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Saturday, July 28, 2007

I have waited until 120,000 students finally get their marks, and reach today the end of the 'tragic' path of Tawjihi, to reply to the estimated blogger Saned and talk about the Jordanian general secondary certificate (Tawjihi).
Despite the fact that I agree with a large part of Saned's post, especially the social pressure and the necessity of changing the system, there were some points I find unfair and exaggerated, and some personal points that have no coincidences with my personal experience of Tawjihi.

First of all, I'm one of the Tawjihi students who made their exams in 2004, the year of the Tawjihi-gate , when some exams were stolen and sold to nearly all Jordanians students (except me), that was surely a cheap shot to the Jordanian education system, but although I agree with the need of changing something of the Tawjihi and I believe we need a total renovation of our obsolete educational system, there are some points I will discuss to explain that Tawjihi itself is like another school exam (I've understood this after years of university) and that thousands of students who succeeded in Tawjihi deserved that, and they should not underestimate their past efforts.

1- Tawjihi depends on how much you memorize and how much you understand. Personally, I have not a good memory; in addition, I think it's impossible to memorize something without understanding it. However, I've known nothing by heart and the majority of my answered question were general ideas, I was rewriting what I've learned in class or paraphrasing some sentences in the textbook and the result was almost good; I've got fine marks on these subjects, especially in "Social Studies".
In reality, there is not a Social Studies book, it is called "General Culture" and it is unscientific and totally unrelated with culture, and after many students and instructors complained about the quality of this book, the ministry finally decided to change the book this year. But we must mention that this subject together with the Islamic Studies are the two worst examples: most of the marks depend on subjects like mathematics, physics, chemistry, geology and other subjects like Arabic and English that are impossible to memorize.

2- Tawjihi marks are normal distributed, only one or two students will get a full mark on Math exam, but more students will get a 90% mark and more will get 80% and so on. And if you take a full mark, that's the fruit of your efforts and not of your teacher.

3- Tawjihi questions are sometimes wrong, well, errare humanum est , we have Tawjihi for more than 30 years, and it is normal to find two wrong questions. Take in consideration that Tawjihi exams have something like 500 questions (yearly)!
Another thing I have noticed in Tawjihi is that many teachers tell students that a particular question is wrong, but if you ask the same question to a more experienced teacher or a university professor he will contradict your teacher and will give you the right answer.

4- The last-years fashion of private tuition is ridicule, I'm sure you know a lot of people who got a reasonable mark without private tutors, and vice versa. My personal opinion is that private tuition is more a social prestige rather than an educational need.
And about some Tawjihi students and their new hobby: collecting "dosyyat". Well, it's the most time-spending activity they may have since most of these "dosyaat" are repetitive, bad-organized and not educative.

5- Tawjihi makes you study physics, and that's a good thing, not only if you will study Engineering at university. Students get in the secondary stage a scientific knowledge base ; this will help them know more about the world that they live in! Even if some scientific subjects will not benefit you directly in your future studies, or you don't like them, they will provide you some necessary scientific facts you should know and the needed information that build a common base for all sciences. Even if you will study architecture you have to know who Niels Bohr was!

6- Tawjihi's new system allows those who do not pass the exams for the first time to repeat them on the same year, so if we have 14 Tawjihi subjects we will get something like 25 exams: this means we need at least 25 days to take all of them (If we count an exam for day), this is why Tawjihi exams period is so long .

7- We also know that most students do not fail at their first exams, some exams need more preparation time than others (i.e Math, Physics), there are subjects you can take in Summer or Winter, there are exams on subject not all the students take (Islamic Studies, French.. etc); all these make the Tawjihi's schedule very complex and do not allow to have the same quantity of time before each exam. However it is practically impossible to create an "optimal" schedule for all the students.
(In Saned's post there is a complain about having 3 days before English exam and only a half day before Social Studies, what Saned pretends is a clear contradiction to students' fear of English exam shared by the majority of Jordanian students, and in reality most students fail English test and get good mark at Social Studies).

