One-third of outstanding students of the regime’s coastal stronghold, What are the reasons?
Enab Baladi – Muhammed Fansa
During the past five years, the number of outstanding students with full marks in the basic and secondary certificates has increased within the areas of influence of the Syrian regime.
It set a record this year, and it is remarkable that the majority of those who obtained the full score are students who sat their exams in the Syrian coastal areas, the birthplace of the head of the Syrian regime, Bashar al-Assad, which raises questions about the reasons, given the similarity of the difficult economic conditions in all parts of the country.
On July 17, the Minister of Education, Darem Tabbaa, announced the results of the exams for the first session of the general secondary certificate (baccalaureate), where the success rate in the scientific stream reached 66.33%, and 33 male and female students obtained the full score in the scientific stream, a number that no exam session has reached since 2010, of whom 13 are from Latakia governorate, and eight are from Tartus governorate.
While the success rate in the literary branch was 68.68%, and the highest score was 2698 degrees, it was recorded in Latakia governorate.
With a success rate of 77%, Tabbaa announced, on July 27, the results of the basic education certificate exams for 2023
For the first time since 2012, 162 female and male students obtained the full score (3100), including 24 female and male students in Damascus governorate, 32 in rural Damascus, 31 in Aleppo, and 22 in Latakia, while the largest number was recorded in Tartus with 48 female and male students.
Cheating in exams has become a “culture”
There have been criticisms and accusations of cheating in the secondary school exams this year on social media, based on the fact that eight students from one school in the city of Latakia obtained a full score in the general secondary certificate in its scientific branch.
On the other hand, others defended the students of that school, considering that the students excelled as a result of their studies and excellence and that the school is distinguished by being special for the outstanding students, and those who want to join it undergo special tests before admission.
The academic sociologist Hussam al-Saad explained to Enab Baladi that the economic and living conditions pressuring the Syrians opened the space for bribery, fraud, and selling exam questions and became more available than before, as cheating became an “accepted and prevalent culture.”
Regarding the reality of education in Syria in recent years, al-Saad, a former professor at the universities of Damascus and Aleppo, said that education today is in its “worst” condition since the Syrian regime assumed power.
The sociologist believes that the decline and collapse of education are linked to its uselessness in daily life, as it is no longer an urgent need through which one can obtain a profession “at the very least,” sufficient for the learner to live in light of the continuously deteriorating economic conditions, which is one of the reasons for the issue of complacency and indifference from teachers and parents.
Mohammad Nour al-Nimr, another academic social researcher, agreed with this opinion. He believes that education in Syria is a tool in the hands of the regime, starting with the curricula and ending with leniency in questions and awarding marks, which it uses to distance students from the Syrian reality, according to his interview with Enab Baladi.
Al-Nimr gave an example of a lesson in the “National Education” book, version 2020, for students of the basic certificate, in which it was stated that the problems of Syrian society are limited to unemployment and transportation only.
In each exam session for the secondary and basic certificates, questions arise that suggest that the curricula are far from reality, as the “National Education” exam for students of the basic education certificate for the current session included a question about proposing solutions to restore the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, ignoring the presence of four foreign armies on Syrian territory.
Al-Nimr believes that the exams are part of the process of distancing students from reality by asking easy questions to obtain free marks, which do not require objections and do not at the same time reflect the deteriorating educational reality of the destruction of schools and the lack of competence of teachers.
Regime seeks to maintain support and loyalty
According to statistics from the Ministry of Education, more than a third of the students with perfect scores in the two certificates (the baccalaureate and the ninth grade) are those who sat for exams in schools in the Syrian coastal region.
The researcher, al-Saad, said that the reality of the prominent “superiority” of students in the coastal region is part of the collapse of the educational process in Syria in general due to the absence of censorship in those areas even many years before 2011.
