The Ministry of Education held mid-term General Certificate of Education (GCE) examinations across Yemen for the first time in the country's history.
More than six million students in the final year of primary school and the final grade of secondary school began their exams on January 19th, according to the official Yemeni news agency Saba. The exams period lasted for 10 days.
Officials conducted the mid-term exams with "great success", bringing the ministry a step closer to achieving its objectives, said ministry undersecretary Mohammed Hadi Tawaf. These include improving academic achievement and establishing a stronger connection between students and their curricula and schools, he added.
"Mid-terms are akin to trial runs for the final exams," he told Al-Shorfa, adding that results will account for 20% of the students' final grade. Previously that percentage was based on the student's punctuality, attendance and behaviour.
Tawaf said he believes the new measure will increase students' use of libraries and other educational tools, thus boosting the level of academic achievement.
Ministry officials supervised exams at 16 schools throughout the country, including ten in the capital Sanaa and two each in the provinces of Sanaa, Aden and al-Mahwit. Students in the remaining provinces took exams supervised by their provincial education offices.
Officials are scheduled to evaluate the two experiments -- conducting the exams at select schools under ministry supervision or conducting exams at every school under provincial supervision -- and choose the better of the two for implementation in coming years.
Salem Mughallis, director of the education office in Aden province, told Al-Shorfa his office conducted the mid-term exams using the same testing procedures as the ministry.
"This process was successful and elicited [a high level of] engagement on the part of students and their parents, who were keen to help their children succeed, just as they do during final exams, since mid-term exam scores will be included in each student's overall assessment," he said.
Mughallis said he believes mid-term exams will reduce cases of cheating and encourage students to study more, as well as lighten the administrative workload for offices like his at the end of the year, as much of this work will be dealt with in the middle of the year.
Dr. Ahmed Alawi, director of Centre for Research and Educational Development, described the current exam system as a process with "many flaws".
This is why the ministry conducted "a comprehensive assessment of the [current] curricula, which advocate memorisation and do not contribute to academic achievement" and also assessed the "testing methodology to improve the educational process and its outcomes", he said.
Students had mixed reactions to the mid-term exams, with some criticising the move because the decision to hold the exams came in December.
"The mid-term exam decision is a good one. It forces us to take the curriculum more seriously," said Sinan Thabet, 18, a secondary student at al-Kuwait School in Sanaa.
However, Thabet said, he and his schoolmates were surprised the decision came so quickly.
"The measure should have been adopted at the start of the academic year, considering that the results will be included in the overall assessment of the student's performance at the end of the year," he said.
Meanwhile, Jihane Aziz, 18, a student at the Arwa School for girls, said the mid-term exams equipped her with the "experience to deal with the final exams".