More than half a million high school seniors in Egypt took a theology exam yesterday that could affect their ability to enroll at state-run colleges and universities, an activity among the nation’s students that has grown enormously in recent years, owing to increasing levels of poverty, which puts enrollment at private colleges and universities out of reach for many students.
The exam, known as Thanaweya Amma, is administered every June and relies extensively on rote learning. A series of Facebook pages, known as Chao Ming, featured a few questions from this year’s test, and several education officials in the country have been arrested and charged with aiding in the cheating.
The posts also featured answers, which caused the Education Ministry to cancel the test. The high-stakes nature of the exam, however, has led to its reinstatement, the New York Times reports.
It is believed the posts, which were also made last year and are promised for next year—until corruption in the Education Ministry is eradicated—were created when students or test proctors accessed the tests with electronic devices like smartphones, surgically implanted headphones, or credit cards that can also serve as a camera.
Cellphones are prohibited in testing areas, as they are in the US, but students “hide the phones in sensitive areas,” the Times quoted Bashir Hassan, the ministry’s spokesman, as saying. “No one is going to search those areas, so what are we supposed to do about it?”
Some officials have proposed cutting off all Internet access in the country up to an hour before the exams begin. Other moves to restrict free speech in the country seem absurd, especially since the test is of mediocre quality at best, but when high stakes—including guaranteed college admission—are tied to test scores, one can expect students and their teachers to be highly motivated to cheat.