10- Students are not obligated to study in toilets; the assumption that this is one of the wrong things of Tawjihi is absurd.

11- Let's see how Tawjihi exams are corrected (I know two correctors that told me the steps as written here, you can also ask any corrector if you want more details)

a) For each exam different correctors are chosen, the correctors are instructors who work for the Ministry of Education.
b) Correctors are distributed based on what they teach: biology teachers correct biology exams, Arabic teachers correct Arabic exam, and so on. It's impossible that a physical education teacher will correct math papers!
c) An answer key is given to each corrector.
d)  Personal information on each answer sheet are sealed and hidden, this operation is done right after you complete your exam in the examination hall.
I remember when we finished our exams, the answer sheets were grouped, after that, personal data were covered by folding a paper sheet on the first page and then glued. This operation was done in front of us.
e)  The location of the correction operation is chosen randomly. Aqaba's instructors will correct Amman 's papers; Aqaba's papers are corrected in Irbid… There is only a minimal chance your paper will be corrected in your city.
f) An answer in your paper is first corrected by a corrector.
g) A second instructor reviews your answer and re-corrects it.
h) A third corrector finally assures there are no mistakes in the first and second correction.
i)  Another answer is corrected by other correctors.
j)  When all answers are corrected, the summation of your point is evaluated.
k)  The score of every answer is inserted into the computer, and the data entry is warned if the computer-generated summation is different from that of step (j).

12- Tawjihi hall conditions are terrible, because many school rooms in Jordan are terrible ! Do you know that most of the students (in public schools) take their tests in their school halls, only private schools students have to go to different institutions.

13- Tawjihi defines you, only because you are obsessed with Tawjihi, right now, after three years of my Tawjihi no one asks me of my marks or if I was in scientific or arts stream.
Let's be serious! Many people with bad marks on Tawjihi get a job, an education and they reach a good economic level and have a fine social reputation, some of them only with their talent become of the most famous Jordanians. On the other side, a typical Tawjihi genius rather studies medicine to become one of the 5,000 Jordanian doctors or simply choose a faculty only for a social conviction that it's better, without any ambition! Jordan is full of these cases!

14- Tawjihi is against non-Jordanians! I don't think so. First of all, correction procedures I've mentioned above do not allow to see your personal data. Then I have not noticed that number ones are Jordanians, at the contrary, all we unfortunately know Mohammad Asha , the brilliant Tawjihi student who won a scholarship to Jordan University's medical school since he was one of the "top ten" Tawjihi students, do you know he is from Hebron?
This is one case, but I invite everyone to see accurately the students with the highest marks of the last years, I have done that and I have found that non-Jordanians are the majority!

"Authorities will never hesitate to take off points from you to let the son or daughter of an Army member to be number one in school". I think it is normal not to trust in some institutions, but do you think this is a little exaggerated? How many sons of generals and commanders you know that got good marks? I know some of them and they have either studied outside Jordan or took very low grades and entered universities by the military quota.
I will ask another question: Is every number one in all Jordanian schools a son of an Army member?
For non-Jordanians: University quotas are one of the most unjust procedures of Jordanian education system, they may permit a son of a soldier, a diplomatic, a university employee in addition to some residents of rural zones and Palestinian refugees camps to get a university scholarship even if his Tawjihi's marks do not allow that.

16- Many students prefer to get ICGSE, IB or SAT not because these systems are better , but because a big part of them studied for years in private schools with American and British curricula and these exams are also easier , i.e. it is more probable you will get a high mark on IGCSE rather than Tawjihi. And that is not an opinion, it is a fact. Let's see the statistics: 9.9% of students got an A grade or above in IGCSE, the Tawjihi equivalent is 95/100, and only 321 students in the kingdom had this grade (that is 0.003% !!!! The same difference appears if we talk about SAT, 85% of students passed SAT exams in 2006 when the Tawjihi's percentage was 63.6% in one of its best years.[1]

17- I have not memorized words in English; the glossary was 12 pages long, and I think no one can memorize 12 pages of words and definitions!

