Grade 12 exams, known as Thanaweya Amma, will be held electronically, but there will also be a printed question paper available for students in order to avoid sudden technical problems that might arise, such as power cuts or problems that could appear on the exam’s platform, Tarek Shawki, the minister of education, said in a press conference earlier this week.
Thanaweya Amma exams have been taking place in extraordinary conditions ever since Covid-19 hit the country early last year. This year’s Thanaweya Amma will kick off electronically on 10 July and will last until 2 August.
Questions will be in the form of multiple choice, Shawki said, stressing that the duration of each exam would be more than enough to answer all the questions. Answers will be corrected electronically in order to guarantee fair grading.
Meanwhile, Mahmoud Hassouna, spokesman for the Ministry of Education and Technical Education, pointed out that students will be allowed to take official ministry books to the exams but no other books or papers.
In addition to the computer tablet and the printed question booklet, students will be handed an additional paper called a bubble sheet that includes the number of the question and a number of circles corresponding to different answers. Students fill in the circle (bubble) for the answer they choose using a pencil.
“Students will both solve the questions on the bubble sheet and enter the answers on the tablet. The ministry took into consideration that time would be sufficient for students to do so. They are required to hand in these sheets at the end of the exams. The bubble sheets are scanned and used as an additional hard copy of the answers,” Hassouna said.
Any student has the right to have his or her exams postponed if they contract Covid-19 during the exams or immediately before they start, Reda Hegazi, deputy minister of education, told Al-Ahram Weekly.
“The ministry has already conducted two experimental exams and the third will be from 21-28 June. Accordingly, all students with tablets must first go to the schools in which they will take their exams to adjust their devices and connect them with the school’s server in order to avoid any problems on exam day,” Hegazi said.
Students are required to follow precautionary measures including wearing face masks, having their own sanitisers and maintaining social distancing. According to Hegazi, these measures will also be applied to exam supervisors and all school staff present at the exams or during the marking of the exam papers. “A central operation room will be set up at the ministry and education directorates nationwide to follow up on the flow of the exams,” Hegazi added.
Hana Ayman, a Thanaweya Amma student, said she believed that the electronic exams will prove difficult even though they are open book exams. “The only positive thing in the new system is that we do not need to memorise the subjects, but at the same time the exams of the old system are much better because students who memorise can be sure they wrote the right answers. We will not be sure,” Ayman said.
“I can lose many grades because I don’t fully digest all the details related to a scientific term, for example. I must fully understand the subjects with its minutest details and this is really very difficult as we are not used to these kinds of exams,” Ayman added.
Another Thanaweya Amma student, Iman Ahmed, said that during the two trials of Thanaweya Amma exams the teachers themselves were providing students with answers that were different from the ministry’s mark scheme booklets. “Each of us answered the questions according to the way we understood the question, and it was not always correct,” argued Ahmed.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 10 June, 2021 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly