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News: Ethiopia exam agency admits technical errors, promises review but students remain frustrated, point at rampant blunders in school leaving exam valuation

Thousands of students continued flocking to the national exam agency building in Addis Abeba to file complaints

Zecharias Zelalem

Addis Abeba, August 17/2019 – Ministry of Education officials have attempted to appease outraged students and parents across the country after the results of over 300,000 students who sat for this year’s Grade 12 university entrance exam were published, exhibiting irregularities including shocking levels of poor performance grades.

Students across the country have been complaining of flawed grading in several subjects especially Scholastic Aptitude course. A collective failure by majority students in this course is mentioned as the most blatant example of erroneous grading.

A communique released on the Ministry’s official Facebook page acknowledged the errors in the grading of Scholastic Aptitude exams, promising to amend them soon. Prior to the release of the statement, Araya Gebregziabher, Director of the National Educational Assessment and Exams Agency (NEAEA) told state media broadcaster EBC that there was “a scanning error.” “We realized quickly there was a problem,” he said. “Students who regularly registered results of 60% or 70% will not suddenly get grades of 10%.”

The uproar started over the course of last weekend, when the NEAEA announced that students could access their academic results via its website. Over the course of the next few days, it became evident that something was amiss as Grade 12 students took to the NEAEA’s official Facebook page to complain and demand a review of the test scores. For many of the students, the results would have jeopardized their university enrollment and the uncertainty was a source of anguish for many. On Wednesday August 14 hundreds of parents and students converged on the Ministry of Education’s headquarters in Addis Abeba demanding explanations.

Grading is conducted with the use of an automatic software program that had technical errors, or “misplaced keys,” as NEAEA Director Araya Gebregziabher put it. Four days after the results were published, the Ministry of Education admitted the blunder, and stated that the reviews would see upgrades in results for just under 150,000 students.

Meseret Abera, a teacher from the Southern Ethiopian city of Hossana, made the 230 km trip to Addis Abeba to submit a complaint on behalf of her son. She was among the crowd gathered outside NEAEA’s building and spoke to the local EthioTimes outlet. “My son has been a top performer all his life. He got straight A’s for his 10th grade exams. I found it hard to believe that he would suddenly receive grades as low as 22%.”

Another parent called for a review of the MoE’s practices. “It’s embarrassing to hear that the students of an entire country have been put through this emotional turmoil because of a machine’s malfunctioning. The government has to review the entire process.”

With his office bombarded with complaints from across the country, Education Minister Tilaye Gete Ambaye (PhD) had promised earlier this week to address concerns. “As we are receiving complains on your Scholastic Aptitude Test result, NEAEA will give it a second look and get back to you,” he said via his Twitter account.

As of today, the NEAEA’s official website has a notice explaining to high-school seniors that amended results for their Scholastic Aptitudes exam were being republished on its website, but it has thus far refused to acknowledge that there may be similar blunders for other exams.

There is no word thus far of anyone being held accountable for the fiasco that has affected hundreds of thousands of high-school students, nor has the NEAEA rendered it clear if there would be a review of other exams. But on social media websites such as Facebook, members of several student groups have continued posting claims that other subjects such as English, Maths and Civics exams were also in need of reviewing. Many are also posting, as case in point, irregular grading showing results of students who scored 100 in some subjects have scored shocking results as low as 10 and 20. But the ministry remains adamant that the technical errors occurred only in the grading of Scholastic Aptitude course, many are not convinced. AS

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