Tunisian education specialist offers advice to bac candidates
By Jamel Arfaoui for Magharebia in Tunis – 23/04/09
Tunisian Director-General for Education Belgacem Hassen speaks with Magharebia about the baccalaureate exam and the challenges it poses for the nation's students.
Magharebia: Why does the bac exam time turn into a time of tension for Tunisian families?
Belgacem Hassen: The bac is a national exam that acts as the gateway to university. It is therefore natural for the bac to be a significant milestone for interested students and their families. Students' abilities and levels vary. Thus, some students experience normal levels of tension in anticipation of the bac.
Tension does not become extreme for students who study regularly all year round, and address the difficulties and problems they have. Such students will be adequately capable of passing the bac exam, which is set to match the average level of students. Alternatively, tension indicates how Tunisian families are intent on success and how they pin great hopes on schools and distinguished academic achievement.
Magharebia: Based on your long experience in education, do you believe that the advice offered by psychology and sociology experts is important for students preparing for the bac?
Hassen: Yes, generally speaking, they are experts and specialists with scientific authority and hands-on expertise, which makes them eligible to offer sound advice. Nonetheless, they are not physicians and students are not patients. The advice they give can only be construed as guidance to the best techniques for revision and the ideal time management methods to avoid tension, stress, and exhaustion. Sound planning, discipline, and determination to succeed remain the best advice a student could possibly need, not just from social and psychological experts, but from teachers before all else.
Magharebia: What is the essential advice you give bac candidates and their parents?
Hassen: Aside from studying all year long, and paying attention in class, I would advise students to have self-confidence, be determined to succeed, have faith in their abilities, discern their deficiencies, and address them before taking the exams.
As for parents, I would advise them not to overburden their children, allow them some time to relax and unwind, enable them to enjoy their leisure to restore their energy, and motivate them to work harder and be keener on excellence. Parents are advised to avoid all kinds of censure and reproof, so as not to destroy their morale or put them down.
Magharebia: Do science students need different advice from arts students?
Hassen: Hard work, perseverance, time management, and planning constitute the same advice given to bac students, be they arts or science. Differences between the two divisions are related to content, rather than methods and techniques of studying. Surely, revising history is different from revising mathematics, revising philosophy is different from revising economy, revising Arabic, or French is not the same as revising physics. All subjects, however, are directly linked to students' level of achievement, in-class positive interaction, in addition to regular studying and good planning, as noted earlier.
Magharebia: Would you recommend that students review individually or in groups?
Hassen: Both are equally advisable, depending on the nature of the subject, the student's level, and the kind of group. Individual efforts, however, remain central for acquisition, understanding, and revision. Group work, on the other hand, is important for interaction, communication, level assessment, and manner of addressing difficulties. However, group revision should not stray from its main purpose.
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