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Analysis: Prospective graduates fret over time constraints as ministry of education set to launch exit exam to tackle deteriorating competency

St. Mary’s University, undergraduate program conducting students awareness creation session on Higher Education Exit Exam (HEEE), Photo: St. Mary’s University

By Molla Mitiku   @MollaAyenew

Addis Abeba – The announcement to provide an exit exam to all private and public university, first degree graduating students has been topical since last year. Different engagements were held with university personnels to create awareness and prepare their students for the exit exam which will be administered for the first time in the country in the coming July as the final testing mechanism for graduates to get their degree awards.  

In line with that, universities have been attempting to inform their students and arrange supportive mechanisms to prepare them for the Exit Exam planned to be rolled out for all prospective graduates of 2022/2023 Ethiopian scholastic year.   

Berhanu Nega (Prof), Minister of Education, has tweeted on 01 February 2022 that the exam is just part of the reform the ministry has been executing in administering quality of education at universities and colleges. He emphasized that the exit exam will be given to all undergraduate programs to improve the quality of higher education.  

Despite dramatic university expansions between 2000 and 2018, Education quality in Ethiopia has been deteriorating for decades and experts in the field persistently expressed the urgency of applying mechanisms like exit exam to ensure education quality and competency of graduates.

Experts, university professors and students who spoke to Addis Standard on the matter, believe that administering exit exam could be one way of ensuring quality education along other multifaceted things that must be done in consort with it.  

The education system has left students in more disarray as the assessment mechanism has fallen under sabotage, professor Tirusew Tefera, an expert in Education, who served as a Professor and Laureate in Special Needs Education at Addis Ababa University said. 

“Due to the fact that the system has jettisoned quality issues and as cheating become rife, there is urgency for the ministry to administer various mechanisms like exit exam,” he told Addis Standard

Although prospective graduates do not protest against taking the exit exam, they complain for the cramming of schedule with their final term tasks. 

Finote Demeke, a prospective graduate at St. Mary University, said, in spite of the university’s efforts in assisting the students to be ready for the exit exam, they swamped with frustration on time constraints.

They whine about tight schedule they do in the coming four months that they have course that ranges 15 to 20 credit hours in the semester and they have to work on their senior essay.

“We need to complete final semester courses, do senior essay and take the exit exam that create a dismay on the prospective graduates. There should be enough intervals for the exit exam,” Finot told Addis Standard.

“The exam may not evaluate students accurately if they take it while being under pressure from time constraints”

Simegn Messele, prospective graduate

She also said that there is no uniformity among universities with regard to preparing students for the exam, and the ministry should at least provide to all core competence books to help them prepare themselves and compete with students at first generation universities.

Simegne Messele, also a prospective graduate at Adama University, on her part agreed in absence of uniformity among all universities in preparing students for the exam. She said, “in fact, the university has scheduled tutorial class aiming to assist students prepare for the exit exam but we do have courses with around 20 contact hours and we give priority for these courses and the senior essay”. 

“The decision to administer exit exam in July has created a frustration among most students for time constraints,” she told Addis Standard.   

Students will not be illegible for the exit exam unless they complete their courses at the university, she said, adding that, “the exam may not evaluate students accurately if they take it while being under pressure from time constraints”.

Seid Mohamed, head of Higher education quality and efficiency improvement desk at Ministry of Education, told Addis Standard that exit exam has been well communicated with both government and private universities and that, “it will be prepared in a standard form to evaluate the minimum requirements of graduating students in different fields”. 

The official expressed his disagreement on the issue of “time constraints” and “pressure” described it is as a “wrong perception” on the account that, “the preparations must be done from the day students entered the university that students who seriously follow their course at all levels would not face any problem”. 

Prospect graduates are required to take the exit exam to improve the quality of higher education as a whole, so coaching or preparing students for the test is a problem and should be avoided according to the official.

“Exit Exam will be more effective if the government reinforced its assessment methods starting from the lower grades”

Sebsibe  Muanenda, dean of Natural Science College at Wolkite University

Apart from time constraints and preparation issues, experts on the other hand said the exit exam must be accompanied with other quality ensuring mechanisms and it should be properly administered. 

Otherwise, its probability to miss the objective to have capable professionals who turn out to be competent employees and handling executive positions in their area of specialization would be high, Sebsibe  Muanenda, dean of Natural Science College at Wolkite University argues.

For all universities in the country do not have the same status, there might be a competitive advantage for those who attend their education at the first generation than the others, he said, adding that,  “the government must work to narrow the gaps in the educational institutions that most of the universities are not well equipped both with skilled manpower and facilities including libraries and labs”.

“Exit Exam will be more effective if the government reinforced its assessment methods starting from the lower grades,” he told Addis Standard.  

According to Habte Dulla (PhD), Vice Academic President (VAP) of Wolkite University, the university since the announcement of the schedule for the exit exam, has been taking various steps to minimize psychological impacts on the students. 

He said, “We gave two days psychological training to all prospective graduates of this Ethiopian scholastic year and prepared short notes from competence areas selected by ministry of education to be incorporated in the exit exam”.

He said that Wolkite University has set a schedule for tutorial classes in those selected core competence courses. “The exit exam has a significant role as one step in ensuring the quality of education but there must be enough resource and well-trained instructors in all universities,” the VAP told Addis Standard.

“The ministry should seriously act starting from the lower grades in order to achieve educational quality basically on teachers development and provision of the required resources” he added.

He also expressed his concern that, despite the expectation that all universities use the same standards, there are “variations among the first and the fourth-generation universities in terms of staffing and facilities”.

“It is one instrument that could help students to have the required skills, competence and knowledge on their fields”

Professor Tirusew Tefera, Education expert

Professor Tirusew on his part said, “on one hand the difference of staff profile at first generation universities and others greatly affect accuracies of the evaluation and on the other hand it compelled all universities to work towards fulfilling all the desired manpower and facilities to prepare their students”. 

He advised students to withstand the challenge as offering exit exam to university leaving students is crucial to curb the multifaceted problems associated with quality of education in the country.  

“In fact, it may bring a pressure on graduating students but they must be psychologically prepared and sit for the exit exam which in the coming years could compel universities to organize their staffs and facilities to enable learners reach the desired result,” he said. 

It would be better if the exit exam is given at any level starting from first year, he said, adding that “it is one instrument that could help students to have the required skills, competence and knowledge on their fields”. He also recommended universities to narrow the gaps in preparing their students for the exit exam and above all the need to build the psychology of their graduates. 

According to Ministry of Education about 250, 000 prospective graduates who are illegible and expected to sit for the exit exam are already listed out. 

“Students are given unlimited chance to take the exam and they can take it when they feel they made enough preparation but they won’t be provided with the degree awards unless they score the minimum passing requirement set for the exit exam” Seid said.

He downplayed the concern raised by experts with regard to differences in universities saying that all private and public universities use the same curriculum and that it couldn’t be a major  impediment to the exam. AS

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