When we don’t think [Archives:2004/766/Viewpoint]

August 23 2004

In most of the Arab world, and probably in all dictatorships, regimes tend to build up a society that doesn't ask a lot of questions and sometimes doesn't even think. I have noticed on many occasions that some Yemeni intellectuals or university professors tend not to think but rather have others provide them with ready-made information that they usually don't question at all.
One striking example was the press conference held to announce the results of the secondary stage examinations for this year.
The government newspapers and media organs have been bringing a tone of pride and achievement for what they called 'a high percentage of students passing the exams'. They claimed that the percentage was over 75%, which is in their opinion 'a positive development that shows the country is going in the right direction'. When regular citizens read this, they rarely question such information. Yes, 75% may be high in the opinion of the government, but in international standards, the number is unacceptable. Meanwhile, no one questioned the different grade ranges that were attained and the scores of those who passed the exams. I am sure for instance that most students got grades below 80%. It may not be a surprise for me if more than 90% of students got grades below 80%. But this is never mentioned in the government media. In fact, they wouldn't also mention that the majority of students got grades below 70%.
Putting all of this a side, and casting a blind eye on all of these shortcomings, let us see how the government calculated the percentage of students passing the exams.
As the governmental sources in the ministry of education stated it, the statistics about the score of students were something like this:
– 188 thousand registered to attend the exams
– 166 thousand actually attended all the exams
– 126 thousand passed the exams
– 40 thousand failed in the exams

So the governmental sources mentioned that out of 166 thousand, 126 thousand passed the exam, so for those sources the overall passing rate is around 76%.
On the other hand, common sense suggests that those who didn't attend the exams should have been put in the category of 'failing students'. In other words, what is important is how many students registered for the exam did pass.
For any person with a sense of logic, those who studied secondary school and registered for the exam and didn't attend should simply be counted among failed students. But this didn't happen, and they were not counted in that way.
To put it straight, the percentage of students passing should be calculated as 126 thousand out of 188 thousand students. This makes the percentage 67%. As you can see, there is a significant and crucial 9% difference between the two percentages.
Yet sources at the ministry of education will continue to assert that this is a wrong calculation. They think that they have the right to exactly identify what is the right way to calculate the number of passing students. If we present them with the fact that a third of students attending the exams failed, they would contend and say that those absent should not be counted. I am not sure if a lot would agree with them on this logic.
What I intend to focus on here is not the way in which the government calculated the results, but rather the way the government has been making us believe that things are ok, while they are not! This in itself is a serious problem. It is the psychological disease that we continue to suffer from for so many decades. We want to believe that things are ok and mislead ourselves. This is a dangerous habit that had lasted from the days of tyranny and oppression. We tend to point to the filled part of the glass rather than to the empty part. That is why we feel satisfied and not so much eager to progress and develop. That is why we continue to suffer and stay at the bottom of the list of world nations.
I believe we need to wake up and begin questioning the validity of what we are told.
We need to liberate our minds from the shackles of the past, and begin to think, think, and think again!