Tag Archive | Education

The C and G Bagrut, Or, The System is Messed Up

The first bagrut (matriculation) exam this season was the English exam.  The way Israeli exams, in most subjects, work is like this:

A few hours before the exam, each school is sent more than enough test booklets, for every test that they will be giving.

They bring in  proctors, unrelated to the school, but usually from a sector and gender that will be mutually comfortable.

The proctors make sure that the room is ready for the test, and then the students come in.

The students hand over everything that is not a pen, food, or drink, or whatever material is allowed to be brought in (for instance, a dictionary, or simple Bible).

Then the proctor hands out the exams, the students do what they can, and hand it in.

This is the process in short.

But what happens when someone finds a copy of the test and uploads it to the internet, so that he and his friends can prepare?  It’s no longer an “unseen” text, and the questions are known, and the students have the opportunity to prepare answers . . . but not across the board, and therefore, the test isn’t really fair anymore.

The ideal would be to isolate that student, or possibly school, and punish them appropriately.  But half an hour before the entire country is going to take the test, there is no time for that.  So, what do they do?  The following is what they did while I sat in the teacher’s room and waited, and while my co-teacher kept calling the Bagrut hotline to find out, as soon as possible, what we were supposed to do.

First, the people in charge of the bagrut exams talk.  Then, they decide to change questions, and the new questions will be sent by email to the secretaries, to be printed and attached to the existing test booklets.

But what about the students who are LD, and therefore only do half the exam, orally?  Which questions do they do?  Previously, we had a list of which questions were necessary.  Now, what do we do?  What about those LD kids who have a disk?  The disk doesn’t have a recording of the new questions, and it’s not fair to make them do the test without having those questions read aloud to them.  And what about students who already started the test?

We got the list of questions for the first LD set, and the second LD set was told to do the original questions.  Then we saw the replacement questions – they were practically identical to the originals, except maybe in a different order.  The students who had already started had to start over, and had two options: 1. extra time, 2. moed bet (another chance to do the test, in a few weeks).  Even for those who chose to take the extra time, the test isn’t really fair.  It was late in the afternoon, and doing a matriculation exam is taxing.  I think it’s fair to say that the answers they gave the second time around were probably of a lesser quality than those they gave the first time around.

Because all anyone knew was that the exam that was supposed to be at 4:15 had been leaked, this whole process happened to 2 separate exams – C and G, which were both scheduled to take place at 4:15 that afternoon.

Two days later, we hear unwelcome news: Now, 45 minutes before the start of the exams, all students testing must be phone-less in the examination room.  Then the tests will be sent by email to the secretary, who will print them out for the students.  This is a bad plan, and if this is what we have come to, then we are in big trouble.  First, let’s see why it’s a bad plan:

1. 45 extra minutes in the exam room.  Expect grades to drop immediately, because that adds 45 extra minutes of stress, and certainly won’t help anyone do better on the test.

2. What happens if the school’s internet happens to not be working exactly when it needs to be?  What happens if a specific city has a power outage exactly when the bagrut needs to start?

3. Previously, the test booklets were sent to the schools.  Who is going to pay for the photocopying?  And for bigger schools, is 45 minutes going to be enough?

4. Who says the test won’t leak, anyways?

In my opinion, there are major underlying issues in the system, if this is what we have come to.  But on the other hand, I thought that anyways.  I’m not sure how standardized, stupidized, matriculation exams help our academic ranking, use, or level at all.  In fact, I’m pretty sure it does the opposite.  But I’m no minister of education, so my opinion doesn’t really matter, does it?

In addition, the new system punishes everyone.  Why not just punish the sector that started the leak?  I understand that in today’s age of Facebook and Instagram, the leaked test will make it to everyone.  But not fast enough to be a real threat to the test’s integrity, for the rest of the country.

