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Wednesday, May 12, 2021

SEC tries to quell anger among Qatar parents, students over exam scores

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For illustrative purposes only
For illustrative purposes only

Qatar’s Supreme Education Council (SEC) has defended its new grading system after several residents expressed outrage over a sharp increase in the number of high school students who failed their exams.

This year, 72 percent of students in Qatar’s government-run independent schools passed their exams, down from 85 percent last year. While the SEC maintains this “reflects the true academic level of the students,” the results haven’t sat well with some parents and students. Some have gone so far as to accuse educational authorities of “deliberately failing students.”

Translation: (We demand) an investigation (be opened) by a neutral committee on these high school results. How can a student get 80 percent (in periodic exams during the year) and 60 percent in the finals?

Translation: We have worked hard, but you gave us lower marks and didn’t give us our rights.

In a statement published Saturday, the SEC “expressed regret” over these attacks and defended its new grading process, saying it was transparent and credible.

Explanation

The SEC said it changed the methodology used to grade students and is relying more heavily on their actual exam scores. In previous years, final grades were calculated by applying a student’s scores through grading scales and equations provided by an outside company.

The SEC said that system wasn’t working. It “exaggerated” grades and failed to accurately assess whether a student was prepared for post-secondary studies.

Qatar University
Qatar University

It referenced a Qatar University study that found two-thirds of students who scored between 80 and 90 percent in high school had difficulties continuing their studies in university, as did 10 percent of those who scored higher than 90 percent.

While the SEC said it understood the frustration of some of the students who failed or had unexpectedly scored low grades, officials said it hoped these individuals would put in more effort to achieve their goals:

“Success is not a guaranteed entitlement for the student. It’s a result of his effort and work,” the SEC said in its statement.

Other reasons behind the lower scores include that many of the students who go to night school or are homeschooled intentionally didn’t attend the exams, after they discovered that stricter rules were implemented against cheating, according to SEC.

But many on Twitter weren’t swayed by SEC’s statement, describing it as “nonsense.”

http://twitter.com/rahaf87777/status/617464351671189504

Translation: At the end, these grades are because of your failure and the failure of the education (system). You want development when one graduates from independent schools not knowing how to read properly?

Translation: I’d wish you’d admit your mistakes SEC, the number of those who failed is higher and those who got higher scores is lower. That’s proof that you’re the problem.

The SEC emphasized that test scores are the joint responsibility of students, educators and parents.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.
Photo for illustrative purposes only.

It suggested that parents should regularly monitor and follow up on their children’s academic levels, discipline and attendance and not “make up excuses for them, like some parents do,” the statement said.

The SEC added that parents can easily follow up on their children’s performance and behavior through an online portal unveiled in 2012.

Last September, just before schools officially opened, the SEC announced that students who are habitually absent would be banned from sitting for term and final exams.

It’s not clear if this policy was implemented, or how it affected the country’s overall pass/fail rate.

International comparisons

Studies have suggested that students in Qatar struggle to keep up with their peers academically.

In May, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development released a report that found students in Qatar had among the lowest standardized test scores in the world.

Qatar placed 68 out of 76 countries, which was the lowest rank in the GCC after Oman (72nd).

The report included students from both independent (state-funded) and private schools.

Thoughts?

39 COMMENTS

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Daniel Schriefer
Daniel Schriefer
5 years ago

Why worry as long as you’ve got money?

Yacine
Yacine
5 years ago

Judging by the number of grammar and spelling mistakes in Arabic that I see in every single brochure/banner/announcement/press release from every single company here, I assume the real pass rate should be much lower than that. Even though these mistakes are probably made by expats working in marketing/PR agencies, the fact that they are approved by local managers is an indication they themselves do not know how to write properly in Arabic.

Reem M
Reem M
5 years ago
Reply to  Yacine

it is correct but its in qatari dialect no one speaks in formal arabic here

Yacine
Yacine
5 years ago
Reply to  Reem M

Not all of them. Many banners and brochures are written in literary Arabic (fusha), such as those for conferences or sports events. And for press releases, I have yet to see one that is written in dialect.
But I admit that it is not necessarily a problem with Qatari education. It is a common issue with most education systems in the Arab world, including ones that might have a relatively good reputation, such as the Jordanian and Egyptian systems.

Daniel Schriefer
Daniel Schriefer
5 years ago
Reply to  Yacine

I guess most of the English banners and brochures are written by Indians here.

