Israel Allows Quarantined Students to Leave Home for Matriculation Exams

Permission was granted in advance of the math exams this week for about 40,000 students, some 3,000 of them in quarantine

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Students sitting their bagrut exam in a high school in Tel Aviv, June 22, 2020.
Students sitting their bagrut exam in a high school in Tel Aviv, June 22, 2020.Credit: Meged Gozny
Shira Kadari-Ovadia
Shira Kadari-Ovadia

The Health Ministry gave its approval Sunday for students in quarantine to leave home to take the matriculation exams, subject to the consent of a district doctor.

Permission was granted in advance of the math exams on Monday and Tuesday for about 40,000 students, some 3,000 of them in quarantine. At the same time the ministerial coronavirus committee will discuss the request by Higher Education Minister Zeev Elkin and Health Minister Yuli Edelstein to conduct remote exams in higher education institutions to reduce the danger of infection.

The Health Ministry said students without symptoms can submit a request to be tested on condition they arrive and leave the exam in a private car with open windows, wear a mask covering their mouth and nose throughout their stay outside quarantine, and maintain a two-meter distance from their classmates and school staff. They are to come straight to the classroom and leave school immediately after the exam. This outing would not shorten the period of their quarantine.

The decision comes in the wake of matriculation exams in the sciences last week, which hundreds of students missed because of the quarantine. Michal Weiss, a 12th grader from Lehavim, went into quarantine a few days before the exam. Her mother said she expected “creative solutions” from the Education Ministry. She said that if they solved the problem during the election, they can do it for the exam – testing in an isolated room in school, at home supervised by Zoom, or receiving a “protective grade” from the teacher instead of the exam. The ministry has promised an alternate date in early August for those in quarantine.

Students from various academic institutions protested recently against administering exams in the usual format. “At the moment, in most of the courses there are frontal exams and the universities are doing nothing to reduce exposure,” said a student at Ben Gurion University. “We’re asking them to enable every student to choose between a frontal exam and an online exam, or another alternative that won’t endanger his health.”

Sources in institutions of higher education criticized the request by Elkin and Edelstein, who did not consult with them. In any case many exams were replaced by final papers or remote exams, and exams remaining are only those that must be held on campus.

The university heads said that the decision places the continuation of the semester in doubt. “The decision to cancel on-campus exams will harm tens of thousands of students who won’t be able to take psychometric exams, final exams, licensing exams, and exams that can’t be administered outside the campus,” they wrote. “Canceling exams on the campuses will negatively affect the end of the semester and the start of the coming academic year.”

They called on the coronavirus cabinet to delay their decision until the conclusion of a thorough consultation with the institutions.

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