Today was a big day for those who finished the equivalent of what would be 9th grade here. You see, there is a diploma you get after 5th grade, one after 9th grade, and then one after 12th grade (if you continue on that far). But in order to get the diploma and advance to the next class, you have to take a big test each time. There isn’t even an equivalent that I can compare it to in the US. I guess the closest I could give is the AP tests, but here, if you don’t pass the whole test you have to retake the whole year. For the diploma out of 9th grade, which is called the BEPC, the test took place over three days last week and the results came out today. Some passed, some didn’t. Here, among the 4 people I know best who took it, 2 passed and 2 didn’t. Some students have to retake the test, and so the whole year, 2, 3, 4, or even 5 times before they pass. That means that most people don’t graduate from high school until they are in their 20s. One of those who just passed his BEPC, as well as one who didn’t pass yet, is 20. And they still have at least three more years to go, or more if they don’t pass each grade and the test at the end of 12th grade (the BAC) on the first try. Unlike in the US, though, where it’s very rare to not pass, here it’s common. Of the 360 or so who took the BEPC at one site, only 61 passed. At another site, of the 200 or 300 some, only less than 20 passed. Yikes! It makes me grateful for my American education and the lack of these big tests that often send you back to retake the whole year.