Update: The Education ministry has responded to the anger of teachers and parents, by finding a middle ground.  Some schools will get direct delivery, and some schools will have to send two representatives who will be held responsible for the integrity of the exam in that school.  Students will have to hand in their phones 30 minutes early.  This is much, much better.  Will it work?  I don’t know.  Honestly, I am of the opinion that a student who wants to cheat will find a way to do it, no matter what guidelines are set.  This is a global problem (as in, affecting the entire Western world) and will not be solved until we stop making academics into a golden calf that everyone is required to serve.  

We, as a whole, need to put more emphasis on who people are, and a solid value system, and less on grades, academics, and what people have.  “Keeping up with the Joneses,” should not exist, and is a symptom of this same problem; when you have to prove that you are a worthwhile person by grades, money, or lifestyle, you cannot put the same energy into living according to proper values.  But that’s a subject for a different post.


Creative Writing and Me

I have always hated creative writing classes.  I hate creative writing.  That probably sounds very funny coming from someone who has a blog, but it’s true.  I suppose I hate the classes because, unlike a blog, you have to write something.  And it usually has to be on a specific topic.  I also dislike creative writing because I grew up hearing that I wasn’t creative.  My sister, Esther, was always the creative one.  I played very straightforward games, without much variation, and didn’t think up creative stories.  That was Esther’s job.  She wanted to be an author and illustrator when she grew up.  She had an Imagination.  Me, I was practical (and still am).  So naturally, anything with the word, “creative” in it kind of repelled me.

With this in mind, you can imagine how I felt when I was told that I had to take a supposedly optional creative writing course for my degree . . . And why?  Because I was not required to take other courses, meant for native Hebrew speakers, since my English is on a high enough level – which meant that I did not have enough hours, and therefore was required to take this course to make up for some of them.

It was awful.  It was, in any case, the worst academic year of my life, and I had a teacher that wouldn’t let me do anything to except listen to her boring class and try to write things about her non-inspirational, stressful (because of the pressure), topics.  Bad recipe.  I ended up taking frequent “bathroom breaks” (mostly to talk to Yitzchak and dump all my problems on him – we were engaged at the time), and the bored soul that my teacher was, she wrote down when I left and when I came back.  She then informed the department head that I had missed too many classes and that she would not accept my portfolio.

So, I stopped halfway through the portfolio (why put in effort if she won’t take it, anyways?), and spent two and a half years bugging the department head about what I should do.  Should they just count two more of my hours that I studied in my previous college?  Two of the excess hours that I learned my minor?  Should I do an extra project, retake the course, or take a different course?

It took the department head two and a half years to finally decide.  I had made appointments, left notes, called, spoken with the secretary, you name it.  Until one day, I got the brilliant idea to email her.  And I emailed.  And emailed.  And emailed.

And finally, she answered me.  I had to finish the assignment, pay the appropriate fine, and the professor (with only an M.A.) will give me a grade.

I hate the assignment, so I pushed it off (at this point, a few weeks don’t matter in terms of the fine).  I also don’t think it’s fair that I should pay 500 shekels, when it’s not my fault that the department head didn’t answer me two and a half years ago.  So I am writing a request to have the fine lowered.

Finally, I am done.  That last, dumb, assignment, for a teacher who I have an extreme dislike for and who I hope never to see again, because if I do, I have a few things to tell her, is done.  I hope I get a grade that won’t bring down my average.  If I want to get a graduate degree, I need an average of at least 85.

I am done.  I have to print it, request a fine reduction (or cancellation, if I’m lucky) and turn it in, but I am done.  Thank G-d.

Thanks, Yitzchak, for helping me through this all.  I couldn’t have done it without you.

And now I am on to bigger and better things.  I think I want to become a doctor.  Unfortunately for me, Yitzchak’s mother became a doctor while he was growing up, and he’s not willing to go through that again with his wife – or see his kids go through what he went through.  So I guess I will become a doctor when my last kid gets married.  Since Yitzchak and I want 20 kids (no kidding, but I don’t think we’ll get there), that’s going to be in a loong time.  Hopefully.

In the meantime, I have a few certificate courses that I want to take.  Maybe when Yitzchak is done with his studies, I’ll do a graduate degree in my field or a related field.  We will see.

But I can dream, can’t I?