Our government should make it its mission to adopt a holistic approach of college admissions in order to motivate students to cultivate these essential skills that are integral in tertiary level education, writes an anonymous contributor.
Trying to sound as subtle and as indirect as he could, he finally forced his words out, “Well students, we wish you the best and as you all know, teamwork is appreciated.” As I paused to process what I had just heard, my seatmate turned towards me reiterating the exact words going through my mind, “Were my ears deceiving me or did our school vice-principal just suggest that we help each other on the National Exam?” The same person who, had it been any other time of the year, would have personally signed our expulsion letters for a similar case was now standing in front of us, desperate for the reputation of the school, telling us to resort to all options available before failing the National Exam: even cheat.
Unfortunately, cases like this have nowadays been the norm rather than the exception. It has become a widely conceded awareness that some, if not most, of the private high schools in Addis Ababa tolerate “resorting to any available option” when it comes to the National Exam, to the extent that they even payoff test administrators to be ‘lenient’ during the examination.
However, though not in any imaginable way to justify them, I believe these schools are instigated by an understandable cause that ought to be held accountable for the apparent decay of our youths’ integrity.
The logic of why private high schools tend to look the other way is simple: private schools are profit schools; profit requires good reputation, and good reputation seems to have been inextricably connected to students’ average score in the National Exam.
The Grade 12 Ethiopian Higher Education Examination is the most important exam that students can take in their lifetime. It has the decisive power to make or break one’s future career, for it is according to these scores that students are placed into the respective universities of their choice.
To make matters even more substantial, the exam is only offered once a year. God forbid something unexpected happens to test-takers on mid-June, or they’ll be forced to postpone their college life by a whole year in order to take the test again. Sadly, there have been many students whose lives have been ruined because they had either felt under the weather, lost a very close loved one, or encountered an unforeseeable obstacle during exam week that had compelled them to under-perform despite months of arduous preparations.
A single occasion of underperformance thus seems to be exactly what it takes to mess up one’s college plans. A bad score does not only mean that students don’t get to enroll in their top choice universities, but they might also be forced to major in a department that they never wanted, all the while fully abandoning all the dreams and aspirations they’ve had for most of their young lives.
Nathanael, a very close friend of mine, is for instance one of those students who has had to give up his ambitions of becoming a surgeon. I remember our childhood days when he’d never stop talking about how he would become a doctor and help people in need. What I also vividly remember, however, are the tears that were in his eyes when the exam results had been released and he had to settle for the unbearable fact that he would never become a physician, and all because he was unable to make that year’s medical school cut-off score by ten points.
Such is also the way in which our university admissions system seems to have been flawed. Determining a student’s academic path based solely on a single exam that is offered only once at the end of senior year is to completely disregard all the bits and pieces of formal and informal education that students have acquired throughout their high school years, pieces that are so valuable when it comes to crafting the person that they become.
Looking back at my high school years, I have seen how much the National Exam has affected my senior year education. Beginning right around this time of the year, I along with all of my classmates had started cramming for the exam that was due seven months later. And due to the pervasive idea that nothing else mattered except our scores, we had basically ignored every other important aspects of our higher education.
Even our teachers were wrapped around in preparing us for the exam at the cost of anything else that was deemed to “not matter”. We didn’t write essays in class because all questions were multiple choice in the exam. We weren’t given any presentation tasks nor assigned research projects because they were assumed to detract time from what was thought to be ultimately important. Our lab activities plummeted to once a month because no technical skill was examined on the test.
As a current college student studying abroad, however, I have noticed how these “extra” activities are crucial during one’s time in college. Proficiency in writing essays comes in very handy for the countless amount of papers one has to write; good technical expertise is indispensable for lab sessions during hands-on projects while research skills become extremely vital in a scholarly environment.
As such, our government should make it its mission to adopt a holistic approach of college admissions in order to motivate students to cultivate these essential skills that are integral in tertiary level education.
After all, isn’t the whole point of a National Exam to evaluate how fit students are for college?
Ed.’s Note: The writer, who requested his name to be withheld, is an undergraduate engineering student. The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of The Reporter..