The future of Algeria lays on its education system, it should put excellence the main demand from its students, then make sure this demand applies on its leaders as well
By Abdennour Toumi
Algeria’s latest melee in political incorrectness has struck the nation’s education system directly in its to mach. As a result a million Baccalaureate (high school) final exam candidates and their parents are sweating from a severe summer heat wave. After the aberrant leaks of the 2016 Baccalaureate edition, in Algeria commonly called le Bac — the decisive and to some extent sacrilege of the national exam occurred when subject questions were leaked via social media, notably on FaceBook.
Ironically angry Algerian parents call it: Faceboohoum (translated is your father (plural) in Arabic!)
Days later after the Bac DD, Algerian media and politicians described the leaks as the scandal of the decade and another political headache for the government. The silky Islamists and the creamy nationalists are demanding the resignation of the Education Minister, Dr. Ben Ghebrit, or impeachment by the President.
The cheating “comportment” was observed in several exam centers at each session in the nation’s 48 provinces. Local police and gendarmes’ anti-fraud sections in Algiers, Annaba and Oran made appearances before the Public Prosecutor, initiating investigation into the matter and yesterday a statement was released from the command of the National Police. Three of the respondents including two executives of the Education’s Directorate Department have been placed in custody and 41 others were placed under judicial control and the remaining six provisionally released.
The credibility of the famous Bac, the key of excellence, has been seriously shaken, which once opened the gate to the next generation of leaders, economically, politically and socially, the future elite of the nation. Yet Algeria’s elite and leaders are still formed at the nation’s Cadet schools, Cherchell’s Inter-arms Academy, Military Engineering institutes, and Russian and Western military academia.
However, the leaks and the cheating in the baccalaureate exam are not a problem specific to Algeria. Indeed with the advent of new technologies and social networks, the phenomenon took on a planetary scale. Every year, similar scandals are reported worldwide, hence Algerian youth are not the only ones to defraud. Similar cases have been noted in neighboring countries, e.g. Morocco wherein the 2015 edition’s subjects in the math section were simply and clearly posted the day before the exam on a special FaceBook page, forcing the Moroccan authorities to postpone the exam session for two days.
In France in 2014 an investigation was launched after the publication in Le Monde newspaper of information concerning the publication of a philosophy subject on Twitter before the opening exam hour — in 2011, the math subject was posted on the exam’s eve on a popular website with a comment: “I already got my degree, I did a favor for you, so be happy.” The user, who published the post, claimed to have stolen the subject from a printing press.
The baccalaureate, often known in France colloquially as le Bac, is an academic qualification, which French students take at the end of high school. It was introduced by Napoleon 1st in 1808 and is the main diploma required to pursue university studies.
As for the history of le Bac in Algeria post-independence, institutionally the examination was established by Decree 63-495, December 1st, 1963. The Ministerial Decree of December, 31, 1963 organized the Baccalaureate’s tests, their duration and their coefficients in determining the conduct of examinations, proofreading and discussions of terms and announcement of results.
It should be noted in this context that le Bac was under conditional probationary review in force until 1969, which took place alongside in two sessions. Decree 68-46 of February 8, 1968, established the technical baccalaureate. The inter-ministerial order of November 24, 1974, reorganized the baccalaureate exam and this order is currently the framework for the degree.
Subsequently, based on this retrospective, the prestige of the national exam has become the basis for accepted social comportment among Algerian families who have a candidate or two. Families now are cheering up for their kids and making promises to throw big parties for the laureates. Meanwhile, the candidates are highly stressed if not depressed. Unlike decades ago when the candidate played it down and focussed on obtaining the degree equipped to move into his or her adult life with a credential that would take them to university bearing humanitarian ideals to change the world…
Whereas this generation is worrying about a piece of paper to get a car, a trip to Paris, Istanbul or Dubai, at least for the “well-off” kids; as for the academic per-se: “I did a favor for you!”
The Bac in Algeria really defined the “haves” and “have-nots” of the nation in terms of national pride and achievement. This was a time when the Algerian education system was close in format to the those of Iraq and Syria, better than the Spanish and well regarded by the French and American universities. At that time excellence rhymed with grandeur and hauteur, unlike today when excellence is conjugated in the past simple and is substituted by mediocrity at every level in the nation.
Alas, the 2016 Bac edition is a masquerade and factual story-line of the on-going multi-dimensional crisis that the country is facing. According to some close friends in academia and media milieus, this is not a simple anti-establishment teenagers’ cri de coeur, it is one of the ugly hidden political inter-clan battles in the regime’s house. Letting the Algerian so-called independent media, F(o)aux News present the complex topic as an ideological problematic between a visionary minister, whose only problem is lack of mastering the Arabic language, and the velvet Nationalo-Islamist coalition, who are still worried about the Arabic language and the Sharia law in the curriculum.
By the way, the word “baccalaureate” derives from the medieval Latin “bacca laurea,” which refers to a crown of laurel leaves given to the victor symbolizing excellence. Indeed, in these modern times the leaves of the laurel leave a bitter taste in the mouth of baccalaureate candidates.