Recent events involving questionably low grades for Hungarian pupils at this year’s Baccalaureate exam once again raise the suspicion of ethnic discrimination, as well as the long overdue issue of separate teaching methodologies and evaluation mechanisms when it comes to teaching Romanian to students belonging to national minorities.
During this year’s June session of the Baccalaureate exam, the papers of pupils from Covasna county were sent to be evaluated in Mureș county. When the results were published, students, teachers and parents alike were surprised to find that the grades for Romanian language and literature were much lower than expected, which prompted several pupils to contest the results. The contested papers were then re-evaluated in a centre in Sălaj county. The differences between the grades at the first and the second evaluation were significant. Approximately 60 students saw their grades raised with an average of 1.5 points, with some grades increasing by as much as 3 or even 4 points. (In Romania, exam papers are graded on a scale of 1 to 10.) Two pupils, for instance, had their grades raised from 3.80 to 6.95 and from 2.90 to 6.90, respectively.
While the raising of grades at the second evaluation is not uncommon, the teachers of the pupils affected by this recent event have stressed that such a level of discrepancy between the two evaluations, and in the case of so many papers, is highly unusual and points to some kind of irregularity in the way that the papers were corrected at the first centre in Tîrgu Mureș/Marosvásárhely. Given that the exam papers are labelled with the abbreviation of the county of provenance, teachers and parents have come to suspect that the pupils in question were possibly discriminated against for being Hungarian. While a difference of a few decimal points could be explained as a mistake or an oversight of the evaluating teacher, discrepancies of 3-4 points can hardly be considered a simple gaffe. At the very least there is a suspicion that the teacher(s) who evaluated the papers the first time around were biased, and knowing that – being from a county with a Hungarian majority – the pupils whose papers they were reading were most likely Hungarian, they tended to assess their mistakes more severely and thus deduct a considerable amount of points.
In any case, we believe – as the teachers and parents have also demanded – that a thorough inspection into the handling and the evaluation of the papers in Tîrgu Mureș/Marosvásárhely needs to be conducted, in order to investigate what happened. Moreover, so as to avoid similar incidents in the future, it would be helpful to have, in each committee assessing the papers of Hungarian pupils, a teacher whose mother tongue is Hungarian. However, the only feasible solution in the long term is to implement without further delay the provisions of the 2011 Law on Education, which stipulates, among other things, that students who study in a minority language education system are taught Romanian based on a modified curriculum, specifically tailored for pupils whose mother tongue is not Romanian, and to accordingly modify the evaluation of these pupils as well.