Azerbaijan’s Students Also Take University Entrance Exams
Yesterday was a big day for students across Azerbaijan. 32,000+ students gained access to a place at one of the state universities in the country. Now, if you’re imagining something akin to the US’s SAT or ACT test, you might not be totally off. Tests take place on certain days, at certain testing centers, and there’s a payment involved for taking the test. Straightforward. But let’s not forget that this is Azerbaijan.
A few weeks ago, I got to witness what testing day looked like at the Azerbaijan International University (ABU) in Baku. We we’re scheduled for a game of frisbee at the ABU athletic fields. That particular Saturday also happened to be a testing day. Outside the gates of the university was a zoo. Cars and people jammed everywhere. Only students were allowed in but their parents and other family members crowded up to the gates with them, creating a buzzing, tense air. Officials had just started letting students slip through the gates as we arrived. Since we were big, foreign, oddly dressed (shorts!), and wielding heavy backpacks, we muscled our way to the front, were recognized by our guy at the athletic fields and allowed to pass through. As I went through, a police officer was yelling at a few elderly-looking folks, asking why they were crowding the gate, since they were not taking tests. These folks sheepishly backed off a little bit.
What happens after the fiasco of getting in to take the test, I cannot say with 100% certainty. As I understand it, everyone takes the same test, with ranges of scores allowing a student to pursue certain specialties, such as economics, english, or psychology and more. From here, things get a little hazy. I mentioned that a payment has to be made. That’s not technically true. My understanding is that taking the test is supposed to be free (can someone confirm?). Yet, people who are administering the test have a roster. This roster is not only used to track who’s taking the test, but also who has made their payment. The proctor of the exam knows who all these people are, and it’s understood that those who make the payment (maybe 20 AZN? Again, can someone confirm?) will be assured a certain score. And then you can get into your chosen university! No payment? Then things don’t look quite as good for you. Now, I understand that administering these tests takes time and resources. And for that people should probably pay some small amount. But to have the system set up where the fee they pay doesn’t actually go to the administration of the test, but instead to some proctor’s pocket? That’s less than efficient, folks.
So sure, looks just like the SAT and ACT tests in the US. Standardized test. Test dates. Test places. “Fee”. Unfortunately, even though education is probably getting better here, this is system is a factor in why Azerbaijan’s university graduates are still not really qualified for positions that need to be filled here, both in private sector and public sector work. One of the laments of most bank officials and managers here is that they can’t find the workers they need from the population, so they are forced to take less-than-qualified applicants. Affecting this system would probably help that out in the long run.