Tyranny of numbers

The concour week in Iran

Posted in Education by Djavad on June 24, 2009

This is the concour week in Iran. About 1.3 million hopefuls are competing.  Yesterday I wrote something about the concour in this week of political upheaval in large cities for the NYT, which I have posted here already.   Here are a few more observations.

Officials claim that there are no losers this year because all 1.3 million will get into some university.  This may be technically true thanks to the rapid increase in enrollments in distant education (Payam Noor) and minor private universities in addition to the Islamic Azad university.  But it masks the fact that public universities which are more prestigious and free have not really expanded. So the concour competition is not just about getting somewhere, but to get into a top public university.  That still is for the lucky 10%.

It is interesting to watch various programs and talk shows about the concour on Iranian TV.  In one talk show a deeply concerned mother called in to say that her child was sick and unlikely to get better by this Thursday, June 25, to take the test.  I thought the expert from the national testing agency (Sazman Sanjesh) evaded the question.  So I still do not know if there a make-up for the concour.  In my classes, I always get a few student who get sick and can’t take the test.  How is this handled in Iran’s concour?

Another program would seem unreal to a Western reporter here to cover the street protests because it was a long program on Iran’s main news channel on nutrition–for concour competitors! I learned for the first time that eggs are bad for the test day but quick-release sugars like honey jam are good!  

I hope the authorities are looking equally deep for fundemantal solutions to the conour probelm: equality of opportunity in education with efficient incentives for learning a wide range of productive skills.

5 Responses

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  1. a said, on July 27, 2009 at 11:44 pm

    What do you think about this: http://www.hamshahrionline.ir/News/?id=91760

    • Djavad said, on July 28, 2009 at 7:05 am

      Thank you very much for this link. The article raises an important issue about the quality of university education in Iran. “Har gerdi gerdu nist” I will try to write something on this question when my move to Cambridge, MA is over and I am back on track.

  2. a said, on July 8, 2009 at 10:00 pm

    ” So I still do not know if there a make-up for the concour. In my classes, I always get a few student who get sick and can’t take the test. How is this handled in Iran’s concour?”

    I don’t think there is any follow up. I remember the head of sanjesh saying that they have plans to have more than one concur each years, probably two or more, something similar to GRE tests (sanjesh takes GRE and TOEFL test in Iran for ETS), although it was before Parliaments decision to remove concur completely. There is Azad’s cocur and they can also usually take the exam next year(s) (unless they have to go to military service). Two more notes: 1. cocur is not the only way to enter universities, e.g. National Science Olimpiad medalists do not need to take concur. 2. it is possible to change your university and branch of study after entering university, e.g. Sharif’s Math department allows students from other universities and departments to become guest students for two semesters and if they take enough math courses and have good average in those two semesters (I think it is 17 out of 20) they can transfer to Sharif permanently. There is also the possibility to study a second branch for those having high averages, you can get the exact rules from Exceptional Talents office of universities.

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