MOSUL—As the end of their academic year approaches, Iraqi students are anxious about the high-stakes exams they will take online this month and their post-graduation future in the midst of a dismal economy.
Laith Hameed’s biggest worry in the exams is a technical glitch—a power cut or page freeze could mean he fails his degree.
Hameed, a 25-year-old student at the University of Baghdad, was among the thousands of students across Iraq who cut classes last fall to join the anti-government protests that began in October. (See a related article, “Iraqi Government Pressures Protesting Students to Return to the Classroom.”)
Since then, he has been studying seven hours a day to make up for lost time. But now, he fears his efforts are in vain after the coronavirus lockdown caused further interruptions to his English language studies.
“These exams are crucial to me,” he says. “I am aiming to get high grades to qualify for a master’s degree after graduation.”
Students at a Disadvantage
The coronavirus crisis has forced Iraq’s higher education ministry to choose remote learning—long scorned in many Arab countries—as the only solution to complete the academic year. (See a related article, “Will the Coronavirus Pandemic Help Reform Arab Higher Education?”)
But there are concerns the new process puts students at a major disadvantage.
More than 400,000 Iraqi students will take their finals online for the first time this month, and the difficulty of the questions isn’t their primary concern.
New ministry rules released this month state that “if there is a page freeze or an Internet cut, the student mustn’t try reload the page, or they will be prevented from completing the exam.’’
With frequent power outages, poor Internet access and patchy connections in many parts of Iraq, this is a serious concern for students as exams approach.