Low pass rates, fraud in exams leading to universities

With publication of results of the baccalauréat school-leaving examinations in francophone Africa, newspapers in some countries have reported problems of low pass rates and instances of fraud.

The ‘bac’, which features in education systems modelled on that of France, gives pupils who pass it the right to higher education. But this year has seen accusations of failing systems, mutual recrimination between candidates and examiners, and cheating aided by teachers, examiners and jury members.


Algeria had fixed an objective of a 70% pass rate for the bac. But at a reception in honour of successful candidates, attended by Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal, the Education Minister Nouria Benghebrit announced a success rate of only 45.01%, reported La Tribune of Algiers.

The poor showing was in spite of reforms introduced to improve the education system, said Benghebrit, who judged it would be necessary to bring in measures such as generalised support classes for all exam pupils, in collaboration with regional and local authorities, and readjustment of the curriculum.

The minister had expressed her intention when she took over the post to consider a reform of school examinations, reported La Tribune. She said several debates would take place during July to look into the difficulties experienced in the sector.


In Mauritania the bac pass rate was also low – less than 10% of the 41,621 candidates were successful, reported Magharebia of Nouakchott.

Horrified students gathered outside a teacher training institute in Nouakchott to protest against what they said was ‘injustice’ by the teachers, who they claimed had marked the papers incorrectly and not objectively; and some students had threatened suicide, reported Magharebia.

But while students blamed the examiners, teachers responsible for correcting papers blamed the students who, they said, got what they deserved and were of an extremely weak standard.

Outside observers blamed the national education system for the widespread failure.

Journalists quoted by Magharebia cited “cut-price education”; “recurring failures in recent years revealing the defects of a sick education system”; “reforms that have crashed… and the logical result of decision-makers’ amateurism is clear – lower standards every year, and continuing decline”.

The drop in standards affected both private and public sectors, and the current state of education was part of the overall crisis that was hitting the country, said journalist Abou Ba.

Education minister Ba Ousmane told the National Assembly that the remedy was an “interactive relationship between society and schools with both parties playing their parts fully”, reported Magharebia.

He noted “the existence of a real trend to reform education through an exhaustive analysis of the weak points of the system to seek appropriate solutions”.

Côte d’Ivoire

Meanwhile, in Côte d’Ivoire fraud has been detected in the marking of bac papers, reported

Examiners and parents of candidates had noticed in several towns that the system for marking exam papers had changed. They were often being corrected in the same place by the same teachers, which had given opportunities for cheating, said Notrevoie.

The Education Ministry’s examination board, DECO, had this year made organisational changes in examinations, which students sat in the mornings leaving the afternoons free for examiners to validate the papers, explained Notrevoie. Also, exam centres had been grouped together in regions’ administrative centres and big towns.

A parent in Bouaké had contacted Notrevoie to express his consternation. He told the paper: “The exam reform made by DECO is not right. Parents call the examiners to tell them their children’s anonymous reference number.”

A teacher confirmed that cheating had been taking place. “The exams this year have achieved their aim, at least as far as corrections are concerned – fraud. In the exam centres examiners are seeking out the papers of those close to them.

“But more scandalously, candidates are telling the examiners their anonymous reference numbers. One candidate… even had the intelligence to write her name on her English paper.”

According to several teachers, examiners were able to find their pupils’ papers during marking, in both the bac and the brevet d’études du premier cycle, or BEPC, an exam taken by younger pupils.

The teachers thought the high success rate in the BEPC was due to marking done on the spot and the absence of DECO inspectors. They were expecting a high bac pass rate because of the opportunities for fraud.

Those complaining about fraud said the examination system should revert to past practice and send papers “far, very far” for marking to avoid the cheating that had taken place this year.


In Senegal, in spite of efforts by the Office du Bac to ensure the exam system was secure, students still found ways to cheat, often with the complicity of teachers, jury members or supervisors, reported Sud Quotidien of Dakar.

Cheating had become much easier with new technologies, said Sud Quotidien, which cited the case of a student who was caught using his mobile phone during a French exam.

Sud Quotidien outlined a number of ruses students had employed, including bribing examiners, members of exam juries and invigilators – who ignored the cheating taking place in front of them – as well as use of smuggled-in mobile telephones and concealing crib notes in lavatories.

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