Unprepared 12th graders brace for general entrance exam

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Many 12th graders and their parents are worrying about the general entrance exam this year. The anxiety is justified as schools haven’t operated since December 23 last year. Due to the outbreak of the deadly COVID-19, the government decided to shut down schools and TV lessons are being provided to students to allow them to continue to study from home. In other words, students have been staying at home since the winter school break. As a result, students are behind on lessons and 12th graders are not able to prepare adequately for the general entrance exam. Many criticized that accessibility and efficiency of TV lessons is poor and doesn’t meet requirements. Many parents despair and ask, “Who will be responsible if 12th graders get a bad scores on the general entrance exam due to school closure?”

Currently, educational institutions of all levels have been shut down in 138 countries and 1.3 billion students have been staying at homes due to COVID-19, reports WHO. Some 29 countries that shut down schools are organizing TV lessons for 584 million children. In an emergency situation, many countries  are panic-stricken and can’t organize TV lessons at all.

On March 13, Minister of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Science and Sport Yo.Baatarbileg highlighted that Mongolia, China and South Korea are leading the world by organizing TV lessons. But Mongolia’s advantage is that the measure was taken as soon as the quarantine was imposed. Quality of the lessons remain poor and lesson time is too short, continuing for only 40 minutes a day. The quality of training still has not yet been monitored and standardized.

Registration for the general entrance exam will end soon. Graduates have very short amount of time to prepare for exams. Education officials said that everything related with the general entrance exam will be carried out in the normal fashion as 12th graders are provided with hand books and CD from the Educational Evaluation Center. In reality, however, the school closures have seriously hampered exam preparations.

Calving takes place in Mongolia from March to August, but the main period is in the months of April and May, when the most calving takes place. Most students living in provinces help and herd livestock with their family during this time. Many teachers in provinces have said that most of their students have no time for TV lessons or preparation for the general entrance exam.  In the capital, many students have left for the countryside to spend time in remote areas during quarantine, officials said.

On the other hand, the quality of preparation and lessons at home has not been effective, according parents. Demand for tutors has been growing in relation to the upcoming exams. The general entrance exam is not only an exam for passing high school, but a very important exam that decides graduates’ future. Therefore, some students go all out to get the highest score possible, while others depend on luck.

The general entrance exam for 12th graders is being organized for the 15th year by the Educational Evaluation Center. The center said it would remove exam questions related to TV lessons since not all students are able to access them. 

Basically, in the academic year 2019-2020 students only had three months of lessons. But the results of the TV lessons hasn’t been evaluated at all. This means this year’s 12th graders are severely disadvantaged. 

The general entrance exam will take place between July 2 and 5 after the elections, the State Emergency Commission stated on March 22. The Education Evaluation Center holds special lessons for preparation for the general entrance exam at 11:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. every day. However, students are not satisfied with tele-learning.

About his preparation for the general entrance exam, 12th grader of School No. 27 in Bayanzurkh District B.Ayurzana said, “Tele lessons are confusing, and the activities assigned are difficult to work on. So I have been learning e-lesson at private training centers for the entrance exam. When students ask a teacher about lessons they don’t understand, they reply immediately. So it is more effective. We have the opportunity to view the courses we have chosen to take. One lesson costs 37,500 MNT. If COVID-19 does not spread in the future, 12th graders will have lessons starting April 1, officials said. Also, we have to pass other lessons. Assignments are given weekly and I submit my homeworks online, but it is difficult to take scores from a distance. Some teachers have suggested that the average of the previous two semesters should be used to score this semester.”

12th grader of the school of Buren soum, Tuv Province B.Darisuren said, “I am herding livestock with my parents in the countryside. Our province has good electricity and telephone networks, so there are no problems related to TV lessons for me. The timing and content are also manageable. If TV lessons took longer, it will be difficult to study because calving takes much of my time right now. For me, the quality and content of TV lessons are good enough.”

12th grader of School No. 3 of Shvieegovi soum, Govisumber Province J.Khatantuul evaluated that TV lesson is not as effective as actual classes. She said, “Our class teacher hears students' comments and requests online every week and reports about it to other teachers. In addition, the school is taking prompt action in connection with the final exams. The lessons given by our teacher is better than TV lessons, I think. Our soum is small. Even with a small number of students, the teacher is not good at checking assignments on time, and not giving additional assignments. Teachers can schedule and organize classes for two to three students at a time. In small soums like ours, it is more effective to organize group lessons with a small number of students. It is possible to use this method in soums with small populations. A teacher said they will distribute CDs to us from the Education Evaluation Center next week. I guess it might be the same as the TV lessons.”

Head of Research Department of the Education Evaluation Center L.Ganbat said, “The CD includes  all TV lessons for 12th graders, assignments, answer sheet templates, rules, procedures, and other tips and information about the general entrance exam. It also includes standard exercises and assignments for all subjects of the general entrance exam of 2019. Handbooks and CDs were distributed because the internet was not fully accessible and many students could not watch TV lessons. Handbooks and videos can be used by students at any time to prepare for exams. The purpose of the exam is to rank graduates. In other words, it does not evaluate the curriculum, and examinations are developed not only from lessons of 12th grade, but also all previous classes. In connection with school closure, the general exam will not include content which wasn’t taught in class this year.

Students are preparing for their exam in whatever manner they can. But it is also important that the school makes an effort.

Teacher of Erdmiin Urguu Complex School of N.Munkh-Erdene said, “The school did not prepare students for the exam in a unified manner. Exam preparation materials are obtained from class teachers and other subject teachers and distributed electronically to students. In fact, choosing a career means students are choosing their future. Therefore, parents should pay attention to paid training for their children. Our students are being taught by tutors. That is also effective, they said.”

TV lessons are broadcast as scheduled. Some students have opportunities to look back and repeat, while others don’t. However, some of them have not watched TV lessons in remote provinces because they’re helping their parents. 12th graders of the second bag, Khovd soum, Uvs Province U.Dulmaa said that she didn’t go to the soum center after quarantine.  So far, she hasn't seen a TV lesson at all because there is no television network in the countryside.

She said, “I planned to take an exam in biology and chemistry. Chemistry and biology are difficult to learn on their own. I'm afraid of losing a year if I can't choose the career I want. I'm going back to the countryside soon. Because of the poor network, I may not always be able to ask my teacher questions. In general, it is difficult to solve the chemistry problem  over the phone and achieve results.”

According to the Education Evaluation Center, registration for the general entrance exam started on February 10 nationwide. It will close on April 15. Because the work is organized online, examiners can attend regardless of time or distance. The exam fee is 5,800 MNT. In the 2019-2020 school year, more than 28,000 students will graduate high school. In addition, there are about 4,000 people who failed to pass last year and want to enroll in higher education. A total of 32,000 students are expected to take the exam this year.

The general entrance exam will decide 12th graders' future. It is important to prepare well in order to have to options they need to further their learning. But preparations seem to be lacking in all fronts for this year’s entrance exam takers

Enkhnaranjav Tumurbaatar