisor refused to make up for this wasted time. I wish I could sit for the exam according to the old system,” Al-Masri argued.

Meanwhile, Mahmoud Hassouna, spokesman for the Ministry of Education, told Al-Ahram Weekly that when any student finds difficulty in logging onto the exam’s server he or she must inform the school’s headmaster who would in turn report the incident which would be taken into consideration while grading. In order to avoid technical problems, students must log on to the exam’s platform before the beginning of the exam by at least a few minutes. “Students must make sure that the tablet is updated and charged with its original charger in order to avoid any technical interruptions during the exam,” Hassouna said.

Regarding another leakage, that of the English exam on Monday, Hassouna said that the concerned officials at the ministry are currently investigating the incident and are checking whether the leaked exam was the same exam which students took on 13 January. “According to the results of the investigation the ministry will take the appropriate measures,” confirmed Hassouna.

Ahmed Hossam, another Grade 11 student who sat for his English exam, did not find any difficulty with the electronic system but was upset after knowing that the exam had been leaked. “I heard that the exam was leaked — I’m not sure about that — but if it’s true, it would be very frustrating. Sitting for the exams according to the new system is already a challenge. There is no need to add more problems to it,” Hossam said.

The Ministry of Education, according to Hassouna, is to deliver new tablets for Grade 11 students who lost their tablets after submitting the administrative papers required by the ministry. “Those who won’t submit these papers will sit for the exams on one of the available tablets in the student’s school,” Hassouna explained.

The new education system is based on digital learning and removes curricula and test methods that depend mainly on memorising. The new system aims at expanding the use of foreign languages and technology, and developing a GPA system not fully weighted on final exams.

*A version of this article appears in print in the 16 January, 2020 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly under the title: Smooth mid-year

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