Wrong Books or Wrong Tests?: Students complain that textbooks do not prepare them for entry exams

Students in this year’s annual academic ritual of higher education entrance exams are complaining that the questions being asked on tests are not relevant to the material in their text books. The complaints raised enough noise while the authors of the textbooks and publishers have their opinion.

For example, Sokrat Mkrtchyan, Director of ‘Tatev’ Center for Scientific and Educational Support, which publishes textbooks, believes that the problem in fact is not with the content of the textbooks, rather it is that the tests themselves seek to measure knowledge that a student could only get through outside tutoring.

“The manuals for entering higher educational institutions must be formed to correspond to the textbooks, and we should not think what kind of materials we must include in textbooks in order to bring them into line with examination tests,” Mkrtchyan told ArmeniaNow.

Mkrtchyan says textbooks need to be rewritten in less-academic and more comprehensible language. Even the higher education of a parent very often does not help a schoolchild read and understand textbooks (more than 400 samples) about technology, natural sciences, and other spheres.

All interested bodies, including the Ministry of Education and Science of Armenia have designed a special website -- www.dasagirq.am -- aimed at addressing the problem where their suggestions are posted.

Teachers and students are also for making textbooks simpler and more comprehensible. But they are first of all concerned over why tests are administered requiring information that cannot be found in a student’s text. Many site literature tests as example.

“I was able to answer the questions on [Armenian] literature simply because I had read those books. But there could be books which one has not read or does not remember [the details], because it is impossible to memorize bulky books,” Mariam Nersesyan, 16, who wants to become a lawyer, told ArmeniaNow.

After her first round of tests, she now says she’s thinking of entering the Faculty of Philosophy, because she got only 24 points-the total sum of the exams from the Armenian and English languages, (the total maximum is 40) and she has one more exam – history of Armenia - left. Except for the Armenian language, Nersesyan studied all the other subjects without a tutor. In all cases she used the knowledge that she had gained herself from different sources and not from textbooks, she says.

Some parents, educators and students say the blame is with the creators of the examinations. Often the tests are written by educators who also work as test “coaches” to prepare students – at fees up to $160 per month per child.