Examination Time in Yemen

Yemen Update 35 (1994):15-16,21

[The following article is taken from Yemen Times (Vol. IV, No. 25, June 27-July 3, 1994]

These days, some 268, 827 students are taking important exams at the end of one phase or another during their education. The total number of students taking the exams of the preparatory level is 151, 797. This number does not include students in the southern and eastern governorates. In addition, 22,198 students are taking exams at the same level, but within the al-Ma'had al-'Ilmiya (religious school) system. At the secondary level, 85, 712 students are taking the high school leaving examinations. Moreover, 9,120 students are taking the same exams through the al-Ma'had al-'Ilmiya. As a result, the whole nation is decidedly overwhelmed by these exams as the fate of their children will be decided by their results.

To see the issues from the Ministry's point of view, Yemen Times interviewed Mr. Ali Ahmad Al-Kumaim, the Director-General of Examinations and Control at the Ministry of Education. Al-Kumaim holds a B.A. in commerce and a high studies diploma in educational planning.

Yahya Yusuf Al-Hodeidi filed the following report.

Q: The examinations of this year are taking place under exceptional circumstances. Are there any special considerations because of that?

A: Of course, the war situation is taken into consideration when assessing the grades and our students. We realize the exceptional worry and pressure associated with the unstable political situation. It is my conviction that the acquisition of knowledge and the performance in exams are both affected by the environment in which the students live. The ministry has exerted a lot of efforts to minimize the impact of the war on students. We have, as you know, pushed back the exams, hoping the war would come to an end, to avail the suitable conditions for the students giving instructions to be soft and wise in avoiding any sort of tension, worry or complications.

Q: I can see some of your statistics show southern and eastern governorates. Are you saying that you are supervising exams in those governorates?

A: The process of examinations in the northern governorates is, of course, proceeding smoothly and there are no impediments. However, there are problems in the eastern and southern governorates. Our response to the difficulties in the southern and eastern governorates has been in many ways, as follows. Based on the field report of committees formed by the Minister of Education, the following steps were taken:

1. To proceed with exams in the normal way in Shabwa governorate.

2. To postpone exams in Abyan and Lahj for a specific time.

3. To consider the position of students in Aden,Had and Al-Mahra as the situation unfolds.

Q: You mentioned that the Ministry will be ""understanding'' in evaluating student performances this year due to the war situation. Could you elaborate?

A: The correction process will take the examination to account for only 70 percent. The other 30 percent will come from the grade of the preceding years. Say you have a student sitting for the high school exams. His/her exams will make up 70 percent of the final grade, while 10 percent will be brought forward from each of the first, second, and third secondary years. This way, we would have reduced the relative weight of the final exams, which used to be marked out of 100 percent. Second, the grading will follow normal standards. But once all the grades are in, we will make a curve to check out the overall level of performance compared to earlier years. I am sure the curve will be adjusted if it deviates greatly from the normal of past years.

Q: What are the numbers of the students who are taking these examinations?

A: As for the preparatory level the number is 173, 995 students being examined in 1754 centers. The secondary level students are fewer. They are 94, 832 students taking their exams in 392 centers. I have to admit the females represent only 38 percent at the preparatory level and about 27 percent at the secondary level.

Q: What kind of problems face the high committee for exams which is charged with running the exams?

A: There are a lot of problems facing us due to the war. For example, though we had issued the exam seat numbers, a large number of the students did not return to their schools to pick them up. So, we have to entertain the fact that some students registered in one exam center showed up at another. This has created a lot of confusion. There are also a number of logistical difficulties. Sometimes holding unruly (read: bad) students who make trouble. I have to say our minister has helped in overcoming them.

Q: What are you doing regarding the phenomenon of cheating?

A: This phenomenon has spread during the last three years and I think it has to do with the deterioration of our value system, about which, by the way, Yemen Times has been writing extensively. We have a new mentality which only wants to arrive. They go to school just to get the certificates. So, they would do anything to get those certificates. Then they use the certificate to land a nice job and enjoy an easy life. Such people cannot build a nation. We have to earn a good life. What we require is cooperation from all the apparatuses of the state, as well as the family and society, to overcome this phenomenon. There should be severe penalties for such violations. In 1977, I was in Iraq in a training program. There were reports of leaks of the questions. In response to that, a committee chaired by Saddam Hussein personally &emdash; at that time he was vice president of Iraq &emdash; was formed. The committee announced that the penalty for the perpetrators is the death sentence. I don't think we should go that far, but the point is that there should be a stiff penalty for such violations.

The office of Mr. Al-Kumaim is obviously inundated by students with all kinds of complaints and protests. We used the opportunity to talk to some of them.

Q: What is your evaluation of the exam under the current situation?

A: The reality is that we are not prepared for as fully as we would have liked. We were overwhelmed by the war. In addition, most of us have left the cities to our villages, which, which were safer. So, we lost touch.

Q: How ready are the exam centers?

A: Most of those responsible for supervising the exams are people who themselves do not have even high school certificates.

Q: What about the world cup matches these days. Have they too strayed you?

A: As you know, we young people are attached to sports, especially soccer. Now we have the world cup matches. One of my friends stayed the whole night to watch the Saudi-Netherlands game, and went to his exams the next day!

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