HSC 2008 Exams

The saga is carrying on. Most of us are waiting for the findings of Cambridge and the decision of the government authorities to solve the problem caused by the leaks. I came across a sensible text of a HSC student to whom I would wish that he earns a scholarship.This is the sort of Elite our country needs.


“Real Intelligence is absolute, not relative”

In connection with my previous article, I believe that, instead of always cutting away the surplus of unwanted branches in a tree, we should rather remove its roots. This incident can become a blessing in disguise if we decide to tackle the real problem that we face: A dilapidated education system. One of the major problems with our system is that it focuses solely on exams, thereby providing a purely theoretical knowledge taught in a mechanical manner. This has dire consequences, especially for the sciences, as students lack the logical, practical and hands on skills that characterize any area of study. We study not to satisfy our intellectual thirst but to pass exams. The education that we receive is purely academic and does not provide us with the tools we will need to face the global job market of tomorrow. Moreover, the HSC is a make or break factor in providing an opportunity to afford an education at a prestigious foreign university. Being elite, I can count the number of broken dreams just because of someone not being a laureate. Therefore, the real challenge that we face these days is not to find out who are the ones who got tips on “Facebook” or “Blackpapers”, but rather, how do we provide future Mauritians with an all-rounded education that makes them global citizens in the real sense?

First and foremost, after having consulted some Human Resource Managers about the alleged possibility that employers can turn their nose to future job applicants whose CVs include a notorious “Cambridge 2008 A Levels” certificate, it behoves me to tell all my counterparts believing adamantly that this year’s supposedly “tarnished” exam certificate will be prejudiced against their professional careers that they are completely wrong! Many employers do not even ask the applicant when he/she obtained each of his qualifications or will not even have heard about the year 2008 when Cambridge messed its exams up! What matters the most to them is, I quote, “the credentials of the university you have attended, the specifications of your tertiary degrees and the outlook they will have of your personality through your written job application or your interview”. Can you imagine for a second a local or foreign multinational refusing to employ an interesting and motivated student who has freshly graduated with flying colours from a prestigious university such as Princeton, Oxford and Melbourne and who has, as only drawback, a supposedly fake “Cambridge 2008 A Levels” certificate? Willy-nilly, the latter is and will always be a prerequisite of our future local or abroad professional aspirations, irrespective of each exam’s year. Moreover, hypocrisy is a proliferating epidemic among many HSC students, especially among those who throw into question the credibility of their “Cambridge 2008 A Levels” certificate. However, why have the students believing that their future Cambridge certificate will have practically no value in their professional life attended their last examinations when instead, they could have boycotted them? This is because, whatever one’s degree of dislike of Cambridge, one still needs the academic backing of this internationally-renown institution and not vice-versa. My dear Cambridge-hatred friends, when you have convictions, whether good or wrong, you must assume them ENTIRELY and not simply use them as an invisible coat to hide your own cowardice or your naivety!

Regarding the current situation that we face, we must envisage a reasonable solution. I will not take any stance, but rather, present two different schools of thought and let readers draw their own conclusion. Firstly, we could correct the November 2008 papers and keep the results. Then, we hold another exam (if need be, only in required papers) and we compare the two results so that scholarships are awarded only in case of consistent performance (but with regards to the first sitting). That would provide us with more grounds to judge who were the ones having had recourse to unconventional exam preparation. This solution does not bear in mind the stress caused to some students by exams but makes the actual results more credible. Secondly, we could tolerate a small injustice to prevent an apocalypse ahead. We can afford to be lenient this time around because as I mentioned before, it is not as if marking schemes were available online. The answers posted in web forums could well be wrong! Assuming then that this would have an insignificant impact on rankings, we award scholarships but take measures to prevent such resurgence in the future.

