'We must help evacuees pass matriculation exams'

The Knesset Education Committee recommended Tuesday that the Education Ministry employ special measures in calculating the matriculation exam results of high school students who were evacuated from the Gaza Strip, if their results of the exams prove such measures necessary. "Gush Katif students have been hurt enough, and they must be given all necessary help to prevent them from being hurt any further," said Education Committee chair Michael Melchior (Labor-Meimad). Amira Haim, director of the ministry's Southern District, said that while the students in question would not automatically receive extra points on this year's exams, special consideration would be given in individual cases, in accordance with exam results. Bitiya Koen-Dorass, a 12th grader at the Neveh Dekalim Ulpana (religious high school for girls), which has been relocated to Givat Washington near Yavne, spoke of her experiences over the past year. Following the relocation of the Ulpana, she said, the small, tight-knit school community has been scattered over several buildings and dormitories. "I've moved four times, living in three different hotels before moving to the home we live in now," she said. "We missed a lot of material. All I am asking is that you help us pass the matriculation exams." Gush Katif advocates, educators and parents at the committee meeting praised the Education Ministry for its efforts to assist students over the past year, and asked that the ministry continue to provide special assistance, to both elementary and high school students, for several years. Among the proposals made at the meeting to help graduating high school students were providing them greater leeway in choosing questions to answer on matriculation exams and employing differential measures in calculating their exam results. A ministry spokesperson told The Jerusalem Post that decisions on such proposals would be made in the coming weeks, as well as later, after the exam results are known. So far, the Education Ministry's Exam Division has received 899 requests for special consideration on matriculation exams from students who formerly lived in the Gaza Strip. The requests were presented to the ministry by the schools where the students in question now study, and all have been met. On Monday, Education Minister Yuli Tamir said, "Last summer, during the exam period in question, the students were naturally devoted to the struggle over their homes and not to their studies. We have found it appropriate to give students as much special consideration as possible, in view of these special circumstances. We understand the extent of the trauma experienced by the students. We feel it is our duty to learn all the lessons from the disengagement, in anticipation of the convergence plan." The ministry has decided not to employ sweeping measures such as raising the grades of all former Gush Katif students, so as not to mark their matriculation grades in a manner that might hurt their chances of acceptance to colleges and universities. So far, special assistance has included additional time for taking each exam and an additional summer semester funded by the Education Ministry.