Some 160 seniors in a high school of the Arab town of Jaljulya are suspected of having collectively cheated on the Arabic language matriculation exam which was administered this summer, Israel Radio reported on Sunday.
The suspicion arose after the Education Ministry received reports from sources at the school, including some of the students’ parents, that students had compromised the integrity of the exam.
Following the complaints, the ministry announced on Sunday that it will conduct a “thorough examination” of the Arabic matriculation exam completed at the Jaljulya school and has decided to freeze the grading process until the matter has been cleared.
After investigation, students who are found to have cheated will have their copies disqualified.
Education Ministry director-general Dalit Stauber stated that “the ministry will not compromise when it comes to maintaining the integrity of the tests and will, on the other hand, ensure that no student will be hurt if no suspicions rose about them.”
Stauber added that “there is no place for producing false scores using improper and untruthful methods” and stressed that “it is important that the grades reflect investment, persistence and real learning.”
According to the Israel Radio report, the Education Ministry had come across suspicions of cheating a day before the exam, but decided to conduct the test normally without taking any real time monitoring measures and did not check the results after it was completed.
In a letter he wrote to the testing department of the ministry – which was then published on the Jaljulya municipality website – school principal Dr. Khaled Arar said that he was surprised by the suspicions, since a number of supervisors were present in the classrooms during the exam.
According to the letter, Arar had gotten a phone call the morning of the test from the district supervisor, warning him about some testing envelopes that had been opened before the exam took place. The supervisor also talked about rumors of teachers helping the students cheat.
Arar called on the ministry to cancel the freeze.
Meretz MK Esawi Frej, who is also a member of the Knesset Education Committee, reacted to the accusations on Sunday and called the ministry’s decision to freeze the students’ exam notebooks a “collective punishment,” which was inflicted to all the 12th grade students without presenting them with any evidence.
Frej also pointed fingers at the ministry, which according to him, is acting on the basis of racial factors.
“The days where you could bully the Arab population without anyone saying something are over,” he said. “The ministry would have never thought of making such a move in a Jewish school, because it is clear that parents wouldn’t stay silent and the ground would be shaking.”
“There is no doubt that in Arab schools there is a real phenomenon of copying and hurting the integrity of exams,” he added. “This is a serious problem which needs to be fought by checking each copy suspected of cheating and disqualify the exams if necessary, but in no way should there be a disqualification of the entire grade.”
The ministry strongly denied any racial issues which could be involved with the matter.Ariel Ben Solomon contributed to this report.