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Ending the leakage
Published in Al-Ahram Weekly on 15 - 06 - 2017

For the last several years the Ministry of Education has declared its intention to end the exam leaks of the Thanaweya Amma, or last year of high school. But every time the ministry fails in the endeavour. However, this year, the ministry imposed stricter measures which apparently worked. For the first time ever, it used a new booklet system that has greatly reduced exam leaks.
According to the new system, students are required to write their answers on the same test sheet and not in a separate answer sheet as was the practice. The new system is intended to prevent students sneaking test papers out of examination halls during toilet breaks, for example.
The Ministry of Education agreed with the country's military to secure and print test papers, measures which helped in blocking mobile phone signals to examination rooms. Reda Hegazi, head of the ministry's High School Exams Department, said any student found with a mobile phone in an examination could be banned from the exams for one year while exam supervisors and heads of the exam committees would also face legal action.
Some students are believed to use their smart phones inside exam rooms to see the answers.
This year's Thanaweya Amma exams, taken by 589,388 students, started on 4 June and will last for 20 days coinciding with the holy month of Ramadan which started on 27 May. Make-up exams are scheduled for 12 August. Around 91,000 students sat for the exams in Greater Cairo, with schools and exam committees safeguarded by personnel from the Interior Ministry, the governorate and civil defence bodies. Some 109 students are taking their examinations while in detention.
In 2015 President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi issued a presidential decree making the leaking of exams a criminal offence, leading to a maximum of one year in prison and a fine between LE20,000 and LE50,000.
On the eve of the first day of Thanaweya Amma exams it was rumoured that the Arabic test had been leaked on social media. However, the Ministry of Education immediately denied the allegations, stating that the test was secured.
“There is no way any of the exams could be leaked due to the tight security measures taken by the ministry,” Hegazi said. “An Arabic exam paper which was leaked is fake.”
Meanwhile, the Facebook page Chao Ming, which has been leaking the exams for the past two years, announced that this year's tests would be sent on WhatsApp to anyone who subscribed to the service.
Hegazi told those behind the Chao Ming page that they will not be able to leak exams. Addressing those responsible, he said, “Don't lie to the students to take their money.”
The ministry had been countering leaking high school exams since the creation of the Chao Ming page on Facebook in 2012, the most prominent of which has been “Chao Ming's Cheats for High School Exams”.
Hegazi said he was confident there would be no repeat of the widespread leaks of last year, adding that various measures have been taken by the ministry to enable them to identify those responsible within five minutes. In such cases, he said, exam papers can be replaced within three hours.
According to Hegazi, the government has earmarked LE100,000 for new equipment to test security and anti-cheating measures at high schools. He stressed there would be “no leniency in dealing with all the negative phenomena that occur during exams”.
In June 2016 police arrested an 18-year-old student allegedly responsible for administering three Facebook pages bearing the slogan “Chao Ming helps Thanaweya Amma cheat”, all of which had leaked exam questions and answers. Prosecutors ordered the detention of 12 Education Ministry personnel in connection with the leaks; their trial is ongoing. The accused were employed in the ministry's examinations centre and the printing house responsible for printing the exam papers.
Last year, most Thanaweya Amma tests were leaked on the Chao Ming page. The largest Chao Ming Facebook page has over 750,000 followers and was created. It has leaked question papers from many exams, often striking a few minutes after the official examination starting times, with answers usually posted online shortly thereafter.
The page had been blocked by authorities but later returned to operation.
Last year, the Education Ministry mandated that students involved in leaked exams could retake them, a decision that sparked student protests in several governorates.

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