Mention Thanaweya Amma exams and both students and parents shudder. The exams, a series of standardised tests leading to the General Secondary Education Certificate for secondary schools, often determine a student’s future as the grades largely define which university faculty a student will join.
As such, the Thanaweya Amma is considered a nightmare for parents and students alike. This year, amidst fears of the coronavirus, the concern over the exams further increased, especially with students having to take classes online and sitting for exams while worried about infection from the virus.
But the year is over and Minister of Education and Technical Education Tarek Shawki announced on 4 August in a video conference the final results.
Around 75 per cent of some 650,000 students passed the exams. Thirty-nine students scored full marks.
Hassan Shehata, an educational expert and professor of curricula at Ain Shams University, said the method of evaluating students this year was the reason for the high grades. “I believe that while correcting students’ answers, teachers took into account the special circumstances of the exams. This means this year’s grades do not reflect the students’ actual level,” he said.
The exams took place on 21 June and ended on 19 July despite prior calls by many parents and students to either postpone the exams due to the spread of Covid-19, take the exams online or submit research projects instead, similar to the system adopted in other academic years.
Students who want to apply for public universities can start on 22 August. Applying for private universities began immediately after the final grades were announced. On 20 August, students will sit for admission exams of governmental faculties.
It is expected that admission grades for universities this year will remain the same as last year, if not higher, due to the increase in the number of students who scored more than 95 per cent, Shehata said.
“The minimum score for the Thanaweya Amma science section is expected to be not less than 97.1 per cent, mathematics 94 per cent and arts 80 per cent,” he added.
According to Shehata, this year is the last year in which students will sit for their Thanaweya Amma exams via the booklet system introduced in January 2017. The system was developed to put an end to cheating and exam leakage by merging the question and answer sheets together in the booklet. “The booklet system depends on short, clear questions that are proportionate to the time of the exam. Students were well-versed on that system, therefore the final scores were high,” Shehata said.
Starting the next academic year, according to Shehata, a new system will be introduced which depends mainly on the computer tablet. The tablet system which came out two years ago for grade 10 students, is based on digital learning in order to end testing based on memory. Students have been trained to use their tablets to log onto educational websites, among them the Bank of Knowledge, York Press and Encyclopaedia Britannica. Tests were sent to students’ tablets where they were answered and marked electronically.
Under the new system students are required to complete 12 exams in each subject during their three secondary school years. The highest six grades will be used to calculate a student’s final grade. “The system has been applied gradually,” Shehata noted.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 13 August, 2020 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly