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Tawjihi proposed plan draws mixed reactions

By Laila Azzeh - Apr 13,2017 - Last updated at Apr 13,2017

AMMAN – While education experts support the Education Ministry's suggested changes to the General Secondary Education Certificate Examination (Tawjihi), a student rights advocacy group described the transformations as "arbitrary" and paving the way for the "privatisation" of education in Jordan. 

Under the newly proposed plan, the Tawjihi will be modified in terms of the grading system, and the cancellation of the pass/fail classification in a bid to direct students to paths and specialisations that better reflect their potential and personal aspiration. 

The new grading system will help universities decide the threshold score to enter a given major. For example, medicine will require a minimum of 1,300 out of 1,400, equal to 85 per cent under the current regulations, Education Minister Omar Razzaz has explained. 

In a TV interview on Wednesday, the minister also confirmed that the development plan would remove the existing system limiting the number of attempts for a student to pass the general test. With the proposed system, students will be allowed to apply to the test indefinitely. 

This means that those who lost their chances to pass Tawjihi in the past years, the minister explained, can sit for the exam anew. He noted, however, that priorities should be set, as the ministry’s capacity in terms of the number of students sitting for the test is 200,000. Priorities will be decided according to chronological order, he said, with the most recent applicants having priority over older ones.

While Razzaz said the plan to introduce drastic changes to the Tawjihi was still not official, as consultations were still under way with the Higher Education Ministry and universities, the new proposals have stirred a debate within educational cycles, with many deeming such steps as “reformative”. 

“We, in Jordan, decided to put a line for the Tawjihi, above which a person passes, and below which they fail; and this is arbitrary and stamps them as either successes or failures,” former education and higher education minister Walid Maani, told The Jordan Times. 

Expressing his support for the suggested reforms, he noted that the vast majority of those who fail the Tawjihi exam retook it not to enrol in universities, but to get rid of the stigma associated with “failure” in the Tawjihi. 

“Many jobs do not require a Tawjihi degree, but completing high school. In other words, they want to make sure that the person has finished the 12th grade, and is thus able to read and write and has the necessary basic knowledge,” he noted. 

To this effect, Maani called for amending the Civil Service Bureau Law to re-set the hiring criterion from “having passed Tawjihi” to “having completed the 12th grade”.

On the other hand, he noted that universities have the right to select the students they want according to set criteria and interviews. 

“Let the students’ mark play in the market,” Maani said. 

However, the National Campaign for Defending Students’ Rights “Thabahtoona” described the plans as “catastrophic” for the educational outcomes, highlighting the risks of having students neglect some essential materials as they would not affect their college enrolment chances. 

The ministry had noted that scientific stream students can, under the suggested system, achieve low marks in literary subjects, without that affecting their chances of pursuing a degree in science and related majors. 

To address this issue, Maani recommended teaching 10 subjects in the Tawjihi instead of 17, including four compulsory “core materials”, namely, English, Arabic, social studies and religion. The remaining six would change according to the student’s chosen track, he explained. 

In an e-mail to The Jordan Times, Thabahtoona President Fakher Daas denounced the new plan for paving the way to cancelling the Tawjihi and privatising the education by giving the authority to universities to directly accept or refuse students.

“Students in all general secondary exams around the world are classified according to the pass/fail system, but the mechanism of university acceptance is what differs. The suggested ideas amplify the poor educational outcomes, and give private universities the chance to open their doors to students without the least academic standards,” said Daas. 

Former Education Minister Fayez Saudi, on the other hand, praised the new plan, saying that the Tawjihi should be a “skills and competencies exam rather than an achievement one”.

“A student who excels in biology should not be deprived of enrolling in medicine school because his grades in humanities are not very high,” he said. 

Columnist Hussein Rawashdeh noted that with the cancelling of the Tawjihi’s pass/fail system, Jordan ends a long era of suffering that has extended for the past decades.

Describing the Tawjihi as a “nightmare” for students and their families alike, he supported Razzaz’s vision in ending an era of deeming the exam as the “diameter of a person’s success or failure in life”. 

 

 

 

 

 

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