Ukrainian Finals

While we are past exams here in Ukraine now and well into the semester, I thought I would share with all of you the “exam experience” for our students so that you could sympathize and perhaps remember to pray for them every exam period…they sure would appreciate it.

First of all, while in the states most schools have an exam week (as in one week), in Ukraine exams stretch out an entire month, the months of January and June.  It is definitely one of the most painful processes I have ever watched in person.  Students do not know when their exams will take place until the end of December or May, and then it’s only approximate.  The exact day and specific starting time are at best searched for by the students. The room often is moved, if the teachers don’t want to do it until later in the day, then you have to come back, if they want to do it tomorrow, then you have to come back.  The professors here have an amazing amount of power, and from what I’ve been told, they aren’t afraid to use it.

My most unfavorite part is that most of their exams are oral.  They go in front of their professor one by one and answer questions.  In December they are given 50-150 questions per subject, depending on the teacher.  They study these questions, and then, beginning the second week of January, they start exams.  They walk into the room with the professor, draw three questions out of a stack and then are given 20-30 minutes to prepare an outline.  After this prep time they go before the professor and tell all they know, and he or she assigns the grade of 1-5, five being an A.  Most classes have 25 students, so you can see that this process takes all day, sometimes two, and is completely subjective.

However, the students have told me they are actually trying to transition to more written tests.  And you’re thinking great, to save time.  Actually, the real reason for the transition is more likely to provide an actual test for reference by the professors when students complain about their grades.  There is so much corruption and dishonesty in the school system here, full of bribery and a “who knows who” and “who is who” system, one man’s word against another often falls on deaf ears, especially if it’s just an ordinary student against a professor.

We actually had a student this semester fail one of her tests because she said her professor was a jerk and having a bad day.  If you knew this student, you would immediately want to go find this professor and flex some muscle.  Because of this failing grade, she lost her scholarship.  But luckily, the dean of her school was able to observe the ridiculous behavior of this professor first hand and therefore when she appealed her grade, he agreed, and changed it.  She is one of the lucky ones.

Alas, every semester exams finish, and our students are able to recover from the sleep-deprived state they have been in for the last four weeks.  They start to smile again, hang-out at the student center and have time for a conversation.  No big hurdles until, actually, we have to wait for everyone’s next semester schedule to come out so we can start planning at the student student center.  Usually this happens the day before the semester starts, maybe.  I guess, who needs to plan for tomorrow when you can live in today?

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