Credits: Isopix.be/AP Photo/Felipe Dana
Credits: Isopix.be/AP Photo/Felipe Dana

Iraq: Government must revise national examination questions

published 20 April 2023 updated 27 April 2023

The President of the Kurdistan Teachers’ Union (KTU), Abdalwahed Mohammad Haje, has urged public authorities to change the format and questions of the Preparatory Baccalaureate Certificate for students’ eligibility for admission to higher education institutions. Which determines students’ eligibility for admission to higher education institutions. This is to avoid cheating and ensure more equity among students.

“Many issues have arisen following the ministerial questions of the 12th grade – end of secondary education – in all nations and several drastic steps have been implemented in some countries to ensure the success of the tests,” Haje stressed.

KTU President Abdalwahed Mohammad Haje

Saying that there are many surprising ways to cheat on these tests, he considered it important to note that a majority of countries quit taking the ministerial tests, merely conducting regular tests for students, leaving university-level problem-solving efforts to higher education institutions.

He went on to argue that the issue therefore is in the hands of the colleges and universities, as students who now are being accepted based on their qualifications and capacity will be accepted based only on their skills and capacities in the future. “There are many groups and organisations active in other countries capable of awarding certificates to students who merely participate in their studies to the best of their abilities,” he maintained.

For him, it is crucial to keep in mind that there are several issues arising from exam-taking in Iraq generally, and in the region of Kurdistan in particular, ranging from cheating to question-writing flaws.

While acknowledging that the unfolding of examinations was better this year than it had been in the past, Haje also underlined that there are still some fundamental issues to deal with concerning the examination procedure, for instance:

  1. This type of examination process is unacceptable since it results in a large number of graduates never needed by the labour market. “They won't be welcomed by anyone. It is a significant issue that can only be resolved with time,” he warned.
  2. Having only one type of question for all students is unfair, “because not every student has the same level of comprehension. Their intelligence levels are not the same. The individual's aptitude must therefore be taken into account,” Haje explained.
  3. No matter how much science or how much expertise is involved, the entire process is conceived so as to lead to great evaluations and high marks.
  4. Because so many cheating tools are sold, so many centres and private tutors are wealthy, and so many booklets are published, for Haje, “the examination procedure is a form of marketing”.
  5. Because the process has been marketed and the issue has been exaggerated, families of grade 12 students are in a difficult situation, being under financial pressure to ensure their children’s success.

The KTU leader added: “We ought to be aware that technology has evolved and has a wide range of applications. That is why we should be aware that there will be a variety of ways to cheat, and, as quickly as feasible, we should consider several strategies to stop the various forms of cheating.”

KTU is also in favour of the inclusion of multiple-choice questions as well as definitions, writing, and vocabulary, in the national examination, as “it will be the most effective method of asking the questions, given that the levels of knowledge among students are different.”

He further recalled that scientific studies found the following:

  1. Visual learning is appealing to 65% of students, and they like questions that include drawing pictures, photos, maps, and charts, as well as questions about history.
  2. A third of students – 35% – like to learn through listening and appreciate both written and oral tests.
  3. 10% of students are kinesthetic learners interested in studying how body parts move to support their learning. They also enjoy questions coming in the form of short definitions, completion tasks, and multiple-choice answers. This is fair for the literary and scientific students.

“We hope that our recommendations will be well-received to improve the educational process and, of course, to ensure that any weaknesses in this area can be identified and corrected,” Haje concluded.