Points 8,9,15 and 18- Tawjihi kills, right, the people and the students are obsessed with these exams and the families are preoccupied for their sons. In Jordan if your son gets jailed it is normal, but his failure in Tawjihi will be the most embarrassing and shameful thing that may happen.

The main problem is that Tawjihi is connected with university admission , and the Jordanian society thinks that a university education is a must for all students.
If we will be able to create a system in which university admission is unrelated (or partially related) to Tawjihi scores, we will solve major Tawjihi problems, students and families will be less stressed, Tawjihi will have less importance and students will have a bigger opportunity to choose the college and the major they prefer.

[1] 2006 SAT statistics from here, 2005 IGCSE statistics from here and 2006 Tawjihi statistics from the Minister of Education press conference reported in this article.

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This is a fantastic post Yugi. Very thought of and well designed and absolutely correct. I take my hat off to you.

1. "Tawjihi depends on how much you memorize and how much you understand." The fact that the correcter was satisfied with your "rephrasing" of your general ideas is because a- you mentioned the main points which grades were given to o b- you had a less-strict corrector.
2. "Tawjihi marks are normal distributed, only one or two students will get a full mark on Math exam" - In my school alone this year, 8 people got a 100 on math. And I never said it's the fruition of the teacher. But teachers do help telling students expected questions/ideas, which extremely helps.
3. "Tawjihi questions are sometimes wrong, well, errare humanum est , we have Tawjihi for more than 30 years, and it is normal to find two wrong questions." - So What? This is exam CONTROLS your future - the authorities better be sure what they are doing, and I mean, its not like your inventing questions, you get them from a book.
4. "I'm sure you know a lot of people who got a reasonable mark without private tutors, and vice versa." - Reasonable, but not excellent. Compare math grades, for example, of students who went to m3ahed and those who haven't, and you can see the difference.
5. "Students get in the secondary stage a scientific knowledge base" - Some people want to study political Science, for example, and knowing who Neil Bohr is is NOT necessary to sustain, and also, that's where college's role comes in, you have to take a few mandatory science classes, compatible with the students' level of Science, to educate them about small, yet important scientific matters.
6. "Tawjihi's new system allows those who do not pass the exams for the first time to repeat them on the same year, so if we have 14 Tawjihi subjects we will get something like 25 exams: this means we need at least 25 days to take all of them (If we count an exam for day), this is why Tawjihi exams period is so long ." - Because there shouldn't be 14 tests in the first place.
7. 7- We also know that most students do not fail at their first exams, some exams need more preparation time than others (i.e Math, Physics), there are subjects you can take in Summer or Winter, there are exams on subject not all the students take (Islamic Studies, French.. etc); all these make the Tawjihi's schedule very complex and do not allow to have the same quantity of time before each exam. However it is practically impossible to create an "optimal" schedule for all the students. - I agree here, but in fact, tawjihi english is 4th grade english, by far, but social studies, especially second semester, REALLY needs more than 1/2 day to revise.
10. " 10- Students are not obligated to study in toilets; the assumption that this is one of the wrong things of Tawjihi is absurd." - I never said they are obligated, its just a habit many acquire as a result of stress.
11. Those are the steps anyone would tell you. But if you just happen to go yourself, you'll see the indifference in which the correctors correct the papers. It's so sad.
12. "Tawjihi hall conditions are terrible, because many school rooms in Jordan are terrible !" Exactly, which sucks. The ministry shouldn't use crappy exam halls in the first place!
13. I agree with you on this, but at some point of your life, you will be asked about this question, no matter how insignificant it'll become.
14. "Tawjihi is against non-Jordanians! " I meant students who do NOT hold Jordanian citizenship. And #1s, as far as I know, are mostly Jordanian Jordanian.
15. It might be exaggerated, but it happens. And I don't know about how many son's or daughters get high marks or whatever, but my point is that SMART kids of military people are given preference over non-kids or non-Jordanians to start with. And the makroma thing is EXTREMELY unfair and so is the whole quotas for non-Jordanians.
16. This is my field of expertise:
a. IG/IB are definitely not easier. IB is based on critical thinking and not memorizing. Students have to form arguments and write essays which have to demonstrate many skill they learn during the two years. IG is a mix between Tawjihi and IB.
b. The reason why you might think more people get As here is because the number of people who take IG/IB every year is MUCH smaller than the 120000 students over here. Also keep in mind, that the institutions that teach these curricula are, for the most part, great and teach well, unalike the Public Schools in Jordan which don't give a shit.
17. I know people. And my whole point was that the definitions were wrong and modified to make it to a mind of a 4th grader, not 12th grader.
18. It WOULD be better if Tawjihi is not the only criterion to College admission, but until then...

