Focusing on “exceptional leadership role” in Baccalaureate exam scares students

Baccalaureate students after taking the exam of “National Education” subject in Damascus (Tishreen newspaper)

Baccalaureate students after taking the exam of “National Education” subject in Damascus (Tishreen newspaper)


Enab Baladi – Jana al-Issa

“I was afraid that they would not like what I would write in answer to the question, so I could not write a single word, not because I did not understand the question, but because I did.”

The baccalaureate student justifies to Enab Baladi her inability to answer the last question about writing an essay, whose mark is the largest among the “National Education” questions examined on 14 June.

The student, who resides in the Damascus suburbs and who spoke on condition of anonymity, added that she memorized the content of the high school curriculum well and answered the typical questions, such as choosing the correct answer out of several options or the definitions and differences that exist literally in the curriculum.

But she was unable to write the required topic, and in its text, it asks to talk about “policies and procedures to achieve national security, in addition to the student’s opinion of the role of exceptional leadership in the difficult stage, after assuming that Syria has been targeted since 2011 by terrorist organizations that are new tools in implementing colonial projects.”

“If the answer had been written verbatim in the book, I would have answered it exactly as I memorized it and as they want, but I do not know what to answer on this difficult subject,” the student said, adding that she was afraid that she would not be able to write her opinion on the “exceptional” leadership in a way that the corrector of her exam paper wanted, she was afraid of a later impact outside the exam issue, so she preferred not to answer the question in the first place.

According to what Enab Baladi observed, the baccalaureate students were surprised by the type of questions and the way they were asked to write opinions on issues that depend on their ability to describe and understand the curriculum as a whole.

The core of the questions shows the curriculum that the students studied for an entire academic year, which includes glorifying the regime’s fight against “terrorism.”

It also shows the ways and methods it used to stand up to the “cosmic conspiracy,” with statements by the regime’s president, Bashar al-Assad, about the concept of terrorism.

Education Ministry: Questions reflect reality

The high school certificate exam questions confused the students, as they came in two parts, the first of which was optional questions and the choice of a correct answer, while the second part was somewhat difficult essay questions, according to a poll conducted by the state-run Tishreen newspaper with a number of students.

According to the students, the questions needed time and understanding since the syllabus was new and being studied for the first time, so they were not used to this type of question.

The newspaper also reported the students’ dissatisfaction with the difficulty of the topic that came about “terrorism, takfiri organizations and methods of combating terrorism,” and the difficulty of the question on “American intervention in the Arab region,” which needs memorization, understanding, and awareness.

In response to the critics, the regime’s Education Ministry, through the First Supervision Office, said the questions were “clear and comprehensive on the topics of the book, and took into account the relative values of the content of the study units, and higher levels of thinking.”

The Ministry also considered that the questions “simulated the current, regional and international reality, which puts the student in educational situations that provoke his thinking, and stimulate his intellectual capabilities and abilities to understand reality and how to deal with it.”

Al-Baath educational policy 

Since its accession to power, especially with Hafez al-Assad assuming power in 1970, the al-Baath Party has used education as a means to domesticate students since childhood to be loyal and obedient citizens to the policy of this regime, says Talal Mustafa, a sociologist, and researcher at the Harmoon Center for Contemporary Studies.

“This reflects the Baathist ideology and its authoritarian philosophy by molding future generations into educational curricula that are in line with its political vision and befitting its continued rule,” the former professor of sociology at Damascus University told Enab Baladi.

This is what has been historically observed in the curricula of various educational levels in Syria, in addition to the violent educational philosophy of imposing the military uniform on students and compulsory affiliation with ideological organizations such as the Vanguards of the Baath and the Revolutionary Youth Union, as a single framework for organizing student activities, in addition to “As-Sa’iqa” (thunderbolt camps), according to the sociologist.

“You will not deceive Syrians”

Dr. Mustafa explains that after the Syrian revolution in 2011, the Syrian regime modified most educational curricula at all educational levels to suit its authoritarian political philosophy.

He added that this deliberate misleading in school curricula and others cannot deceive the Syrians who lived through the revolution in its early months, specifically in the peaceful phase (demonstrations and popular protests) and that the state of denial that the regime is trying to promote in all Syrian social institutions, including educational institutions, is not useful.

Curriculum represents the State’s vision

The Syrian regime is modifying information and terminology within the curricula of a number of subjects according to its political stance towards countries as well, as the regime has placed Sanjak of Alexandretta on the map of Syria after it had deleted it in the “friendly” phase between the regime and Turkey previously.

The sociologist believes that this came in response to the Turkish position in support of the Syrian opposition.

The regime also replaced the term “capture of Constantinople” with “conquest of Constantinople” and “Muhammad II” with the Ottoman Islamic figure “Muhammad the Conqueror.” It also intended to establish the concept of “Ottoman occupation” in the students’ minds instead of the concept of “Ottoman rule,” which was accredited in curricula prior to 2011.

In another move, the regime modified Islamic education curricula to include teaching the Twelver Shi’ism alongside the Sunni sect, and the opening of Shiite schools and universities in a number of Syrian cities, as a “reward” for Iran’s standing by the regime in its war against the people and its revolution, according to Mustafa.

The Russian language was also included in the Syrian educational curricula alongside English and French, as an act of gratitude to Russia’s support for it as well, the researcher ended.


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