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Entrance Exams Begin With “Extraordinary Measures” Against Fraud

14ymedio, Marcelo Hernandez, Havana, 4 May 2017 — Early Wednesday
morning Karel wasn’t sleeping. He spent it turning somersaults in bed
and solving math problems. Together with thousands of students across
the country, the young man presented himself at the Mathematics entrance
exam for higher . “It was complicated, but I answered all the
questions,” he said smiling to his mother as he returned home.

As of this Wednesday, high classrooms are filled with nervous
gestures and students who are playing with their professional future on
a piece of paper. Most have been preparing for this moment for months,
and many have had to pay for a private tutor who prepares them to
successfully pass the tests.

“I’m a little anxious, but I feel safe because I’ve studied a lot,” said
a twelfth grader from Old Havana minutes before the buzzer announced the
start of the first entrance exam. My strength is geometry and I didn’t
like the problems at all,” he confessed.

The Mathematics exam started off the admission tests for Higher
Education throughout the country. More than 45,000 high school graduates
took part, the young men after finishing their Active Military Service,
and the girls who completed Women’s Voluntary Military Service.

Between 2010 and 2015 the number of university students fell by more
than half: from more than 206,000 students throughout the country to 90,691

Other applicants take the tests through competition. All, without
exception, set their sights on continuing higher education in a country
where university diplomas are less valued every day.

Between 2010 and 2015 the number of university students fell by more
than half: from more than 206,000 students throughout the country to
90,691. The causes for this decline are manifold and the specialists do
not agree, but economic imperatives are among the incentives for an
increasing number of young people to prefer to go to work as soon as
possible.

The situation contrasts with the massive admissions to higher education
that characterized national education for decades. Previously, tens of
thousands of professionals graduated, many of whom are now engaged in
occupations not related to their specialties.

Finding a chemical engineer working as a bartender in a or a
biochemist driving a private taxi has become a “normal anomaly” in the
Cuban system.

“My family cannot afford for me to be in a classroom for five more
years,” says Rodney Calzadilla, 18, a vendor in Matanzas
province. The mother of the young man has a degree in Economics, but she
“always told me that the most important thing is to be useful, not to
have a diploma hanging on the living room wall,” he says.

Of the 539,952 Cubans who worked in the private sector at the end of
January of this year, or for themselves, more than 3,000 are under the
age of 20

Of the 539,952 Cubans who worked in the private sector at the end of
January of this year, or for themselves, more than 3,000 are under the
age of 20.

At the conclusion of the exams this May, the list will be drawn up,
which also takes into account the average of students’ grades in high
school. Those with the best grades and test scores have priority to
choose one of the 83,840 places in higher education that are offered for
the 2017-2018 school year, of which the most desired by young people are
the 36,705 in the regular day course.

But the entrance exams are complicated. In June 2014, a fraud scandal
shook the most important tests in Cuban education. The incident involved
five pre-university teachers, a provincial-level methodologist at the
Ministry of Education, a print shop worker, and another citizen not
linked to educational institutions.

A year later they returned to the eye of the hurricane, when the
Ministry of Education recognized that “the approach of the question 4 of
the examination of Mathematics” was subject “to several
interpretations.” Faced with the massive complaints from the students,
the authorities were forced to evaluate only section A, discarding
section B.

“This year we have taken extraordinary measures to protect the sanctity
of examinations, ” a source at the Ministry of Higher Education told
14ymedio. The official, who requested anonymity, believes that “previous
incidents have greatly damaged the image and confidence of students in
this process, so we are committed to changing that impression.”

Next Monday the Spanish test will be administered and the calendar
concludes on Thursday, May 11 with History, the most ideological subject
in the curriculum

Next Monday, the Spanish test will be administered and the calendar
concludes on Thursday, May 11 with History, the most ideological subject
in the curriculum of the schools of the Island.

For the History exam the students are preparing themselves on this
occasion on subjects related to the deceased ex-president Fidel
Castro. “What goes, goes,” says María Julia, a teacher of the specialty
that organizes private tutoring in Havana’s district.

“The main question of the test almost always is related to some
anniversary or historical figure that is important in the current year,”
clarifies the teacher. “It’s clear there will be one or two questions
about him, that’s for sure.” With a degree in History, María Julia has
drilled her students in “the concept of Revolution” and ’s
“biographical data.”

“For students who do poorly on the math test, the most difficult of all,
it is possible to raise the average with History, which is easier,”
admits the teacher. “For those who aren’t that comfortable with numbers,
if they have a good grasp of politics, they have a chance on this test.”

Source: University Entrance Exams Begin With “Extraordinary Measures”
Against Fraud – Translating Cuba –
translatingcuba.com/university-entrance-exams-begin-with-extraordinary-measures-against-fraud/

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