Reem M
Reem M
5 years ago
Reply to  Yacine

all arab countries have dialects no one really talks formal arabic unless for events or newspapper etc

Dan
Dan
5 years ago
Reply to  Yacine

and 95% of those who write them are not graduates of Qatari schools. You should know better.

Yacine
Yacine
5 years ago
Reply to  Dan

I think I have already mentioned it. Yet most of these banners/PRs get the approval of the senior manager, who is most of the time Qatari.

samesamebutdifferent
samesamebutdifferent
5 years ago

” We have worked hard, but you gave us lower marks and didn’t give us our rights.” >>> So pathetically entitled. It’s not your right to pass exams and have things handed to you on a plate, even if you think this is the status quo being Qatari.

Abdulrahman
Abdulrahman
5 years ago

I think what the person meant was that they weren’t giving the grade that they deserved based on the work they did. Not that they should just pass because they tried to work.

JustMe
JustMe
5 years ago
Reply to  Abdulrahman

You can study for months that 2+2=4, but if you make a mistake in the exam,you’re going to get it wrong. Still not a good reason for the person to complain. There is also no way to gauge how hard the student actually worked based on a tweet.

Misha
Misha
5 years ago
Reply to  JustMe

That is right but the exam is not one question. Most final exams have a lot of questions therefore your few mistakes won’t be detrimental even if it is multiple choice. If you study for months (and as a consequence know the material) you will do well.

Bajn
Bajn
5 years ago

They got E

Diego
Diego
5 years ago

I applaud the SEC for trying to tighten the system. I just hope they made sure they explained this clearly and early enough,have ensured that teachers had clear understandings of how to prepare students and have the proper skills and training to do so. There have been many confusing issues in the past,but when ones thinks about it,how many students are we talking about? Take the number of Qataris in Qatar, the number who attend private/international or Education City schools,the amount of funding available for education and then think about why can’t the local schooled students,especially males, attain better results? SEC has large divide in the population they deal with on the culture of what is and what could be,and how to get there.

dubious
dubious
5 years ago
Reply to  Diego

It is good that the SEC is adjusting grading to more realistically reflect the actual academic level of the children, but they did it in SEC’s typical style. It would have been fairer to announce 6-12 months ago, then introduced now for kids taking exams in a year’s time, rather than stuff up a whole academic year at their final exam. It would have been a great opportunity to introduce a new tougher and more useful syllabus for the incoming class too.

Michael L
Michael L
5 years ago

Good to see the SEC beginning to move in the right direction. Now keep going ….

Daniel Schriefer
Daniel Schriefer
5 years ago
Reply to  Michael L

They will need to mull it first.

Abdulrahman
Abdulrahman
5 years ago

The SEC has a serious image problem. Unfortunately, even if what they’re saying here is true, they’re failures over the years makes it difficult for many people to believe them.

Further, I really don’t understand what method they used to use before for calculating grades, and how it has changed now. Back in the day when I went to the government schools, you had two tests for each semester of your final year in high school. The grades you got were your final grades. Simple.

Michkey
Michkey
5 years ago
Reply to  Abdulrahman

What’s an ‘image problem’? Do you mean they are keen on projecting a good image of themselves in international playground and harming the students in the process of doing so? If that’s what you mean, isn’t it the problem of Qatar in general, wanting to be significant so hard, only in other cases mostly expats are harmed, but that’s fine!

O
O
5 years ago

Why blame SEC? If students failed then be it, better luck next time… But next time, study hard don’t assume that your knowledgable enough but your not!!!! Sad truth that Qatar is not doing well interms of education….. As long as they have the money!!’n

Misha
Misha
5 years ago

Parents always complain, defending their children even if their child is at fault (or even themselves).

Most likely this is a combination problem of the public independent school system and parenting.

Observant One
Observant One
5 years ago

Entitlement belief.. pathetic. Study hard and you will get the results…or send the maid to do your exam.

ShabinaKhatri
ShabinaKhatri
5 years ago
Reply to  Observant One

Deleted for stereotyping.

Marco
Marco
5 years ago
Reply to  ShabinaKhatri

What is it with this woman’s comments?

readabook000
readabook000
5 years ago

What happens to the students who fail? Do they have the opportunity to repeat the year or what?

The Reporter
The Reporter
5 years ago
Reply to  readabook000

They’re given a job in public service

Chilidog
Chilidog
5 years ago
Reply to  The Reporter

Maybe the SEC?

