Sputnik: Syrian Students Didn't Let War Interrupt Quest for Knowledge

Sputnik Arabic has obtained an exclusive first-hand look into a Syrian scientific Olympiad for schoolchildren, held in spite of the tremendous problems facing their country in its long and painful war against terrorism.

The agency reported that over the weekend, Syria successfully completed a nation-wide Science Olympiad for the 2017-2018 school year. Competition was intense, with over 54,000 students participating. Its 50 medal winners will now go on to represent their country at international educational Olympiads over the summer.

Imad al-Azab, the educator heading the National Commission for the Syrian Science Olympiad, told Sputnik Arabic that the event has made great strides over the years. When the idea of a physics-focused Olympiad was first proposed in 2006, only 76 pupils participated, he recalled.


Fast forward to today, "11 years later, and over 54,000 children took part," al-Azab proudly noted.

The final test, taken by 412 students, was held at the Sheraton Hotel in Damascus on Saturday.

According to al-Azab, Syria's participation in international science Olympiads holds tremendous importance, for students as well as educators.

"We started participating in international competitions in 2010. We missed one year, due to the war, but then, together with parents, decided to continue, despite facing many difficulties," the official said.

"When we won prizes at these events, all the other participants – very talented people from 21 countries, were surprised," the educator recalled. "'How do the Syrians, in spite of the war, interruptions in water supply, electricity, and access to the internet, achieve such results?' they would ask. The victories were an important message for the whole world, that Syrian youth has tremendous potential, and is able to raise the Syrian flag at the most important international youth forums," al-Azab emphasized.

Over the last decade, Syrian children won a total of 79 international awards, including medals and certificates, in various disciplines.

Al-Azab believes that Syria's continued participation in international educational competitions will stimulate the country's students to develop themselves, to think outside the box, and allow them, teachers and education ministry officials to develop new ideas to improve the country's education system.

Abu Ali Khadar, director of the Syrian Scientific Olympiad program, told Sputnik that the final stage of national competition determined the top ten students in the fields of mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology and informatics. "They'll become part of the national team, and will participate in international competitions," he said. According to Khadar, these children will now study according to a special, more advanced program to prepare for competition.

During Saturday's ceremony, after the final exams, students put on festive outfits and marched from the Sheraton Hotel to the Damascus Opera House, raising Syrian flags on Umayyad Square in the center of the city.

The first stage of the Olympiads were held in late October. Over a period of five days, 54,427 pupils from every region of the nation took part. This year's Olympiads topped last year's participation levels by nearly 10%, with 5,262 more children participating this year than in 2016.