BEIRUT: The long-awaited first day of Brevet official exams for Grade 9 is set to begin Friday, as the Education Ministry works to ensure a calm and smooth atmosphere following a nerve-wracking few weeks for teachers and students alike.
“Exams will be held starting tomorrow morning,” Education Minister Elias Bou Saab told a local television station. “Everything is ready. The ministry is ready and exam centers across Lebanon are ready. I hope that the students will be ready as well.”
He said the exams would not be difficult, but would preserve the regular minimum standards.
“The questions will not be impossible, but at the same time not below the normal level, in order to maintain the reputation of the Lebanese certificate, and there is no room for bargaining,” Fadi Yarak, director General at the Education Ministry and head of the exams committee, said Thursday.
He added that he had already given instructions to the exams committees in this vein.
Bou Saab agreed with the Union Coordination Committee earlier this week to postpone the start of official exams from Thursday to Friday in a last-ditch deal to avert a major confrontation.
The agreement, which was reached around midnight Tuesday following a long meeting between Bou Saab and UCC officials, took place after Parliament failed to discuss the pay hike bill in a session earlier that day, thus flouting the UCC’s condition in order for it to go ahead with the exams.
For foreign students taking the exams, particularly Syrians, Yarak said, “the Cabinet has allowed for them to participate, and the candidates are cooperating with Education Ministry offices in the region, with their results remaining on hold until their documents are completed.”
Days prior to the scheduled exam date, students who had transferred from schools in Syria and enrolled in Lebanese public schools had yet to be notified whether they were permitted to sit for the tests.
The Education Ministry had announced that students coming from Syria had the right to take the official exams, but it was unclear whether those without proper documents, such as IDs, would be able to do so.
The fight is far from over, however, and UCC head Hanna Gharib said that if the salary scale was not passed by Parliament during its next session, set for June 19, the committee would look into re-strategizing its actions in order to make it a national issue.
Until then, Gharib said efforts would be focused on pushing the MPs boycotting the legislative sessions to attend.
He also stressed that an open-ended strike was still a possibility, stating that the decision to go back on boycotting the official exams was a blow to anyone who thought the committee was taking the students hostage with its actions.
Bou Saab had intended to get around the strike by hiring contract teachers to replace the full-time staff, Gharib said, which led to a faceoff with the minister and resulted in serious efforts to find a compromise that would benefit the students and their parents.
Gharib stressed that the decision to boycott the exam corrections was no longer limited to just the committee but also included Education Ministry employees, adding that the ball was in Parliament’s court.
“The issue is no longer a matter of the salary scale, but it is a crisis of the political system which is breaking down entirely,” Gharib said.