I'd also like to mention that a 98% Tawjihi kid MIGHT not have any of the skills needed for university; eg. bad command of English, because tawjihi is basically based on memorization, while kids who did the IB and who have gotten 6 and 7s in their exams have definitely acquired the skills needed to succeed in college. Also, thats a reason why IB students get college credit for some classes because they are at COLLEGE LEVEL.

Bel3arabi el tawjeehi hassa 9ar fare6 :)

Batir: Wow, as we say in Arabic: rase sar kbeeeeeeeeeer !

Mohanned: el Tawjihi fare6 mn el awwal, bs ana fhmto b3d ma d5lt eljam3a!
~~My advice to Tawjihi students: Take it easy!~~

Saned: Compliments! This was the longest comment of my blog. Let me reply to some of your points in brief.
- You can't defend your views saying I was lucky with correctors; the important thing in Tawjihi is to give the right answer to the question, it's not important how you write it, but if you are asked about Bernoulli's law you can't write on the French revolution!
- Tawjihi marks are normal distributed: You've said in your previous post: Tawjihi question-makers make sure no one gets a full mark. And you tell me now that only in your school there are 8 students with full marks. Can you explain this contradiction, please?
- No system is perfect! I don't think there wasn't any error in all the IB exams history! And if there are wrong questions, these questions are wrong for all so that all students are affected, the exam do control the future of all students the same way.
- How many students went to Ma3ahed and they failed Tawjihi? I can't see any direct relation between Tawjihi marks and private tuition.
- You are good in English, the majority of Jordanian students are not. The English test is the scariest nightmare of the ordinary Tawjihi student, that's why the definitions are written simply and the English exam is given more time.
Believe me, what you think is 4th grade is really tough for others.
- The ministry uses crappy halls because we have only crappy halls in public schools!
- The million dollar question: How you discovered there was a difference between corrections? Did you and another student answer all the questions the same way, and he got more than you?
- Pardon, I've thought you meant by non-Jordanians Jordanians of non-Jordanians origins, in reality, the Jordanian-Jordanians are the minority between the students with best marks.
(Anyways, since Tawjihi is in Jordan, and Tawjihi students hold a Jordanian nationality it's normal that number ones are Jordanians)
- The only thing I've noticed about Army members is Makroma. But if you know any cases of discrimination please let us know.
- About your field of expertise, I've said that it's easier to get a good mark in IGCSE, I've proved it statistically, the number of IGCSE and their A's did not refer to Jordanian students but to world's total score based on a population (not a sample) of 100,000 students, the same as Tawjihi. However I mean: if you can choose between IGCSE and Tawjihi, go for IGCSE it's more probable you will get a higher mark.

