Cheats switch to high-tech methods

More than half of 539 Tunisian candidates found cheating in the school-leaving baccalauréat examination were using mobile phones, and one was caught using a camera fitted into his spectacles, according to Abdelhafidh Abidi, director general of examinations in the Ministry of Education.

The fraudsters were among the 119,000 candidates sitting the baccalauréat, which gives those who pass it the right to higher education.

La Presse of Tunis reported Abidi as saying that 288 of those caught out were from public schools, 236 from private ones, and 15 had enrolled independently. Those using mobile phones to cheat numbered 277.

La Presse explained that the practice of integrating the annual average mark of learners when calculating the baccalauréat average, at the level of 25%, had for a long time encouraged pupils to resort to methods of cheating.

The paper explained that the system had been adopted during the regime of deposed president Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, when the aim was to increase the success rate of the exam to improve the image of Tunisia’s educational policy abroad.

Those students who had achieved an annual average that was higher than their baccalauréat average would have this average automatically included in the general average.

This had led to some students switching to private lessons, and migration at the end of the secondary cycle to private schools, to obtain inflated grades during the baccalauréat year. Those remaining in public schools resorted to cheating.

Methods of subterfuge had become more elaborate than the old-fashioned paper slipped up a shirtsleeve, said La Presse. New technologies offered a multitude of sophisticated possibilities for cheating during exams.

Those most commonly used included mobile phones with high-speed connections to the internet, multimedia kits, and spectacles and watches fitted with cameras.

But if cheating was common during the final year, few students dared resort to it during the exam itself, said La Presse. Five years ago the ministry had installed sensors to detect mobile phone use, and it was now considering installing equipment that would scramble telephone networks within a range of between 20 and 200 metres of exam venues.

But La Presse said such solutions would not put an end to cheating, which enabled some to achieve the result they wanted. Rather, it was necessary to tackle the question of why candidates resorted to cheating, “namely, the precious ‘25%’”.

* This article is drawn from local media. University World News cannot vouch for the accuracy of the original report.