Over half of Romanian terminal grade students fail baccalaureate exam

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Wednesday, July 6, 2011

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Only 44.47 percent of Romanian high school students passed last week's 2011 baccalaureate exam, according to the results published by Romanian education authorities on Sunday. The baccalaureate exam in Romania is the secondary school educational qualification test, and passing it attests that a student has graduated high school and may be admitted to a university. This is dramatically different from 69.3 percent last year and 81.4 percent in 2009.

The moment of truth has come. Success rates topping 80 percent were not possible. We were simply deluding ourselves.

—Liliana Romanciuc, school inspector

Sunday's passing figures are a record low since the exam was introduced in Romania and comes after new anti-fraud measures cut back on student cheating. These included installing cameras in examination centres and forbidding students from paying teachers to obtain higher scores. For this exam, 665 high school students were caught cheating, double the number from last year, and at one high school it was found that the exam answers were given to 111 pupils prior to the exam.

Caras Severin County reported the lowest rate with 24.82 percent graduation, and Suceava reported the highest with 65.03 percent, down from 87.39 percent in 2010. In Bucharest the rate was 42.03 percent, the lowest since the 1989 revolution.

The release of the results started a national debate on the possible causes of the drastic drop in scores, from the failure of parental participation, poor teacher pay and pay cuts, to student disinterest and lack of motivation. Critics say the educational system depends on rote learning and students are not taught to think independently. Students say the school curriculum is boring and out-of-date.

At a press conference on Monday, Education minister Daniel Funeriu said, "These results are a mirror of our society. Romania is now at a crossroads...The nation should choose to encourage people who like to work rather than those who prefer cheating".

Cristian Alexandrescu, chief education inspector for Bucharest, argued that the exam was not taken seriously by students and the results prove that a student cannot obtain a diploma without effort.

"The moment of truth has come," Liliana Romanciuc, a school inspector in north-eastern Romania, told Mediafax. "Success rates topping 80 percent were not possible. We were simply deluding ourselves."