He attributed the superiority of the students in that region to the intervention of the regime to qualify them to enter the appropriate specializations for the current stage so that the joints of all sectors of life are handed over to those whose loyalty is trusted.
The academic, social researcher, al-Nimr, believes that the goal of education in the coastal region is to go to the military college after passing the certificate exams, and therefore, the regime tolerates cases of cheating to increase success rates.
University graduates who volunteer in military colleges can obtain military ranks higher than those of non-educated students whose ranks begin with army conscripts.
Hala Haj Ali, assistant social researcher at the Omran Center for Strategic Studies, told Enab Baladi that the concentration of full marks in the coastal regions is caused by cases of corruption, but they have increased in recent years due to the lack of what the regime can offer to its popular incubator.
The regime compensates for the loss of its popular base among its children during the fighting within its forces and the inability of its children to obtain a good education by being lenient with it in order to obtain seats within the desired university majors, in an effort to satisfy it, according to Haj Ali.
Examination sessions before 2011 were not free of cases of cheating or leaking of questions to well-known personalities or sons of officers in the regime forces, according to the social researcher. However, this case turned into a “phenomenon of neglect,” and exam questions were leaked, or the examination hall was changed, as if cheating had become “normal.”.
Regarding the lack of solutions, Haj Ali stated that there are no channels of accountability and that even those who are not part of the corruption system ignore monitoring or holding this category of students accountable since most of them are considered the children of the “martyrs” of the fighting within the regime forces.
Those who excel in the secondary certificate in its two branches are enrolled in the specialization they want within the university colleges, and the medical colleges are the most desired majors among students.
However, according to the statements of the Deputy Minister of Higher Education, Abdul-Latif Hanano, in September 2022, the number of students in the preparatory year that precedes their admission to the faculties of medicine, dentistry, and pharmacy reached 8,500 students.
The researcher Haj Ali warned of the possibility of gains for the popular incubator affiliated with the regime at the expense of the rest of society by facilitating their obtaining the scientific places they desire in universities.
The majority of the incubator’s members believe that community members from the rest of the regions emigrate or seek refuge in foreign countries, unlike them, because there is no possibility of emigration for fear of facing the community’s rejection abroad or because there is no financial possibility.
So, the opportunity for their children to enroll in medicine and engineering specializations inside Syria is an alternative to this option. This affects the number of available university seats, according to the social researcher.
The coastal regions have witnessed stability in the security situation compared to other governorates for several years, which prompted some residents of other governorates who were displaced due to the deteriorating security or economic conditions to reside there, and some of them obtained superior results during their studies in the region.
Enab Baladi contacted teachers from the southern city of Daraa to clarify the mechanism used in correcting exam papers, as they stated that it is not permissible for the corrector to mark an entire paper alone. Rather, the process takes place in the form of groups.
Each group consists of three correctors, two of whom correct in red and the third in black for verification, so that each group corrects one question, then the paper moves to the second group to correct the second question, and so on.
Upon completion, there is a group for checking in green and a final group for collecting marks then, the papers are transferred to the Directorate of Education, checking for collection and entering the results into the computer.
It is forbidden for correctors to open the place of the name on the papers to see the names, and it is also prohibited to use mobile phones inside the correction hall, in addition to that, any teacher who has a student who has taken the secondary or basic certificate exams, is not chosen to correct the examination papers.
The teachers explained that the correction was sometimes tolerated if the answer was “very close to being correct.”
In the Sham FM’s interview with Darem Tabbaa, the Education Minister, on July 3, described the conduct of the exam process for the current session as “very advanced,” while the leakage of exam questions was the result of negligence in the work of “individual cases.”
The Minister gave a picture of the educational situation in Syria through several statistics, including that out of a total of 22,000 operating schools before 2010, there are currently 14,000 operating schools, a number of which were also damaged by the devastating Feb.6 earthquake last February, and that the education budget before 2010 amounted to 14%, while it has now reached 4% or 4.5% of the general budget.
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