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Egyptian universities switch to computerised marking system to deter cheating

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Some Egyptian universities are revamping their examination systems in a bid to stop mass cheating, according to local reports.

The universities’ administrators have announced plans to replace the current exam system with another one that’s based on multiple-choice questions (MCQ).

Minister of Higher Education, Ashraf El-Sheehy, told the Egyptian media: “Universities’ shift to the multiple-choice questions will help eliminate the cheating phenomenon.”

Different versions of an exam paper will be printed, with the placement of questions and potential answers differing from student to student to reduce opportunities to cheat.

“This system ensures fairness towards students as their answers are checked and marked through computerisation, not by their teachers, as is the case in the traditional system.

“Thus, each student gets the marks he deserves according to his answers,” explained El-Sheehy, as reported by University World News (UWN).

The minister said the move was part of Egyptian education authorities’ efforts to enhance the quality of the country’s university education which is blamed for churning out low quality graduates.

“The application of this system marks the start of learning based on assimilation, not memorisation,” he said.

While those who support the move say that computerising the marking process would eliminate human errors, there are those who disagree.

Abdullah Gaber, a law student at Ain Shams University in Cairo, told UWN: “The MCQ system deprives the student of expressing himself in the answer sheet because it is based on… choices, not essay writing.”

He added that contrary to the universities’ claims that the MCQ system would stop cheating, he believed that it may even make it easier.

“I think it helps students attending faculties with large numbers to cheat. This is the case when students sitting next to each other get similar exam models,” he said.

The country’s examination system has been plagued by cheating scandals over recent years, with the most recent one involving the national high school exams, also known as ‘thanaweya amma’.

The exams are Egypt’s equivalent of China’s highly-competitive ‘gaokao’ – a student’s score will determine whether they are admitted to a tuition-free public university and what course they are allowed to take.

In June last year, the questions and answers for two exam papers were leaked on a Facebook page. Its name, when translated to English, went along the lines of “Chao Ming’s cheats for high school exams”.

The leaks prompted the Education Ministry to postpone or cancel remaining exams which had yet to take place, affecting some 570,000 students.

The page had reportedly been a source for desperate students looking for exam answers for nearly four years, as its administrator(s) were able to evade the authorities’ efforts to shut it down.

Though 18-year-old high school student Mohanad Ahmed eventually admitted to running the page, several officials from the Education Ministry were later detained for their involvement in the leak.

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