Crashed website delays math bagrut

Mishaps, leaks and technical difficulties as students take math matriculation exam.

By
May 26, 2010 05:15
2 minute read.
Students at Hebrew University.

StudentsAtHebrewU311. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)

Schools across the country held the mathematics section of the “bagrut” matriculation exam on Tuesday, in spite of a series of mishaps, leaks and technical malfunctions that put the testing in jeopardy.

On Monday, the Israel Police’s National Fraud Unit launched a probe into a leak of the exam’s mathematics section, which appeared on Facebook this past weekend.

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The leak left the Education Ministry scrambling to formulate a new test and hunt down the person responsible for scuttling the original. In addition, the ministry fears that other parts of the test may have been leaked to students by other means.

As yet, police have arrested no suspects.

In the wake of the leak, the Education Ministry decided to replace the questions for all of the exam levels and distribute the new questions on a Web site, from which school principals could download them. The test is usually picked up by test officials from area post offices and distributed to schools.

The downloadable bagrut plan was set to go, until technical difficulties threw a monkey wrench in the plans. With the test only half an hour away, some 900 school principals across the country tried to log on and download the test at the same time, causing the ministry Web site to crash. This meant that hundreds of schools across Israel had no choice but to hold the timed exam after a significant delay – in some cases, more than a half-hour – with school officials dashing to Xerox and fax copies of the test from schools that had managed to download it.

On Tuesday, the Education Ministry issued a statement that “schools across Israel have received the mathematics bagrut exam” and that “the Education Ministry will allow for schools that received the test late to have more time to finish the exams.”

As part of these efforts, the ministry delayed the bagrut exams scheduled to be held in the afternoon by one hour.

Further controversy arose Tuesday evening when the ministry announced it would exclude more than 500 schools from taking part in a home front drill scheduled for Wednesday, because it was scheduled to take place at the same time as the bagrut exams for those schools.

The nationwide drill is meant to test readiness to face the threat of large-scale missile attacks on the home front.

Education Ministry director-general Shimshon Shoshani dismissed criticism of how the ministry had dealt with the bagrut leak, telling Israel Radio on Tuesday that he would give the ministry a perfect 10 score for its handling of the fiasco and saying that the alternatives were far worse.

On Tuesday evening, the ministry announced that the mathematics portion of the test had successfully concluded and that the ministry had managed to reshuffle and organize a new test in 36 hours after facing “an unprecedented situation.”

“The Education Ministry has worked in the best possible manner to avoid damaging the testing of some 80,000 students and to allow the mathematics portion of the test to be held on time,” it said.


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