-Actually, one of the reasons there are 2 correctors per question is because correctors differ in opinions on certain questions. So you must've gotten correctors who were positive to your answers.
-Yes, I said that. Have you seen someone get a 100% in English, for example. Since MOST Jordanians suck at English, why don't those who write great compositions get a 10/10? I mean, according to my sources, some English paper correctors barely speak English! All of this is because of either the teacher's ego or because the ministry gave specific orders not to give full marks no matter what!
-I donno about the IB. But some tawjihi question errors do NOT affect everyone. Some questions are ambiguous which students dont understand; some students guess the answer and get credit for it. It's not like the question is eliminated.
-Private tutoring increases the chances of getting a higher grade for students who WANT TO..mesh t7e6 ay bani adam bma3had yjeeb full mark.
-You are right. But Social Studies is hard as well.
-Well, they can use other halls, like private school halls OR non-school halls. M3aba menhom...bas NO, they will let the students suffer from Mother Nature.
-I meant they correct papers nonchalantly, without taking care. y3ni el 3amo bikoon bida5en sigarto o 3m b7ki m3 eli janbo wala howa dari sho 3m bisale7...I'm not saying all of them are like that, but a good number are.
-Why is it ok for a non-Jordanian student not to be #1 if he is smarter(or, to be more precise, can memorize better) than a Jordanian student?
-Another case of discrimination:
An officers son has a 98.1% and another student in the same school has a 98.2%, the other student will get deducted 2 points from some random exam (usually composition, since its subjective) so they can let the officer's kid be #1 in that school...This can also apply if the person comes from a prominent Jordanian family...
-"b. The reason why you might think more people get As here is because the number of people who take IG/IB every year is MUCH smaller than the 120000 students over here." I meant ALL students in the world who take IB is less than the number who give the Tawjihi...

All the factors I mentioned in my post and on your blog which affect the grades of students make IB/IG look easier, since the correctors of those exams are not as corrupt (although, as in any system, there has to be corruption, but to different degrees)

And thanks for the compliment...

-There's an important thing I forgot to mention: If a student wishes to study Political Sciences he should not chose Scientific Stream (3lme), he must go to Literal Stream (2adaby)!!! Every student in the Scientific Stream will study Science subjects (Math, Physics...)

-The total number of IG student worldwide is around 100,000 students, it's roughly equivalent to Tawjihi's students (120,000)
(Btw, I did not refer to Any IB statistic since I've not found anything on the net)

-I don't know how your case of discrimination is related with Tawjihi!! (school marks are irrelevant with that of Tawjihi)

-If a non-Jordanian is smarter than a Jordanian he will get a higher mark.

-I totally agree with you that there's not enough critical thinking, and this is a problem of the whole Jordanian education system. But you have to consider that students complain a lot of every question that do not correspond to the exact words of the textbook!

Good post.

Reagrding injustice, the name of the student doesn't appear to the grader so your assuption is false, and the chances that the grader will know the "officer" son is like 1/120000! Injustice exists in university admissions, thats all.Buat again this officer has some work benifits and one of them is that his son/daughter will have a better chance to be admitted, which is somehow fair.

Thanks hamede! You're for sure one of my best readers! :)

Mohanned, you are right not only the grader doesn't know your name, he only corrects a unique question, and the question is then re-corrected by another teacher, and then a third one controls if they are identical, everyone must know that errors in Tawjihi's correction are almost impossible!

I don't know why I didn't see this post earlier ... It's really good ...

I don't think Tawjihi (alone) needs memorization.
The disasters I see in the west from High schoolers/IGCSE/IB whatever speaks for it self. The whole school system of the US is being criticized because it just doesn't work as good as others around the world INCLUDING the Tawjihi system
It's true that they excel later on in collages and universities, but up to that degree, Tawjihi is way better

If you want to see memorization, look at the Japanese system. Yet, it's one of the most successful with kids graduating with a lot of memorization AND better at school than most of the west

English although very important, IS NOT the only thing that is needed to succeed in collage life

You've said right Qwaider! When I was writing this post I've visited many websites of institutions that strongly criticize the American school system, as I said no system is perfect. Another example is the Korean education system (which is considered the best in the world) you can read about it here.

