BEIRUT: The Union Coordination Committee announced after a long meeting Tuesday that it would commit to its decision to boycott correcting the official exams, blaming the “political class” for giving students the controversial passing certificates.
“Education Minister Elias Bou Saab and the Cabinet who backed his decision are the ones responsible for issuing the certificates,” UCC’s statement said.
The UCC’s decision came after a disagreement appeared between the teachers on whether they should go back on the decision of boycotting exams to prevent the controversial issuance of passing certificates from going into effect.
Parliament's Education Committee had recommended earlier in the day that lawmakers draft a law to legalize the passing certificates issued by the Education Ministry, stressing that the decision to issue the certificates was final regardless of any change of heart by teachers boycotting the correction of exams.
The announcement came after the committee, headed by Future MP Bahia Hariri, met around 10:30 a.m. at Nijmeh Square to agree on formulating a draft law to present to Parliament for a vote.
Although the committee’s members expressed support for the discussion and passing of the wage hike in the next Parliament session, they backed Education Minister Elias Bou Saab’s insistence on issuing passing certificates for all Grade 9 and 12 students who sat for official exams.
An Education Ministry source told The Daily Star that the passing certificates would be given not only to students who took the official exams but to all candidates who had applied for them.
The candidacy card, a document given to the students allowing them to attend the exams, would be enough to ensure they passed, even if they did not attend. While most students applying to university would have attended the exams, there are a number of applicants each year who do not show up, including employed candidates who had dropped out or failed to pass in previous years.
Separately, the Education Committee also tasked Bou Saab with contacting the head of the Lebanese University to recommend requiring entrance exams for all its faculties.
According to the committee’s recommendation, any student with a passing certificate who wishes to enter LU for the next academic year should take an entrance exam.
Only few of LU’s faculties have required incoming students to take entrance tests in previous years. However, the education minister’s decision to give passing certificates to all Grade 12 students means that even those who might have failed the official exams will be eligible for admission, making it necessary to filter the numbers, especially for LU.
Speaking before the start of the meeting, Bou Saab said the decision to issue passing certificates had already gone into effect and the draft law "would retroactively legalize them."
Bou Saab refused to budge on his decision, which he announced Saturday, even after the Association of Private School Teachers said Monday that it would end its boycott and correct official exams to safeguard "Lebanon's quality of education."
Talking to reporters during a break from the meeting earlier Tuesday, Bou Saab called on the UCC to give up the attempts to find a united position over the correction of exams.
He said he was surprised the UCC was still holding meetings, “because they have already missed the train and the certificates have become an evident fact.”
“Instead, they should discuss how to continue their union work,” he said.
Meanwhile, in a statement released Tuesday morning, the Representative Council for the Public Administration League called for a strike Thursday “in all ministries, administrations, governorates, qadas and municipalities,” and a protest at 11 a.m. in front of the Economy Ministry in the Azariya building in Downtown Beirut.
The league said the move was to protest to “procrastination in passing the ranks and salary scale” and in “condemnation of the decision to give illegitimate passing certificates instead of passing the scale.”
They called on the lawmakers to “take responsibility and go down to the Parliament and perform their legislative tasks” and to pass the wage hike without any reductions or installment.
In a bid to pressure Parliament to approve a new salary scale, teachers had refused to grade the official exams, prompting Bou Saab, backed by the Cabinet and various political blocs, to issue the passing certificates, a move not made since the end of Lebanon's Civil War in 1990.
For the past three years, the UCC has spearheaded ongoing nationwide protests and observed open-ended strikes calling for the legislation of the pay rise. However, the Parliament, which extended its mandate for 17 months in May 2013 and is likely to extend it again this month, has failed to enact the long-awaited draft law.