Bac exams kick off in Tunisia
By Mona Yahia for Magharebia in Tunis – 05/06/09
Finally, baccalaureate exams are under way in Tunisia. Students have been studying and reviewing materials for such a long time that it is a relief to finally be answering actual bac questions, many said.
On Wednesday (June 3rd), more than 139,000 students around the country sat through the first exam; parents lined up outside exam centres in anticipation, waiting to hear how their children did.
"I will not rest until exams are over and my son succeeds," said Zainab, the mother of one of the candidates in the science branch. "Although I'm terrified, I try not to show him that so he will not lose concentration."
On the first day, students sat for philosophy and third foreign language exams for all branches. After the exams, they had different reactions as to how it went. These courses are vital to arts students but rather marginal for science students.
Overall, the day went well for many students.
"The questions were easy and hardly surprising," said Doha, a math student.
Riyad, a biology student, said he studied well, and that helped him answer the question, "though this is not a course I am particularly interested in, but it offers a good chance to boost my score".
Amal, a teacher, affirmed that philosophy topics were not tough and involved no surprises. The exam tackled three major areas that students studied all year long.
Tunisian Minister of Education, Hatem ben Salem, toured some of the exam centres on Wednesday to oversee how the exams were going. He thought the questions were not hard and that average students will do very well this year.
"I am expecting high rates of success, given the outstanding results achieved by most bac students in all branches all year long."
Ben Salem said that the exams are prepared in conformity with well-studied standards, which his ministry is keen on implementing. A special committee, made up of academics, professors, and supervisors of secondary education, is in charge of selecting questions for these exams.
Exam centres prepared days ahead. Some even threw reception parties for candidates, with food and drinks, to shake off their fear.
That worked well, Mo'ez, an economics and management student, said. It helped ease the tension before the exam, at least for him, he said.
"We have trained candidate students, especially because that they are young," one principal said. "We held meetings for them on more than one occasion to explain a few things."
Professors and supervisors at exam centres are on alert, looking for cheaters or any suspicious moves inside classrooms. Posters on the walls warned against cheating, smoking, using cell phones, or audio players.
For students with special needs, the ministry of education and exam centres took several measures to make the experience as smooth and easy as possible, such as giving extra time to answer the questions, providing students to help write the answers, or providing Braille technology for the visually impaired.
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