CAIRO: Hours before they were due to take their statistics and national education exams on Thursday, high school students were hit for the fourth time with another Facebook leak including questions and model answers from both tests.
Outside Agouza School for Girls, one of the Giza schools that hosts the Thanaweya Amma (high school diploma) exams, students were revising and chatting while they waited for their first exam to begin.
Mayar, a student at the Islamic Manar Language School, did not know about the leaks until the end of the Arabic language exam on Sunday, she told The Cairo Post Thursday.
Mayar’s mother, Mervat, said she usually cuts the internet service off at home during the exam period to stop her children from becoming distracted, “that’s why we only heard about the leaks from Mayar’s friends,” she said.
“I did not feel like I wanted to study for the next exam as I felt my efforts would be wasted and would be in vain,” Mayar said, adding that “there are students who will get full marks in the previous exams, however they did not study like I did.”
For Mayar, the Arabic language exam was “easy and doable” however, she complained about the English language test, which was changed after the exam was leaked. She also lamented the postponement of the religion exam to June 26, after the content was shared on social media before the test was due to take place.
She said that the Facebook pages that leak the exams have different copies for each exam, adding that it is not necessarily “the leaked copy is the right one.”
“My brother emailed me the English exam that was leaked on Facebook, but it was not the one we took,” Mayar continued.
“Shawmeng Helps High School Students Cheat” is the most famous Facebook page that leaks exams. With over 700,000 followers the page has garnered both positive and negative comments from the public. The page has been running exam leaks for the past three years, claiming that the far-fetched restructuring of the education system in Egypt will be achieved this way, and that it is fighting issues like “corruption and teachers’ low salaries.”
Despite sharing common beliefs with the Shawmeng page on the need for restructuring the educational system, Toqa Refaat, a 17-year-old old student, told the Cairo Post that “Shawmeng thinks leaks are the best way to resist corruption and a bad educational system, but in fact, they are harming us – the students.”
After the ministry changed the English exam, the Shawmeng page announced it will post the leaked exams at 9:30 a.m., so that each student can use their mobile phone to access the exam.
Other unofficial pages are also leaking exam papers under the Shawmeng name in a bid to gain more likes.
These Facebook pages are operating anonymously and some students assume that the administrator for the official Shawmeng page is a past student who is angry at his failure to do well in the exams. Meanwhile, security bodies have reported arresting a number of administrators of these Facebook pages in different governorates.
The wave of exam leaks on social media has triggered criticism against the Education Ministry, which recently announced “heightened measures” to curb cheating by using electronic rods to ban mobile phone access in the classrooms.
“How come the Ministry of Education cannot protect our exams? Our rights are wasted,” student Nourhan Hamdy told The Cairo Post.
Dilemma of Egyptian High school
Thanaweya Amma is the gateway to university in Egypt, as end-of-year grades determine what university each student will attend. Some do not enter the university they dream of due to low grades. Minimum grades of acceptance at each university are determined according to the overall grades each year. However, entrance into certain faculties like medicine, engineering and dentistry require a high grade exceeding 95 percent.
So, when students complain about the current exam leaks, it is because with each leaked exam the grades needed to enter each faculty increases. This means many will miss the opportunity to join their sought-after faculty.
For many students, this is the school year they fear as their workload increases under the mounting pressure to do well. Typically, most student take private lessons which they believe are better quality than ordinary school classes.
However, student Rania Mohamed believes the real problem with the high school education system is that students have to study subjects that do not match their chosen career path. “I would like to enter the Fine Arts Faculty however, I have to study unrelated material like geology and statistics, which affect my grade.”
May Medhat, who wants to join a Physiotherapy Faculty, believes she should have studied more medicine-related subjects in school.
A number of students have called for protests on June 13 against the “collective cheating” inside classrooms and the “leaked exams.” They plan to demand the dismissal of the Minister of Education Helaly el-Sherbeiny over his inaction to protect the exams and to guarantee “equal opportunities” among students.
Last year, the government introduced a law imposing prison sentences and fines ranging from 20,000 – 30,000 EGP ($2,200 – 3,300 approx.) to deter the practice of leaking exams, which is considered a high-profile issue related to national security.
Thus far, the ministry has stated it has discovered 177 cases of cheating in both the Arabic and English language exams. The ministry has also announced a “new
plan” to be adopted as of next year which aims to change the way exam question papers are transported throughout Egypt.