Wednesday, 18 December 2013

“There is plenty to be learned even from a bad teacher: what not to do, how not to be.” J.K. Rowling

Koroba University, Algiers
The education system here consists of primary school (‘primaire’) which starts at age 6 and lasts until age 10 when they graduate, through the ‘sixieme’ exam to middle school (‘su-em’) lasts 4 years until they sit for the BEM.  If they pass this then they continue on to high school (‘lycee’) for another 3 years until they sit for their Baccalaureate exam which is their entry to University.  Education is compulsory until the age of 16 and is free here from primary to University with some economic help given to those whose parents are out of work.  There are even special buses provided to bring students from all corners of Algiers to the various universities with segregated campuses for students whose homes are too far for them to commute daily.

As for the subjects that they study for the BAC – it all depends on which subjects they do well in, during secondary school, and especially in their overall average for the year, more so than the BEM exam itself.  The first year of the BAC is separated into 2 streams – Literature and Science.  Each of these is then divided up again:


1.         All three main languages – Arabic, English and French plus Spanish
2.         All three main languages – Arabic, English and French plus German
3.         Philosophy, Arabic, Islamic studies


1.         Accounting
2.         Technology
3.         Maths
4.         Science

They study other subjects as well but concentrate on these specialties. After the first year’s exams, and depending on their results, they are then streamlined into whatever specialty they have done well in, and will sit the BAC exam for this particular one. 

Science is considered to be the most prestigious choice and many young people are pushed into this category whether they have a flair for it or not.  In the same way many people are urged into a profession for all the wrong reasons.  When I was growing up in Ireland there were three career paths that were considered vocations – the priesthood or becoming a nun, nursing and teaching, because these were thought to be the careers especially blessed by God, and the best qualities for which were bestowed to only some special people.  So many young women in Algeria are encouraged to be teachers whether they have a talent for it or not, because it means that they can continue to work after marriage as the hours suit a wife and mother.  In addition many young people who have left university with a degree go into teaching without any formal training and it shows.  There are courses that train teachers and do a very good job of it, but many times it’s not necessary to have this training to find a job in teaching if you already have a degree.    I found that this was the biggest problem – unprofessional teachers, as all of my children found it very difficult to do any work for teachers whose methods of teaching and controlling the class were ridiculous e.g. talking incessantly about nothing relating to the subject they are supposed to be teaching, putting down the school and oftentimes the country itself, trying too hard to be young and hip one minute and then be authoritarian the next, etc. And they have all often complained about the same teachers as each one progresses through the system.  On the other hand they have also had teachers whom they really liked and respected and for whom they tried harder.  And again, usually these are the same ones that they have all liked.

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