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Is Tawjihi losing credibility?

Jan 04,2014 - Last updated at Jan 04,2014

People around the country are complaining about chaotic scenes at schools where the General Secondary Education Certificate Exam, better known as Tawjihi, is being held.

Around 171,000 Jordanian students are sitting for the exam that determines their path in life. The bulk of those sitting for the exam are doing their best to join a university, in any academic field, believing that this is the only way to success in life.

Failure to join a university carries a social stigma not only for the students but also for their families, regardless of these students’ capabilities or personal desire.

Social pressure, thus, turns Tawjihi into a national nightmare. The day the exam results are announced, one can witness two extremes: expressing joy or, alternatively, disappointment.

Joy is often manifested through fireworks, convoys of cars blocking traffic and shooting, which every year leads to injuries or deaths, which is the reason authorities make the announcement on a holiday or around midnight.

Disappointed students sometimes attempt suicide.

All this pressure causes a good percentage of students to attempt to cheat during the exam, which, according to some parties and citizens, is done in an organised manner in some parts of the country.

It is astonishing to learn that some parents want to help their children cheat by storming the exam halls, using loudspeakers to read the answers from outside or using modern technology.

Such behaviour destroys any chance to equal opportunities, which this exam is intended to offer, allowing unqualified students to enroll at universities at the expense of more deserving ones.

It is often these students that can be blamed for rising university violence.

The question that arises is whether Tawjihi is losing its credibility as a tool to measure students’ aptitudes by offering them the chance to compete fairly. 

Another question is whether this exam is nurturing good values in society.

Throughout the years, this exam was beyond questioning. It had a great degree of credibility and has been the only means to measure students’ abilities at national level and to determine who goes to universities and in what academic field.

The feeling of some citizens that this exam is unfair to their children led them to help their sons and daughters break the rules and cheat. But that problem was already addressed by the authorities by offering a good percentage of university seats, or quotas, to students from less privileged areas, tribes, refugee camps, army personnel, teachers, etc.

These exceptions, or quotas, already take around 70 per cent of university seats, leaving around 30 per cent to free competition, when it should have been the other way around.

All this — starting with the exam and leading to unfair admission policies — has caused a lot of damage to the educational process in the country, which is due for an overhaul.

The Kingdom, which has invested a lot in the human element and has been a leader in education in the region, seems to have been losing its compass.

It might be overconfidence that precluded any self-evaluation process. Or it might be laissez-faire, which would be worse.

It is not too late to evaluate the course of the Tawjihi examination and to assert its authority in all parts of the country. This should be coupled with redrawing university admission policies and changing the society’s view of education, trying to direct more students to vocational and technical fields.

Universities themselves also have to evaluate their students without relying totally on Tawjihi as a means to measure their abilities.

Incompetent students can be judged during the first year and not allowed to continue.

No individuals or parties should be allowed to undermine Jordan’s investment in education.

Nurturing the talents of the country’s greatest asset, the human being, should be safeguarded by all means.

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