Arab Students Protest Decision to Cancel Matriculation Exam Leaked by Cell Phone

Say all Arab candidates for Hebrew language, literature test to suffer.

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Israeli high school students taking their matriculation (bagrut) exam.
Israeli high school students taking their matriculation (bagrut) exam.Credit: Alon Ron
Yarden Skop
Yarden Skop

Hundreds of Arab high school students rallied on Sunday in Nazareth to protest the cancellation of the Hebrew language and literature matriculation exams for Arab pupils. Last Thursday, the Education Ministry decided to cancel two parts of the exam after they were leaked on social media. The announcement came shortly before the test was scheduled to take place, and affected thousands of students. This is the third time this year that a matriculation exam has been canceled for Arabs following a leak.

The protesting students were joined at the rally by some Arab MKs, including Joint List leader Ayman Odeh.

Mahmoud Agbariya, chair of the Arab student council and a protest organizer, said, “The students are angry. They study for weeks and suddenly there are people who don’t want there to be a test and they leak the exams. There are students who want to apply to university for next year and now they can’t because it’s unclear when the make-up exam will be held. I’m opposed to leaking, and to students who don’t uphold the testing standards, but the Education Ministry is applying collective punishment that’s overly harsh. Not all the students are to blame that there’s a leak.”

Tomorrow Arab student and public representatives will meet with Education Ministry director-general Michal Cohen in Jerusalem to try to find solutions to the problem.

Meanwhile, a petition is being circulated online calling for there to be no more exam cancellations due to leaks, and for solutions to be found for the students who weren’t able to sit for the exam. The petition has collected 9,000 signatures so far. It says: “The Education Ministry decided to cancel the exams, causing damage to thousands of students who worked hard to prepare for them. The decision is unfair to the students, and will adversely affect all the students in obtaining their matriculation certificate. We vehemently condemn the leaking of the matriculation exam and consider it an immoral act that hurts everyone. We call on the Education Ministry to treat us fairly and take into account that we are in a critical period with a large number of matriculation exams and are not responsible for the leak that occurred.”

Ariel Levy, pedagogical director at the Education Ministry, said, “The Ministry has taken special measures since the winter exam dates, when the two leaks were discovered. We increased security at the post offices, we honed the procedures, both in terms of oversight and in the schools, we did inspections, and unfortunately, the system is still not hermetic – all it takes is one person who photocopies a questionnaire and illegally distributes it.”

Levy said that when a leak is discovered, cancelling the test for everyone is the only way the ministry has of dealing with the problem in real time, and says it is not a malicious form of collective punishment. He added, “It’s a collective event. The test is administered to tens of thousands of students at once. I have to ensure that the testing is done under fair conditions, and we have no other way to deal with this problem. We understand the students’ frustration, we’re not against the students, canceling this test is not an easy decision. If we would have let the exam go on as scheduled, the honest students would have been hurt, because the ones who cheated had the questions already and could have prepared the answers ahead of time. Once it may have been possible to isolate a leak, but nowadays in the age of cell phones it’s a much bigger problem.”

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