Egyptian govt slammed for failing to stop exam leaks

CAIRO • As Egyptian high school students take their final exams this month, the government is facing a wave of criticism and mockery after copies of at least two test papers - and the answers - were leaked on Facebook.

The leaks, which caused one of the tests to be cancelled, have resulted in a barrage of criticism of the Education Ministry, and the police and military officers who guard the wax-sealed boxes that the exam papers are kept in before students take them.

The exams were leaked on a Facebook page by someone, or a group, called Chao Ming. The reason for the Chinese-sounding name is unclear.

For the past four years, Chao Ming posted answers during tests, allowing cheating by students flouting a ban on cellphones. This year is believed to be the first time Chao Ming has posted copies of the exams and answers before the tests.

Chao Ming has spawned a host of imitators who use Facebook and other online platforms to help students cheat - and taunt the authorities.

Some of the sites say they are acting to embarrass the ministry and to change the education system in Egypt.

The scandal has highlighted disgruntlement with the declining quality of public education in Egypt, but has also drawn contrasts between the government's bumbling efforts to stop the leaks and its harsh crackdown on free speech and political freedom in Egypt.

"The regime can't protect" a couple of papers, Ms Mina Salib, a political activist in Alexandria, wrote in a Facebook post that was widely liked. "Excuse me, but how are they supposed to protect a country?"

Police have arrested Mohanad Ahmed, an 18-year-old high school student from Alexandria, who later appeared on television confessing to running Chao Ming Helps Thanaweya Amma Cheat, the series of Facebook pages that posted the exams.

But many students and parents have questioned whether Ahmed is the originator of the leaks because of widespread doubts about the official narrative.

About 570,000 Egyptian high school students are taking the exams, known as Thanaweya Amma tests, which determine admission to state-run universities and institutes.

The pressure to succeed is intense, and many describe the tests as a nerve-racking experience that often leaves students crying outside exam centres.

This year's tests started on June 5 and are due to end on June 28.

The Facebook leaks led to the cancellation of a theology exam, which will be held again on June 29.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 20, 2016, with the headline 'Egyptian govt slammed for failing to stop exam leaks'. Print Edition | Subscribe