The Ministry of Education is taking measures to ensure grade 10 final exams, scheduled between 19 and 30 May, run smoothly.
This year’s grade 10 students have studied a revamped curriculum that places a greater stress on understanding rather than memorising and includes an electronic exam system which depends on tablets and the internet. Attempts earlier in the year to have students take their exams using their tablets were plagued with glitches.
Minister of Education Tarek Shawki announced in a press conference that the ministry has back-up plans should any technical problems appear during the exams though he gave no further details.
Shawki says education directorates will be obliged to coordinate with the ministry to ensure the examination process functions properly. “Schools must check their students’ tablets are performing well so as to avoid any technological obstacles that might hinder pupils from sitting final exams,” he said.
Reda Hegazi, head of the General Education Sector at the Ministry of Education, stresses that exams will be tailored to measure the outputs of education rather than the memorisation of materials the students are studying.
“Students from public and private schools will sit for their final exams electronically. Public school students will be tested during the morning period which starts at 9am, while students of non-governmental schools will sit exams during the afternoon, starting at 1pm,” said Hegazi.
Students in hospital or juvenile detention will sit exams according to the old system.
The 600,000 grade 10 students distributed among 2,500 schools will all be using tablets for their finals this year. Schools have been provided with high-speed Internet networks and every school has its own server should anything go wrong with the Internet.
Students will have the opportunity to access the Egyptian Knowledge Bank, a portal through which students, researchers and teachers have access to educational and scientific publications via their tablets.
Sitting exams via tablets is part of the overhauled education system which came into force this year for kindergarten, grade one and grade 10 students.
It will be rolled out gradually until it covers all primary, preparatory and secondary education. During the next academic year the new system will be applied in grade 11. It will reach preparatory stage pupils only after it has been rolled out to cover all secondary students.
Hegazi underlined the need to arrive on time since students will be disconnected from the Internet after a set period in order to prevent cheating.
Each school is required to prepare lists of students in every class and cross reference the serial number of their tablets with that of the student’s IDs.
Ministry of Education Spokesperson Amina Khairy says the ministry has distributed SIM cards charged with LE25 worth of Internet access among grade 10 students to be inserted in their tablets and used during the exams.
“The SIM cards will enable students to avoid the Internet cutting problem which occurred last March during a test exam. The SIM cards will also solve problems at schools which are not yet properly equipped,” said Khairy.
Officials responsible for technological development will be present on school premises during exams to help any student facing problems with the system.
“Students will need a 50 per cent final grade to pass the exams and students who fail any subject will be given a chance to re-sit the exam,” said Shawki.
Walaa Al-Sayed, mother of a grade 10 student, is worried from the new system.
“Everything is vague. Neither parents nor children understand anything of the new system. I don’t know what will happen. As parents we pray for our children, and pray that we will understand what is going on as well,” said Al-Sayed.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 9 May, 2019 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly under the headline: Examined with tablets