Now let me demystify something for all Mauritian students: HSC exams are one component of University applications, NOT THE APPLICATION. There are other important aspects like a personal statement and extra-curricular activities. Universities are not looking for academic geniuses with impeccable results; Imperial College (UK), for instance, takes great pride in rejecting students with three As. They look for academic promise coupled with personal character. They want individuals that can make a difference in their chosen fields. Our education system must therefore mould us into such citizens. Currently, we take Cambridge “A level” courses and focus on only one discipline (Science or Economics or Arts or Technical). Moreover, we never go beyond paper work. Our results come only from our performance in a few papers. However, the International Baccalaureate (IB) System provides a much better alternative. Under the IB Diploma Programme, we would have to take one subject from each of the following disciplines: A first language, a second language, Individuals and Societies, Mathematics and Computer Sciences, Experimental Sciences, and the Arts. Our evaluation would be based on three aspects: An extended essay of about 4000 words, the theoretical knowledge acquired from the six chosen subjects and finally, on our involvement in artistic pursuit, sports or community service works. By providing a multi-disciplinary course, IB provides the all-rounded knowledge that is vital in the job market of tomorrow. The education that we would receive would be much more complete. The essay would help us develop a crucial aspect of our university life-writing skills. Also, involvement in extra-curricular activities would provide us with the required personal qualities of tomorrow’s society, and community service could finally provide some of the much talked about Civics Education. The IB programme must be implemented on a pilot basis to entering form one students in two years time to allow for some teacher training and general system setting up.

At the center of the current debate are laureates. Indeed scholarships are a luxury to those who want to pursue studies abroad as most of us cannot afford such astronomical costs. But why is it that half a mark has to decide between scholarship and no scholarship? I am of the opinion that our leaders should invest massively in Education. We must provide a multi-billion yearly budget that provides both need-based and merit-based financial opportunities to Mauritians wanting to study abroad. However, such a contract must contain a legal binding commitment on the part of beneficiaries to serve their country for at least five years (without any bonds fee payments possible). If our country helps us, should we not help it in return (I am aware of the political realities jeopardizing meritocracy)? Such a budget would not be an expenditure, it would be an investment. If colossal amounts of money can be spent for the organization of extravagant political gatherings at the Swami Vivekananda International Convention Centre, why can’t we finance more university opportunities for our brainy students? Will this investment not prove to be more benefiting than populist gatherings (including the famous “briani” distribution there) to our country’s future? Abolishing the laureate system in view of providing more opportunities would also dramatically reduce private tuitions. Most students have recourse to tuition to beef up their exam preparation in view of the competition. Those who do not compete merely follow through by a snowball effect. But what if the system stopped at 5 As and percentiles? There would be no point in taking tuition at the expense of school work. This would provide more time for other activities that go in the context of a more all-rounded education.

The functions of a school go well beyond Mathematics, Chemistry and Physics. They are associated with the socialization of students. From young children in pre-primary to children in primary and adolescents in secondary, the school harbours a meeting place for exchanges between peers that cut across race, social class or ethnicity. But what is it really like in Mauritian schools? Do we have enough time to engage in team activities? Are friendships not impeded by the fact that friends face a cutthroat competition for scholarships? It is my personal view (backed with knowledge of actual cases) that the intense competition does not favour team involvement. It creates individualistic personalities who have little consideration for others. Now let us take these same students twenty years in time. They will be the future professionals of our economy. Imagine the same students who currently say, I quote, “I do not care about future years, this is the problem of Cambridge and the MES. I am only worried about me!” What type of adult does our system tend to create?

With every disturbance comes the opportunity to emerge stronger. This is our chance to change what is a broken education system. Our education has to go beyond the relative aspect of our intelligence based on “Classified” and “Year By Year” books only. It should touch the absolute nature of our intelligence: our logic. It must spearhead the economic progress of the country by moulding a labour force capable of competition in today’s global market by providing a broader foundation that is multi-disciplinary. It must provide every student with the assurance that “Yes I can dare to dream of studying abroad even though my parents cannot afford it”. The distress caused by the current turn of events can turn the tides. It is up to our leaders to do it. I make a call to all my fellow elites, let us put our personal interest behind and think of those who will come after us!

Written by E.L.I.T.E (Emancipation of Labour-Intensive and True Elite)

1 comment so far ↓

#1 Jacob on 02.04.09 at 6:14 pm

Hello, do you know when the HSC 2008 results will be released in Mauritius?


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