Remember when Israel was leading the charge against COVID-19? Well, Israel is now being ridiculed as it falls behind and infection rates skyrocket. During these times, what can further endanger the public? Paper exams.
I am currently a high school student in Israel. At the beginning of the pandemic, Israel was quick to lower the maximum number of high school matriculation exams we could take. In place of our canceled exams, we were given online assignments and tests. But for some reason, not all of the paper exams were canceled.
As of June 28, there were 1,000 people who were infected by the coronavirus in schools. This was since the educational system’s return on May 17, only 5 weeks earlier. Despite this, paper exams are still to take place.
To facilitate a (so-called) safe testing environment for high schoolers, new guidelines were instituted. Some rules mentioned in these guidelines are:
- Students must wear face masks at all times while on school property
- Students must present a declaration of health signed by a parent
- Only a maximum of 15-19 students can test in a room
No matter what guidelines the government orders, it doesn’t change the fact that students are still crowding the schools to take the paper exams. The new guidelines feel like a formality as there are so many factors that are unaccounted for. Our parents have to sign declarations of health, but this doesn’t guarantee that we aren’t sick. They set a limit to the number of students testing in a classroom, but it doesn’t stop us from congregating outside of the classrooms as we wait for our exams to start. For every exam that I’ve taken, I’ve increased my chances of getting sick or spreading the virus myself.
The government knew about the massive number of COVID-19 cases from schools, yet did virtually nothing to prevent more outbreaks of this kind. To prevent the spread of the coronavirus, the government needs to prevent people from gathering unnecessarily. Because of the state’s decision to continue the paper exams during the pandemic, students are continually being put at risk. Even though students could have done alternative assessments online, we still have to physically go to school. If the prevention of the spread of the virus was truly Israel’s goal, then they would have canceled the paper exams from the beginning.
The government should learn to favor online exams, especially during pandemics. For online exams, proctors can easily video call students to prevent cheating and ensure the integrity of the test. It is a much safer alternative that doesn’t compromise Israel’s matriculation system. Furthermore, now is the time for the government to start seriously investing in more wide-spread exam alternatives.
I spoke with another high school student, Or Shalev, who is a senior Olah from South Africa and a close friend of mine. I asked her how she feels about the situation right now as she still needs to take two more paper exams before she drafts into the IDF. “Scared for my health,” she admitted. “Especially for me, knowing that I don’t have the strongest immune system. I know that we should be taking our exams, but we need to do it in a way where children’s health isn’t being endangered.”