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Tunisians complain of cheating in exams

By Jamel Arfaoui for Magharebia in Tunis – 01/06/09

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Tunisian teachers claim the phenomenon of cheating on school exams is worsening. As this year's bac approaches, many instructors say that even distinguished students are breaking the rules. Some students attribute their behaviour to what they consider the "unbalanced scheduling of the subjects" and claim to be "extremely overloaded".

Speaking to Magharebia, many students were ready with justifications.

"Believe me, I sometimes find myself forced to resort to cheating in some – but not all – subjects," said eighth-grader Nader. "The curriculum is overloaded in Tunisia and I'm required to achieve a good result that pleases my parents, who I don't think know or even ask how I achieved such a result."

Another student, Feras, said he chose the arts section because he hates maths. "However, this subject continued to haunt me, which forced me to cheat. I don't understand why the Ministry of Education insists on requiring maths for arts students."

Nevertheless, there are many students who view cheating as an attempt to escape the truth.

Senda Azizi says that many of his peers prefer to play all year long, and "in the end, when the net closes on them, they choose the easy way out – cheating and nothing else".

She told Magharebia these kids then "spend whole nights preparing and planning [to cheat] instead of studying their lessons."

According to Mohamed Essid, an inspector in public education, the phenomenon is spread between male and female students alike, especially among high school and university students.

Essid was confident, however, that cheating would not impact the bac in any significant way. "The control and the system of examination can only be penetrated in very rare cases," he said.

Each year, the Ministry of Education re-publishes the regulatory rules for conducting the exams and the penalties awaiting students who violate them. Under these rules, students are required to surrender all electronic devices, documents and books outside the exam room. At the start of each examination session, students are also required to show their national ID cards and the examination notice, and to hand their IDs to the two control observers for confirmation when handing in their answer papers. Students are not allowed to leave the examination hall for any reason whatsoever until they hand in the examination papers.

Students arriving late are not permitted to enter the exam room. In cases where students are delayed for reasons beyond their control, they must report to the head of the examination centre.

In spite of these tough measures, education ministry observers discovered two cases of cheating during last year's bac exams – one in Kairouan province and the other in Sousse province.

Cheating, attempted cheating or assisting in cheating are gross violations that can lead to the disqualification of the concerned student's exam paper. Even fraud in grading can void a test.

Furthermore, anyone caught cheating can be expelled from public schools and banned from taking the baccalaureate for up to five years.

For some teachers, exam time means police work. "Each time, we discover a new way in which modern technology is used," said Lamia.

"In most cases, we manage to evade the observers' eyes," W.K., a student, told Magharebia. He described some of the strategies kids use, ranging from "writing the lessons in small handwriting on small pieces of paper to typing the information using the typewriter in small font".

Others use mobile phones to pass or store information via SMS or photographs.

Meryam Manai, a mother of two high school students, said the media portrays cheating as an act of heroism. "Each year at the start of the exam season, the newspapers offer us a wide variety of types of cheating that the students proudly reveal. This is bad for students' future, as cheating is turned into a way of life."

Meryam said cheaters should be deterred by "imposing the maximum penalties on them, as well as summoning their parents to tell them about their children's behaviour."

What do you think of this article?


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  1. Anonymous thumb

    FADOUA 2010-3-7

    It is normal that we cheat. We are forced to do this.


  2. Anonymous thumb

    aladin 2009-11-7

    I am a 14-year-old child. I am looking into English schools. –Thank you


  3. Anonymous thumb

    ahmed bezeid 2009-8-21

    I can tell you that humans cannot sustain such cheating. I am a student. I just had my final year of natural sciences in Mauritania. Praise be to God that I got my bac. I had a friend whose professor gave make-up exam sessions at his home. During the bac exam, this math professor sent him the answers on his cell phone in a text message. Cheating is a contagious disease, and its cure is have trustworthy people as monitors.


  4. Anonymous thumb

    élève tunisienne 2009-6-19

    This article is very interesting. It is true that the programmes in Tunisia are slightly overloaded, something that causes cheating. This is the easiest way for students to balance out their grades. Personally, I find it is the best way for me to not lose the average grade I deserve in the basic subjects. I spent days and nights trying to study and do as many exercises as possible. So, cheating, in my opinion, is limited. For example, cheating for students of the sciences only concerns history, geography and Islamic education, the latter being the sole subject that should be removed from our programmes. However, the idea of removing the sciences from the programme for students of literature is contrary and completely wrong; science is a culture that enables us to live in modern society, where life is based on mathematics (to figure distance, speed, duration and even a sum of money) and languages (to talk, converse and be able to with others). These are two subject areas: the former scientific, the later literary. This leads us to understand that all the subjects in the Tunisian programme are necessary and complementary with the exception of Religious education.


  5. Anonymous thumb

    Tounsi_Sansplus 2009-6-2

    Mr. Jamel, Mr. Arfaoui... This is really an interesting subject, and the rate is very high!!!


  6. Anonymous thumb

    خليل وصفي الحاج درويش 2009-6-2

    Salam alikum. Cheating is illegal as the messenger of God Mohamed, peace and prayer be upon him said, 'Those who cheat don't belong to us', the messenger Mohamed, peace and prayer be upon him, speaks the truth. Students should in such hard times in which Maghreb students are preparing for the baccalaureate which is like a door to a bright future, God willing, it is considered a determinant and essential core, both of them bear good either universities with their high scientific level or technical institutions which shorten the way to the job market in the public or private sector. Negligence of students in the baccalaureate will drive them to a loss in finding the adequate job. In this case they will have to seek a living by working in cafés, restaurants, nouveauté shops all day long with a limited wage. My brothers and sisters in all the years of the baccalaureate and departments in Maghreb if you work hard you will pass, if you want high ranks, study hard. God grants success. Amman, Jordan.


  7. Anonymous thumb

    férid 2009-6-2

    This is a very interesting subject you have brought up, Jamel. I hope that the heads of the Ministry of Education will read this article and try to understand "Our children". Moreover, I wonder why the hard-science students continue to study social sciences and the social-science students study hard sciences. This is a waste of time for each minute they spend doing so. I wonder why we speak so anonymously about a subject so interesting.


  8. Anonymous thumb

    Anonymous 2009-6-1

    "Cheating has turned into a way of life", says Miss Meryam Manai. I completely agree with you, Madame, especially during the elections. I would like Magharebia to do an investigation for us when the elections are held and the people concerned to give us responses as honest as those the students gave. But can we expect such from fraudsters?