“Why should I pay for a missed semester?” and other questions to the Azerbaijani education system
Due to quarantine measures taken in Azerbaijan to combat the pandemic, not only the economy has suffered – studies have come to a screeching halt as well.
Since then both school pupils and university students have faced a slew of issues.
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Since then, school pupils, university students and teachers have faced a slew of issues.
Pupils in Azerbaijan lost the last three months of the school year due to coronavirus and quarantine, university students – almost the entire second semester.
While schools have organized online classes to an extent, universities have totally dropped the ball, and students have simply been sent lectures and assignments. Online lectures were left to the discretion of teachers.
On the one hand, the absence of classes for such a good reason as a pandemic made many happy. But then many questions arose, which the representatives of the Ministry of Education tried to thoroughly answer only on May 7 at a special press conference.
First of all, it became known that this year physical studies will not resume in schools even after the end of quarantine.
How do we move on to the next class / next course?
Schoolchildren will be transferred to the next class, taking into account the grades of the first half of the year.
To go from the ninth to the tenth grade, you need to pass two rounds of final exams – nothing will change here. The first round of tests were held before quarantine, and the second, apparently, will be held in June.
Students will take exams as always, but if they want, they will be able to take exams in August and September as well.
How to get into school / university?
Admission to school in any case occurs through online registration.
To enter the university, you need to submit documents online from May 12 to June 5, and exams will be held after July 20. To avoid large crowds of people in exams, more schools will be involved in this process than usual, and there will be no more than 15 students in one hall, said Khanlar Khanlarzadeh, speaker of the state examination center.
Many other questions remain unclear. Students who pay tuition (and the state in Azerbaijan pays for tuition for about half of the students of each state university) will not pay for the autumn exams, but nothing is said about whether payment is required for the second half of the 2019/2020 school year.
“Why should I pay for an incomplete semester?”
“So far, I only assume that I may not be allowed to take the exam because I did not pay tuition fees. But why should I pay for a semester, during which I did not go to classes, and online lessons were conducted only sometimes?” says Dadash, a student at the Azerbaijan Technical University.
The position of undergraduates is also unclear. For example, they were ordered to hand in their theses by May 15, but it is unclear how they will conduct the exams and consultations that accompany it.
“We were told to prepare our theses and submit them by May 15th. But for sure this will extend until the end of the month. Because until classes are held, and with most teachers there is no connection, one cannot expect that work could be ready by this date”, says one of the graduate students of Baku State University.
Weak Internet and schoolchildren “skipping” lessons
In secondary schools, the process is better – there is a special portal and even lessons on central television. But by no means have all the teachers coped with the electronic portal “Virtual School”, proposed by the Ministry of Education.
According to Samira Ismayilova, an elementary school teacher in Baku school No. 24, it can be said that only 40 percent of teachers were able to fully engage in online lessons. The rest either do not know how, or do not want to give themselves unnecessary trouble.
“The electronic program provided to us has class schedules, assignments, tests, and so on, designed for all students,” Samira explains.
This is an example of online lessons:
But the teacher says that not all children can participate:
“I have students who, before quarantine, left the city, in the districts, and now they can’t participate in online classes because in the regions there are serious problems with the Internet, and parents do not have enough money for mobile Internet. The ministry says these students do not have to attend classes.”
Vagif Abbasov, a history teacher at a Baku school, says many educators complain that the Virtual School is not working well, for example, not everyone receives an access password after registration.
And when teachers offer to use a different – generally accessible – platform, the school management is worried about the reporting that the Ministry of Education should receive through the state platform.
At least five gigabytes of Internet traffic were provided to teachers for free, and students use their own during classes, and for many this is also a problem.
Is there any other way out?
How could a pandemic and training be combined differently? It seems that this has not even been discussed in Azerbaijan.
Bahruz Gasimov, the father of a student at a Baku university, believes that it would be more appropriate to cancel the second semester altogether:
“In my opinion, this semester should be canceled. No tuition fees, no exams. Imagine that these six months just didn’t exist, and the kids will study for five to six months longer. In my opinion, that would be fairer.”
Vagif Abbasov, teacher:
“To prolong the school year would be problematic – for example, it is not clear what to do with the draft in the army. In principle, it would be possible to combine the missed classes with the program for the next semester. On the other hand, to the extent possible, the students were somehow helped to learn the material, and at the same time to abandon the assessment for the missed months seems to be a logical decision.