Egypt

High school exam grades can’t be altered for cash: ministry

Education Ministry Spokesperson Bashir Hassan has dismissed claims by administrators of a Facebook page that they can adjust the results of this year's high school examinations at the request of students.

The administrators of the "Shawming Byghashesh Thanaweyya Amma" Facebook page, which was responsible for leaking and circulating several examination papers in the past month, claimed recently that they could amend high school exam results for any student willing to pay a small fee.

However, during a phone-in to MBC Masr on Monday evening, Hassan said nobody was able to change results for students, not even the heads of the various "control rooms" established for the marking of examination papers.

The administrator for the Shawming page published a message on June 8 saying, "Having learned the opinions of all students, we will amend the results in the control [rooms] … Those willing to improve their results can contact us through a private message to the page."

The message referred to the 11 control rooms set up recently by the Education Ministry for the marking of high school exam papers, as revealed to Youm7 by a ministry source.

According to the source, each control room contains 600 Education Ministry employees who count up the marks and record them on computers, the employees going through a rigorous security selection procedure to ensure their honesty and reliability, according to the newspaper.

The same source said that it would be impossible for exam marks to be improved in the way suggested by Shawming, since the answer papers do not bear the students' names, and the only intention of the Shawming administrators was to obtain money from desperate students.

During Monday's TV phone-in, Hassan said that Shawming was just one of many entities behind the phenomenon of leaking and circulating examination papers, often along with model answers.

He said that certain unnamed elements were seeking to harm the Education Ministry, and that the exam paper leaks was part of their strategy.

High school students have been sitting their final exams — known as thanaweya amma — for the past month, but they have been disrupted by number cases of exam papers being leaked beforehand or shared online once exams had started.

A Facebook page titled “Shawming Byghashish Thanaweya Amma" has been responsible for many of the leaks, publishing papers, often along with model answers. As a result several examinations were cancelled and rescheduled.

The alleged administrator of the Facebook page was arrested, as were several officials involved in the printing and distribution of exam papers. However, the problem of leaks and online circulation of papers continued until the last day of examinations.

In response to the crisis, hundreds of high school students staged protests over the course of last week demanding the dismissal of Education Minister al-Helali al-Sherbeni. They also called for a complete revision of the high school education system, along with the thanaweya amma exams.

The thanaweya amma refers to the final years of high school, which students attend between the ages of 17 and 18, and is a crucial educational stage in Egypt. A student’s score in the examinations can determine whether they are admitted to a free public university and what course they are able to study.

Authorities have worked to maintain consistent examination standards over the past few years, despite the political, economic and social turbulence of post-Mubarak Egypt. During the security void following the January 25 revolution, the armed forces transported exam papers using armored vehicles and helicopters.

In a speech on June 30, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi vowed to solve the problem of leaked papers, saying that the government is working on a new system for the final period of high school education. He said the "new vision" would be revealed in September, the start of the new school year.

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