Israeli high school students taking matriculation exams, April 4, 2009
Israeli high school students taking matriculation exams. Photo by Archive
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The bagrut matriculation exam in mathematics will be held this afternoon as planned, even though some of the test questions were leaked earlier this week. Questions at all test levels (3, 4 and 5 ) have been replaced, even though only questions from the Level 4 exam were leaked.

For the first time, school principals will download test papers from a specially created Web site and then distribute them to students.

Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar said yesterday that his office knows the download system may not work entirely smoothly, but that "ultimately, the goal of not harming tens of thousands of students who prepared for the exam" took precedence over ensuring a problem-free test.

Ministry officials added that they had received no information of test papers in other subjects being leaked, but said they were "ready for any eventuality."

Channel 1 television reported on Sunday that the math exam had been leaked.

The incident was discovered by a teacher, who later informed the Education Ministry.

After several meetings, the ministry decided to hold the exam on the scheduled date, but using questions taken from the retest (which takes place in early July ) and from other instructional material.

The standard procedure is for test officials to collect the exams from the post office and bring them to school.

This year, principals will instead download the tests an hour before exam time.

The online system is meant to solve the problem of the limited time between the discovery of the leak of the test material and the scheduled date for taking the exam.

"It's enough for a photocopy machine at a school to break, and all the prior planning will go to waste," one school principal from the central region warned yesterday.

Bagrut exams are put together by nongovernmental organizations, examined by various people, including veteran teachers, and then printed on government printers.

Several days before the exam, test papers are sent to post offices nationwide, where they are supposed to be kept in safes.

Given the secrecy that usually surrounds the initial phases of the test formulation, some speculated that the weak link in this year's security was the post offices.

"We should have made a decision on the matter more quickly - we shouldn't have left tens of thousands of students in the dark," Sa'ar said yesterday.

"Until now, the education system has not been tested with such a complex logistical challenge. We're working based on the assumption that there will be obstacles and hurdles."

"We didn't want to take any risks about the test's integrity, so the moment we verified that the exam had indeed been leaked, we decided to change the questions," he continued.

"We didn't want to allow cheaters and thieves to disrupt the exam, to harm tens of thousands of students who had prepared for the test. These students deserve to have us do everything possible so that they can take the test on the scheduled date," he said.