x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Exam structure changes for students causes concern

More than 10,000 pupils at the emirate's state schools sat the first of a new style of exam designed to test more than rote learning.

ABU DHABI // More than 10,000 pupils at the emirate's state schools yesterday sat the first of a new style of exam designed to test more than rote learning.

The tests for children in grades 10, 11, and 12 are intended instead to show their analytical skills, a significant shift of focus for UAE education. Not only are the exams shorter than before - at 45 minutes rather than 90 - they are less important, making up only 40 per cent of pupils' final grades. The rest will be based on teachers' assessments of work done throughout the year.

However, some parents expressed concern about the new system.

Mona Sultan, the Syrian mother of 16-year-old Tallal, who is in grade 11 at Al Mutanabbi School, said there had been a lack of warning about the new tests, which made it difficult to prepare.

Even teachers were only told about the new system a fortnight ago, giving them little chance to change their methods and teach to the test. "It is too much pressure on the children, who are already pressured," said Mrs Sultan. "They are studying double the time because they don't know what will be in the exam."

Umm Ahmed, the Jordanian mother of 16-year-old Ahmed Abdulazziz, who attends the same school, agreed. "It is too soon to know if the new system will be good or bad for our kids," she said. "We are worried about the new sudden change, but we will do our part and our child will do his, and we hope the school will do theirs, too."

Dr Mugheer al Khaili, the director general at Abu Dhabi Education Council, visited grade 12 classes at two public schools in the capital to get feedback on the new exams from pupils and teachers. Mr al Khaili said he hoped the continuous assessment would be less stressful for pupils.

"We need to help students, not scare them," he said. "Until now they have been memorising from books - as soon as they leave the test rooms, all information evaporates."

He said continuous assessment would also alert parents sooner of any problems "before it is too late to do anything about it".

osalem@thenational.ae