Gaga
Gaga
5 years ago

Duh, as long as there’s a thing called ‘Qatarization’, Qatari citizens has no problem to land a job their country that was built by modern-day slaves.

ShabinaKhatri
ShabinaKhatri
5 years ago
Reply to  Gaga

Deleting for stereotyping.

Paul
Paul
5 years ago

It’s gonna be a looong road to reality

sicti
sicti
5 years ago

Welcome to real world, where students actually study for high grades. Well done SEC :))))

The Reporter
The Reporter
5 years ago

There is a hotel in the diplomatic quarter that has had a sign outside reading “Fire Exit – Keep clean” since I arrived. I look at it and wonder how many people of how many nationalities have read it and not understood the mistake.

Rane de Beer
Rane de Beer
5 years ago
Reply to  The Reporter

Maybe it gets dirty very easily. Cleanliness is next to godliness! Being able to write properly, in any language, is no longer regarded as an important skill. Alas

DavidRSS8
DavidRSS8
5 years ago

The reality is that for an education system to fail as abysmally as Qatar’s has (68 out of 76 despite its tremendous per capita wealth), there is plenty of blame to go around–schools, SEC, parents, and the students themselves. Fixing anyone of these areas is not going to solve the problem; the solution required is a comprehensive one.

Edward
Edward
5 years ago

“Success is not a guaranteed entitlement for the student. It’s a result of his effort and work.” Don’t “make up excuses for them, like some parents do.” Refreshingly candid comments. Bravo SEC.

If only the labor market adopted a similar philosophy.

Joe
Joe
5 years ago

SEC itself is a combination Of failure. They earned it over the disastrous policies they tried to impose on the public. The sad thing they are still pursuing those policies without any regard to the changes in the society they are trying to serve. First step wou

Joe
Joe
5 years ago

First step would be to acknowledge that failure and be more transparent. They have to work with the public instead of confronting them.
SEC must recognize the role of the teacher as the leading force behind any attempt to improve the system. Administrators and bureaucrats are running the show at the moment and so far they turned the Education system into a huge ugly creature that people hate.

Doha Don
Doha Don
5 years ago

Given that the recent OECD report on the results of international tests for 15- year olds shows that Qatar is in the bottom tier and that the State schools are about three years beind the private schools in math and science, it is encouraging that the SEC is providing more realistic grading results to students. It is also heartening to see that Minister Hammadi is meeting with teachers and others to discuss future directions, now that the failure of the educational reform begun in 2002 is transparent.

Before undertaking more reforms, one needs to consider what went wrong with the earlier reform effort. Why did the earlier reform fail? One can assign blame to several parties–to the teachers for failing to support the new directions, to the principals and administratrors who failed to make the reform work, and to the SEC for failing to engage well-qualified teachers and provide them with sufficient professional development and guidance to ensure success. However, the core problem lay deeper–in the values of local culture, and in the rapid replacement of a culture of scarcity by a culture of abundance.

Many teachers and administrators considered the reform to be “counter cultural” because of its emphasis on responsibility, accountability, assessment and transparency. Formal reviews threatened the nationals’ social prestige and the expatriates’ prospects for renewed contracts. The collected data were not used in decision making. The commitments to continuous improvement and transparency dissolved. Not supported by the people within the schools, the reform had no hope of support from the community.

The spread of wealth has undercut the motivation of many Qatari males to undertake the hard work of advanced study and led to female students taking programs for careers they never intended to practice. For neither gender is higher education the route to wealth and security. The avoidance of higher education by males and the self-marginalization of educaed females are freighted with significance for Qatar’s future. In 2013, only 64 Qatar males, and in 2014, only 117 Qatari males graduated from Qatar University. Only one-third of the Qatari workforce consists of women. Given the national goals of developing a knowledge-based economy and placing nationals in key decision-making positions, those numbers are disturbing. Under-using well-educated women and over-using under-educated men may not be a sound national strategy.

Before more school reforms are undertaken, it might be wise to step back to develop a national educational strategy that is consistent with national goals, recognizes the fact that females are better educated than males and are likely to remain so, and reflects the overriding imperative of producing people capable of maintaining Qataris’ control over key aspects of their own socety.

.

Observant One
Observant One
5 years ago
Reply to  Doha Don

Well said, voice of reason, however those in power do not care a hoot.

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