Yemen’s random education and deteriorating output [Archives:2006/917/Reportage]

January 2 2006

The advancement of nations can be measured against the quality of education states provide their people. Education is the real nucleus in development of nations to become like more developed countries in economic, cultural, social and political areas. Developing countries are advised to pay close attention to modern and advanced syllabuses dealing with gradual education stages, from nursery and to university. Opportunities should be offered to every learner according to his or her major and area of interest.

Education in Yemen still experiences a state of confusion and random processes in the sense of changing educational syllabuses and unwise selection of specialized educators, in addition to marginalizing the primary stage, one of the most important to students' progress. This stage suffers from a lack of well-qualified teachers, padded syllabuses and large classes that hinder students' comprehension.

To learn more about the reality of education in Aden province, we conducted the following probe.

Corruption in education

Mariam Ahmad Saleh of Aden says corruption has become rampant in numerous education offices and schools at the expense a teacher's personality and status in the eyes of his students.

In the past, the teacher enjoyed a strong personality and educational status which made his students to respect him. No one could find a teacher to corrupt or receive bribery because he was an honest and discreet educator, she said. Nowadays, that teacher has become corrupt, exploiting the absence of firm administration to hold him accountable. Some teachers were found to be receiving money from families to help their children pass to the next stage.

Education in Yemen is slow to progress and cannot cope with the era's changes and advancements, she added. Students tend to receive words and instruction from their teacher without any hard work while teachers pursue traditional methods and techniques in futile classes.

In some cases, one finds boys and girls memorizing verses from the Holy Qur'an while at the same time, they cannot write them. Syllabuses are padded and have no gradability, teachability or correlation.

Saleh concluded, saying, “One can question the fate of the general budget allocated for education. We always hear the Vice President stating to the media that the education budget exceeds that of the army. Meanwhile, there are large numbers of students who study outdoors with outdated boards and others in classes with no power or toilets.”

Schoolgirls complain

When we began investigating, coinciding with first-semester exams at Ibn Khaldon Primary School in Al-Tawahi district, we met sixth-grader Manal Abdullah. We asked her about exams and the subjects she had that semester.

After just completing the Qur'anic exam, she responded, “I studied mathematics, geometry, Islamic education, Arabic language and sociology, which covers nationalism, geography and history. Then we have an exam on the three books at once.”

Q. Do you have difficulty understanding the syllabuses?

A. We have difficulties mainly in mathematics, which includes two books, arithmetic and geometry. In other subjects, we have books filled with information that seems futile and we have trouble understanding the content in large classes, as the number of students exceeds 50 per small classroom. This makes it difficult for us to understand what the teacher is saying.

Q. What is your family background?

A. My family is composed of eight children. My father is a simple worker at the port and my mother has no work. All of us live in a single room. We sit and study at home only during exams, but other times we play with other children in the streets or watch TV. I love watching boxing – George Batistina is my favorite boxer. I also pursue other activities and participate in children songs.

Abdullah said her family's economic situation is stable, as her father works as an expatriate in the United Arab Emirates, and that she is interested in magazines like “Zahrat Al-Khaleej” and “Al-Yaqada wa Al-Sada.” She concluded by wishing all her primary school classmates rapid progress in their educational acquisitions.

Cheating is a means to success

In assessing the level of Yemeni students, high school statistics teacher Mohamed Ahmad Al-Azazi said, “Students' level has declined for a variety of reasons, such as large classes and the fact that a majority of students achieve marks through group cheating in all Aden province schools.

“When we mark student answer books,” he explained, “we find them identical due to collective cheating in all subjects, with no exception. In marking student answer books, we usually find numerous dictation errors students should have overcome in early stages of education. Some secondary level students have not mastered addition, subtraction, multiplication or division, but still pass secondary school exams.”

Al-Azazi continued, “I have worked in the teaching field for 12 years and through my experience, I found the level of students declined in passing years due to group cheating, lack of attention by students' parents and television programs. All these drew students' attention away from study and sometimes made them deviate.”

“We call on education authorities to end the phenomenon of cheating,” he added.

Asked about test items included on high school exams, Al-Azazi replied that when he previously marked answer books of the literary section of Lahj, Shabwa, Abyan and Al-Dhale' provinces, he found that “questions differed from one governorate to another, although ministerial exams are supposed to be uniform. Because of this, some students complain about an unjust system,” he added.

Al-Azazi referred to errors in new editions of statistics books assigned for the third secondary grade, pointing out, “We find mistakes in the printing, as well as in the style of setting mathematical laws. So how can a student score high marks in randomly set subjects?”

Summing up, Al-Azazi insisted on the need to eradicate cheating and said cheats should not be allowed to pass to the next grade unless they prove to be hard-working and eligible to pass. He recommended that concerned governmental parties organize training courses for teachers, study their areas of weakness and suggest possible solutions to improve them. According to Al-Azazi, the Ministry of Education should hold monthly workshops to discuss the education situation, difficulties teachers face and activate the role of school administrations.

Education needs restructuring

Abdulqawi Abdullah Saleh, General Manager of Al-Tawahi Education Office in Aden, discussed exams, “First semester exams proceeded normally in different Al-Tawahi schools with no problems observed. We toured district schools and applied a control system using secret seat numbers on students' answer sheets. We tried to apply this system in a better way to ensure competent educational output.”

According to Saleh, education suffers fluctuating conditions that should be dealt with seriously. “When we have to reach top-quality education in order to serve the country's development, we must pay closer attention to curricula form and content. Top priority should be given to teachers and their qualifications, as they are the cornerstone of the learning process. From the teacher, we can make a successful example of driving forward the wheels of development in our country.”

Concerning complaints by students' parents about their children's deteriorating progress, Saleh said, “This is a problem and we have a plan for teachers to closely monitor and observe students' progress beginning from early stages of education and then identify and check their areas of interest.”

There are problems galore in Yemen's education system, as some exploit the process to gain unlawful subsistence while other teachers quit classes and work as bodyguards for senior government officials. Additionally, many Yemeni teachers gave up the profession and immigrated to Gulf countries in search of work and material gain.