Bac students fear effect of Algerian teachers' strikes
By Mouna Sadek for Magharebia in Algiers – 26/03/10
A series of teachers' strikes has left many Algerians students concerned that they are unprepared to sit the June 6th baccalaureate exam.
Many parents share their children's fears. Soria, a mother of two boys set to take their exams this year, said she was afraid that the interruption of the school year would have an adverse effect on her sons' results.
"They've become completely disoriented," she told Magharebia. "They no longer know where to start with their exam revision."
Algerian teachers went on strike at various times throughout the school year to protest what they called unfair wages, inadequate benefits and an overloaded curriculum. The government finally gave in to their demands and offered pay increases of up to 32%.
The Education Ministry is doing all it can to help students make up loss time by providing catch-up classes in each school, Minister Boubkeur Benbouzid said on Tuesday (March 18th).
These classes "cannot be held in a uniform manner, because the strikes did not affect all schools to the same extent", he explained.
"We took into account pupils' well-being and morale, especially since this decision was taken at the request of pupils and those who run the sector," he said, adding that all topics included in the national curriculum would be covered thoroughly.
Benbouzid said the material would not be taught in "an excessively intensive manner" and that students would be able to absorb the lessons by May 25th, the end of term.
To boost student morale, the exam date was moved up a week to keep it from overlapping with the 2010 World Cup.
Despite these measures, parent-teacher associations have expressed dissatisfaction with the ministry's solutions.
Teachers should provide extra make-up classes on Tuesday afternoons, Saturday mornings and five days of the spring holidays, said the head of the National Union of Parent-Teachers' Associations, Khaled Ahmed.
Ahmed said that students who are trying to make up lost classroom time should be exempt from other school activities, such as sport, music and art.
In view of the study crunch, teaching specialist Mouhoub Harouche is calling for the adoption of an "emergency curriculum" to help students prepare for the exam.
Education officials "will try to save the year, but sadly, in the current situation and given the amount of schooling that has been missed, it won't be possible to save it completely," Harouche told Magharebia.
"A curriculum that was designed to be taught over a year cannot be delivered within just a few weeks," the specialist noted. "Such so-called solutions will do nothing to contribute to effective and high-quality teaching. Pupils' level of achievement will drop further." But some students are determined to pass the exam, despite the interruptions and diminished teaching time.
"It's a difficult task, but not impossible," student Walid told Magharebia. "We'll certainly suffer by comparison with students who sat their exams in previous years, but this will make success all the more rewarding."
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