Equal Partners
by Roland Ezri

Equal Partners by Roland Ezri

Equal Partners

By Roland Ezri

"Women are the backbone of all societies. They do a substantial part of the work, and play a major role in raising the future generation yet they are largely powerless. The decisions that count are made by men and foisted upon women."

Writings by Roland Ezri

The Second Exodus – Egypt – CXXVI. My Education – (2 of 13)

From 1st primary to 4th primary, you’re tested as the year progresses; based on that, you’re promoted to the next year. In primary school, you’re rarely failed and asked to repeat the year.

From 1st secondary to 3rd secondary, you’re required to pass the year-end final exams in June. You’re tested through the year, but the results have no impact on the final exams, unless you need a few marks on a subject on which you did well during the year. If you failed a subject(s) there was a molha’a (supplementary or second chance exams) in September. Put another way, you stood or fell based on one exam followed by a second chance exam. That said, only a few of my peers had to repeat a year.

On 4th secondary, you were required to sit for the government exams. Across Egypt, all at the same time, students wrote those exams. If you passed, you got your sakhafa (high- school leaving certificate). Here again, if necessary, you got second chance exams in September.

If you proceeded to 5th secondary, you had to make a choice as between arts, sciences, or mathematics. The choice, of course, depended on what you wanted to be; for instance, for medical school you took sciences, for engineering you took mathematics. Here again, you faced government exams. Just passing in this case was not enough. You needed high marks to be admitted to most faculties.

The results were first announced in the newspapers. When you heard a newspaper vendor shouting: “Nemar el talamzah” (The numbers of the students), you rushed like crazy to the street to buy the newspaper; you then frantically looked if your number (you don’t write your name on the exam paper, you’re given a number) was there. If it was, you passed, if not, well, you didn’t.

The official results were then sent to your school. Thus, you eventually knew your marks, and your overall percentage. As well, you officially knew you passed, or didn’t, when the school notified you. After all, errors did creep in the listings published in the newspapers.

Were government exams ever leaked? Yes, it did happen on occasions. When writing my 5th secondary exams, the chemistry exam was delayed by two hours. The official line was a delay on the part of the printer; the rumor was that the exam has been leaked, and a replacement exam was being printed. Another rumor was that a replacement exam was generally easy. That rumor was confirmed! The chemistry exam proved to be a gift!

Once you passed your 5th secondary, you got a certificate called tawgiheya (it comes from the verb to stream, and, as already mentioned, 5th secondary had three streams, art, etc.)

You don’t break open the champagne once you get your tawgiheya; your overall percentage will determine whether you get in the faculty of your choice or not. If you percentage is low, you may not be accepted altogether in the Cairo University, and going to another university was not generally a palatable choice for a Cairene.

Many students voluntarily repeated 5th secondary to improve their marks and boost their overall percentage.

So what percentage are we talking about? Let me make a parenthesis here. In Canada, some bright students get marks in the 90% range. The caliber of education, and the (less demanding) exams make such high marks possible. In Egypt, even if you’re Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein rolled into one, you cannot get marks in the 90s! The highest percentage ever achieved back then was 87%. It was obtained by a very gifted student who went on to study medicine. Mind you, all he needed was 71%, And believe me, you had to work very hard before you got such a percentage.

In the year I graduated you needed at least 60% to be admitted to any faculty. Difficult programs such as engineering, sciences, medicine or pharmacy required a percentage in the high sixties or low seventies.

In university, your fate again depended on one exam in June, with a second chance in September. Forget such cute concepts as semester, mid-term tests, marks obtained during the semester that have an impact on the final exam. Such mollycoddling, unfortunately, did not exist. I would like to think that this system has changed, for it was too demanding.

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