Wednesday,19 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1250, (11 - 17 June 2015)
Wednesday,19 September, 2018
Issue 1250, (11 - 17 June 2015)

Ahram Weekly

The annual nightmare

This year’s thanaweya amma exams are proving nightmarish for thousands of Egyptian parents and students, reports Reem Leila

Al-Ahram Weekly

The death of a student, leaking of exam questions, and allegations of widespread cheating have all marked this year’s thanaweya amma, or General Certificate of Secondary Education, exams, causing anxiety or worse for thousands of Egyptian parents and students.

The nationwide exams kicked off on 6 June for the 4,188 students sitting the exams under the old system, with the remaining 510,000 students sitting the exams on 7 June under the new system. This is in addition to 96 students across the country taking their exams in jail.

On 7 June, the questions and answers for the Arabic exam were leaked online just 45 minutes after the beginning of the exam, which started at 9am and lasted for two-and-a-half hours. The exam questions and answers were uploaded on Facebook and Twitter and hashtags were initiated to facilitate the cheating process.

Immediately after the leaks, the Education Ministry investigated the leaked papers and identified the codes they carried. Mohamed Saad, head of secondary exams at the Ministry of Education, said the ministry had discovered three copies of the papers were leaked, each of them having a different code identifying the specific examination committee.

“The leaks took place at the Modern Preparatory School in Abu Kebir in the Al-Sharqiya governorate. The supervisor of the examinations committee has been fired, and two female students responsible for leaking the exam via their mobile phones were disciplined and their exams cancelled,” Saad said.

There were reports on the Internet stating that the English language exam was also leaked. However, Saad said that “the leaked English exam is not the correct one. It is a fabricated copy and has nothing to do with the original one.”

Another incident which marked this year’s exams was the death of Dina Ahmed Hassan while sitting for the Arabic exam at Bahteem village in Shubra Al-Kheima.

“I arrived at the school just 10 minutes after one of my daughter’s colleagues called me and said that Dina had gone into a coma, but the school refused to allow me to see my daughter. A few minutes later an unequipped ambulance arrived at the school and took my daughter to hospital,” the student’s father said. 

“The school doctor did not examine my daughter because when I asked him about her condition he told me he didn’t know anything about my daughter,” he added.

Hassan Abdel-Ghaffar, a spokesman for the Ministry of Education, told the press that Hassan had died due to circulatory failure. The ambulance had arrived at the school just six minutes after the incident was reported, he said. “There was no dereliction of the ministry’s duty as there is a doctor located at the school to examine students,” he said.

Despite this year’s incidents, the ministry has stepped up security measures with the Ministry of  Interior to make sure questions are not leaked before or during exams. The ministry had taken several precautionary measures to secure the exams, starting with the confidentiality of the printing and throughout the transportation process, done using planes, cars and trains, all in coordination with the Ministry of Interior, Saad said.

“More than 130,000 employees have been assigned to monitor exam halls and students throughout the 20 days of the exams,” he added.

But many parents have expressed their anger at the leaks and the apparent inability of the ministries concerned to prevent them. Hala Nasr, the mother of a thanaweya amma student, said “it is unfair for our children who have been exerting great efforts in studying throughout the year to find themselves on an equal footing with others who have got high grades from cheating.”

“We heard this year that the ministry is taking high security measures to prevent leaks. But after only 45 minutes the questions and answers were leaked on the Internet. This is unfair and unprofessional,” Nasr said.

Abdel-Ghaffar said the ministry had assigned female supervisors along with their male colleagues to inspect female students before entering they entered the exam halls.

 “Bags and all personal belongings should be properly inspected to prevent students from entering exam halls with mobile phones, books or papers. It is illegal for students to sit for their exams with mobile phones. Unfortunately, the Internet along with smart phones has made it easier for students to cheat and to leak exams,” he said.

According to Abdel-Ghaffar, if a student is found with a mobile phone, he or she is automatically disqualified from an exam, even if not found cheating. If a student is found cheating, he or she is disqualified from all exams.

“30 students have been caught cheating in exams. Sanctions will be taken out against them,” Abdel-Ghaffar said.

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