Allow me to diagree with you on a few points.

I know some folks who scored 90+ in English and their English language is horrible. They've told me (they had Tawjihi in 1996) that they studied the Englishg material beforehand and knew that the "paragraph" they were going to have in the exam was one of a few that they've studied in the exam. Some of them memorize the compsotion that they will write in the exam, that also applies to the Arabic exam.

In Tawjihi you have a limited number of options of materials you want to study. In the British system there are more thna 100 topics in ordinary level and dvanced level and you can make whatever selection you desire. The advanced level is equivalent to a first or second year of university so some people just study three subjects of the dvanced level that they're good at. You can'r select to do that in Tawjihi.

Regarding the 120,000 students, they don't have another option but to do Tawjihi, even those who don't wanna do it are somewhat forced by their parents to. Many would have chosen an iG system if they could afford going to a private school.

I felt there was much more crticial thinking in the British system than in the Jordanian one. We were asked even in the ordinary level exams to design an experiment, to explain how some Maths equations were derived, in English we were shown texts that we were never shown before. In Arabic we were asked (besides translation) to discuss poems that we've never seen or studied before and study the poetry of the whole Umayyyad and Jahilyyah eras (in Arabic) without having a certain text to refer to.
In scientific subjects we had a syllabus without indicating any specific book to refer to to study the exam, although the school/teachers did their best in gathering all the information in certain texts that made it easier for us.

Hareega, first of all, thank you for your contribution.
In my Tawjihi's year our Arabic teacher told us that the Arabic test will include a composition about water in Jordan. Some guys memorized the pre-written composition as you said. However on the examination day there were 3 different subject and no one regarding Water or Jordan!
Anyway if your question is: it's possible that a student with an horrible English language would pass the exam? My answer is: maybe, you know that English is not the preferred subject of Jordanians, and if you have a better English than the average Jordanian student it's probable you'll pass the exam!

About Textbooks: I (personally) think it's better for students to study without specific textbooks, but are you sure this is applicable in Jordan? Here, every student will complain if there are questions that do not refer exactly to what is written in the textbook.

Back!
What about people who would like to double major? Should they do both streams? The whole idea of streams is wrong. You should, as Hareega mentioned, have the option to chose from a wide array of subjects that suits the student's interest.

And, about grade changes, it happens after correcting papers and seeing the larger picture. I am sure of this.


"If a non-Jordanian is smarter than a Jordanian he will get a higher mark."...Never happened, they wont allow it.

The IB, I would argue, is the best education anyone could get. It focuses on every single subject area and fosters creativity, service and action. For more information check
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Baccalaureate

Welcome back Saned!
I have some questions:
How many Jordanians double major in Jordan? Should we replace Tawjihi with IB for this reason?
Then, another time, what do you mean with non-Jordanians? How many people without Jordanian citizenship study Tawjihi? What's the probability one of them will get the highest rank in the kingdom??? It's not impossible, but it's improbable even if it never happened.

PS:I will not discuss with you about grades changes since you're sure it happens.

One commment on point 16- I have studied for both Tawjihi and IGCSE exams back in the early 80s and have got top-notch excellent results in both. IGCSE exams are NOT EASIER than Tawjihi...NOT AT ALL. On the contrary, they require good critical thinking skills. The A levels are way more sophisticated and complex than the Tawjihi by a long shot. I know: I've been there, done that.

Memory sure is becoming cheaper these days. I'm curious as to when we will eventually reach the ratio of 1c to 1 Gig.

I wait for the day when I will finally be able to afford a 20 terabyte harddrive, hahaha. But for now I guess I will be happy with having a 32 gigabyte Micro SD in my R4i.

(Submitted using OperaMod for R4i Nintendo DS.)

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