Published by: Malak Chaima Cherif
Tunisia’s long road to education reform! Reforming an education system will take time, but change is desperately needed in Tunisia. And if it happens the right way, great things could lie ahead for everyone!
Well, I was born and raised in Tunisia and so I studied in Tunisian schools. I have experienced what it means to be a Tunisian student from kindergarten to University and I can openly say that it is an education system that is devoid of passion and overly robotic. It does not regard students as human beings who need to be heard, inspired, and guided to learn something that will be useful for them in real life.
#1. Exams: The World Revolves Around Marks Because Who Cares about Learning?
The system makes students prioritize test marks over the experience of learning and how they can use it in real life. Grades are perceived as scores that are so important to win a game; the game of competition and being at the top. While this system is sadly applied worldwide, the Tunisian system makes marks seem even more important than, say, preparing students for the professional life or caring for their emotional issues.
#2. No Clubs: Lifeless Schools
I do not get how we did not have any clubs at school. Clubs are important to develop many skills among students including leadership, communication, creative and critical thinking skills. Students are supposed to create their own clubs and to find members to join. They can choose a classroom after school to meet and discuss their plans and events. Clubs can also help students discover themselves in relation to what they aspire to be later on in life. It is a means to bond with their peers and develop a sense of collaboration.
The Tunisian education system fills the students’ schedule up to 30+ hours a week and they have to study more on Saturday too! There is no time for clubs and even for homework. I remember I had to do homework while having dinner or lunch. It made me feel so exhausted to revise for exams and doing projects and homework.
I felt so devoid of passion and I used to cry a lot because of the pressure until I joined a private conservatory in High School to learn how to play the piano. That is when I started feeling better. I would like to stress that these extracurricular activities should be fostered at school especially at a young age.
#3. A Tight & Disorganized Schedule that Doesn’t Leave Room for Creativity & Real Learning
As previously mentioned, lots of study hours and homework makes learners function like robots. An effective education environment requires time management. Reducing the amount of hours devoted to some subjects and dividing them evenly throughout the week is certainly a reasonable choice.
I always wondered why we had to go to class right after a sports session! I remember the classroom stinking with sweat and appallingly putrid feet, which made the class terrible and the teacher feeling nauseous while delivering his/her lesson. What a nightmarish memory!
#4. The Baccalaureate: Hell on Earth
I can’t believe how much pressure I felt during that year. People kept talking about it as if I’m going to meet the prophet himself by the end of the year. Revising for the baccalaureate felt so heavy because of the negligence of mental health problems and lack of inspiration.
I am not against the national BAC exam but I think that year specifically requires special attention from educators and psychologists to help students cope with the stress.
#5. Teaching Methods from the Stone Age
Students nowadays are using computers and smart phones and a lot of them are skilled at video games and our system is still not taking advantage of the technology to make the learning experience more enjoyable and rewarding. God knows how much chalk powder my lungs have consumed!
I am not saying we should get rid of traditional methods of teaching and stop using conventional materials like the black board or notebooks. What I am saying is we need to use technological devices more often because we are no longer living in the twenties! We need to wake up and realize we are way behind when it comes to teaching methods.
#6. A Toxic Environment
I still remember to this day how angry and irritated most of my teachers were when I was a primary school pupil. They used to resort to physical and verbal violence in situations when the student needs to be disciplined, which causes long-term emotional issues for a lot of learners. This is why I believe a lot of teachers are mentally unstable. Teachers are also humans and they definitely need psychological support as well especially that they are contributing to changing society.
The toxic environment in Tunisian schools does not only rest on teachers’ shoulders but also the students themselves who are insecure and depressed. This is due to their parental education and the education system that does not care about their emotional issues.
This is a problem that is badly influencing society as a whole and only by changing education that we can overcome it. And let’s not talk about psychologists who sometimes do not even exist in some schools, which is an alarming case. Even if there is one, they usually need therapy themselves. There are also no communication classes to teach students how to talk to themselves and others and how to maintain a positive discourse in social settings.
#7. A load of Books to Carry for Kids & Teenagers
Seriously! students are meant to learn something useful to stock in their mind and not to build muscles. I had back issues and even developed a scoliosis because of this problem of carrying nearly five textbooks and five more big notebooks. We don’t even have lockers at school to avoid this problem like developed countries do.
#8. Kills Creative & Critical Thinking Skills, & then Blames Students for it
I remember teachers complaining about how we could not critically evaluate texts and I always wondered how we could do that if we weren’t taught how to think outside the box in the first place! Like no one could do it, so is it that all of the students including the top ones are dumb?
Of course not. It is that our dear system is making it impossible for learners to be critical because it is based on memorizing rather than thinking critically, which is a political game to prevent young generations from changing anything in society but thanks to the media and the effect of globalization, a lot of young people are now learning from more advanced education systems.
#9. Public Schools are Supposed to Have Equal Opportunities of Learning as Private & Elite Schools
Why is it that private schools and elite schools have much better opportunities than public schools? There is no equality and justice in this and it doesn’t make any sense. Everyone is supposed to have equal rights of learning like creating clubs, having access to advanced teaching techniques, organizing events, etc.
#10. What’s Wrong with the Curricula & Textbooks?
The Tunisian curricula and textbooks take ages to get reformed and that is a shame because obviously everything evolves, right? Apparently in Tunisia nothing evolves, not even syllabi and textbooks. If everyone including educators and teachers collaborate to improve the Tunisian curriculum, I am sure the students will be more engaged and motivated. They will feel it is more compatible with their current mentality and will be able to relate to the contemporary themes.
I really hope with the young generation’s considerable efforts to change the education system, we get to see a better environment for learning because education is the root of social transformation. Without it, a nation can never thrive and prosper. Hoping is not enough though as we all need to be determined for this to really happen by springing into action.
There is a reason why our system is way behind and that can be summarized in two words; laziness and selfishness. To my knowledge, we need inspirational leaders who have the guts to combat these two destructive human vices and indoctrinate a culture of hard work, generosity, and collaboration.
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Malak graduated with a Master’s Degree in Applied Linguistics from the Higher Institute of Languages of Tunis. She has a keen interest in reading comics and non-fiction books about linguistics, psychology, and self-help. She also likes to paint and write articles about visual arts in her free time. She is currently studying online specializations about teaching techniques and academic writing. She aspires to become a college teacher and contribute to changing the Tunisian education system.