Dismissing education minister not solve exam-leaks problem: ministry spokesman

Calls for the resignation of Egypt's education minister are limited in scope, meaning that he is unlikely to resign over the current high-school exam leaks crisis, according to Bashir Hassan, spokesman for the Education Ministry.

During a phone call to a talk show on Al-Ghad news TV channel, Hassan sought to downplay the ongoing controversy over the leaking of high school examination papers in Egypt along with model answers in many cases. He said the controversy was nothing new and that officials have been dealing with the problem for the past five years.

The Facebook page “Shawming Byghashish Thanaweya Amma" (Shawming's cheats for high school exams) has been leaking exams online since 2013. This year, it has published numerous papers, including the Arabic, English, religion, geography and mathematics exams.

The page specializes in supplying the correct answers to questions along with the question papers. The leakages have prompted the cancelation of exams and protests from students and parents outside the Education Ministry, with many calling for the resignation of Education Minister al-Helali al-Sherbeni.

During his TV phone-in, Hassan expressed sympathy with the parents and students, stressing that the minister is seeking justice for those affected and that the ministry is coordinating with various government agencies and departments to solve the problem. He said that leaks were now considered a matter of national security for Egypt, and that the ministries of the interior and telecommunications were involved.

Dismissing the education minister will not solve the problem, Hassan added, saying that the leaks will continue regardless of who heads the ministry unless and until the culprits are brought to justice.

In explaining the source of the leaked exam papers, Hassan spoke of an organized mafia that operates the entire length of Egypt, from Alexandria to Aswan.

However, he also said that the ministry "is responsible for what happened" and that it is taking the appropriate measures to solve the problem. For example, the minister had given the order to close 3,000 institutions offering private lessons in the hope that this would reduce corruption and cheating in exams.

The current row over leaked examination papers started in early June when several papers were leaked online to students taking their "thanaweya amma" (high school) exams across Egypt. Since then, several papers have been leaked online, along with model answers, and students have accessed them during exams using mobile phones. Several arrests have been made in the past few weeks, but the problem appears to be continuing.

Hundreds of Egyptian high school students gathered outside the Education Ministry on Monday to protest against the cancellation of the dynamics exam and the postponement of the history, geology, algebra and solid geometry exams.

The students demanded the sacking of the education minister, the abolition of the university admissions system and the holding accountable of those involved in the leakage of high school exams.

The official high school dynamics exam was canceled after confirmation that the paper was leaked online in the early hours of Sunday morning.

High school students all over Egypt sat the exam (one of the papers on the mathematics curriculum) between 9 and 11 a.m. on Sunday. However, the questions and answers were simultaneously leaked online, with many students accessing them via mobile phones.

Edited translation from Al-Masry Al-Youm

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