Still no answer to all those wrong answers

5th March 2004 at 00:00
Would-be students have taken to the streets in protest at the failure of their schools to prepare them for Argentina's university entrance exams.

There had been a national outcry at the huge numbers who did not pass the exams, despite attempts by schools to do better than last year.

Teachers returned from summer holiday this week to banner headlines on the disastrous pass rate of university hopefuls. All candidates for La Plata university's astronomy course, for instance, failed a prerequisite maths test, along with 78 per cent of engineering candidates - one in four failed to get even one answer right.

In the port city of Rosario three-quarters of candidates flunked the entry exam for medicine. More got all the answers wrong than passed. One university rector said secondary schools served no purpose except to prepare students for their traditional final-year binge.

In the city of Corrientes prospective students were dispersed by tear gas as they protested against the school-university mismatch. Candidates usually have three shots at university entrance exams - voluntary tests in December and February and a compulsory exam in March. Universities provide courses to bring candidates up to entrance-level standard.

"I think it was very difficult," said Maria de Jesus Cerna, a graduate of Nuestra Senora de la Misericordia school in La Plata. "It's not the same as they taught us in school."

Education authorities in Buenos Aires province scrambled to explain that changes in the school curriculum were already in the pipeline.

Maths was being restored to upper secondary courses - it was cut or dropped entirely from the last three secondary years during restructuring in 1996.

This divided secondaries into senior and junior high schools.

Complaints from universities forced Buenos Aires schools to introduce two maths lessons a week into modules from which it had been dropped.

Announcing other changes, Mario Oporto, director of education for Buenos Aires province, said: "We're alarmed by the massive failure of school graduates attempting to enter university. That's why we're increasing the time allocated to hard sciences and we're returning to teaching physics and chemistry separately."

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