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Russian school students will be forced to take exams honestly

February 20, 2014, 20:07 UTC+3 Alexandrova Lyudmila
© ITAR-TASS/Artyom Geodakyan

MOSCOW, February 20. /ITAR-TASS/. First, armed couriers from the state-run package delivery service will deliver the examination tests to different regions of Russia. Then, in the presence of observers the test papers will be put in special bags like the ones banks use to deliver classified correspondence. A total of 7,000 messengers and 1,500 special motor vehicles will be involved in the operation. The bags with examination tests will be opened in school classrooms minutes before the beginning of the Unified State Exam (USE). Once the exam is over, the filled forms will be packaged and transported for checks in the same fashion. The “Take Your Exam Honestly” operation is in full swing.

The special operation to deliver the examination tests will be held at the decision of the Ministry of Education and Science. Different tests will be developed for each time zone to ensure school students taking the exams in the East will have no chance to leak any information to school leavers in the West.

During the Soviet era most propaganda campaigns the authorities were in the habit of launching now and then were accompanied by various slogans containing the word “struggle” — “Struggle for good harvest,” “Struggle for better quality”, and so on. The senior citizens who remember those days can confirm that Soviet people were constantly urged to “struggle” for something all the time. In new Russia, too, struggle as a means of mobilizing the masses of people in an effort to address some task is used very often. For instance, there has been no day without campaigning (the best English equivalent for it is possibly “crusade”) against corruption and for taking the Unified State Exam honestly. The USE has been held at all schools across the nation since 2009. This last series of examinations school leavers are to take is also the basis on which institutions of higher learning admit students.

Tensions over the USE started simmering when it was still in the experimental stage, which was held in several regions in 2001. Over the years they have showed no signs of easing. On the contrary, they got worse. As a matter of fact, a real war of nerves has continued ever since. On one side there are school leavers, who resort to no end of tricks, mostly modern IT gadgets, to try to get tips, and also adults who have nothing against making money either by selling examination tests they manage to somehow get in advance, or by putting unduly high marks. On the other side, there are the authorities of all levels responsible for holding the examination properly.

Last year the USE was accompanied by a long string of scandals. Many tests were made available on the Internet and observers complained about numerous violations. There were many reports about so-called USE tourism. Many school leavers preferred to take the exams there where control was very lax. In particular, this phenomenon was widely spread in the North Caucasus republic of Dagestan. Crowds of school leavers migrated from cities to tiny villages, where taking the exam was a whole lot easier.

At the board meeting of the Education and Science Ministry on Wednesday some new measures to be taken soon were announced. Apart from developing different versions of the “C” section of the test, which are to be tested by experts, it has been decided to publish some tests in an open data base, to reduce the number of USE centers and to cross-check test papers from different regions.

Video surveillance will be mandatory. It will be identical to the system of video monitoring that was used during the March 2012 presidential election. Two video surveillance cameras will be placed in each USE classroom. Equipping one room with such cameras will cost 12,000 rubles (roughly $400). No less than 72 million rubles ($2.4 million) will be allocated for the purpose.

Education and Science Minister Dmitry Livanov on Wednesday warned he would fire those of his subordinates who permit a rerun of last year’s USE-related scandals. “If systemic violations are exposed at the level of individual regions, we shall keep pressing for the dismissal of the education departments’ chiefs responsible and the heads of federal information processing centers,” Livanov warned.

The chief of the Russian education watchdog, Sergei Kravtsov, said that the inspectors in those regions where the results of USE tests in Russian and mathematics were incredibly high, for instance, the Bryansk and Lipetsk regions and the republic of Bashkortostan, will be replaced.

A special awareness promotion campaign addressed to the examinees is due to begin shortly. Rosobrnadzor has prepared special USE posters and video clips urging students to avoid cheating during the exams and to warn them of the dire effects of attempts at fraud. “Knowledge decides everything!” “If you know, you will succeed” and “Let others cheat - and you lose the future.”

Last year about 860,000 school leavers took the Unified State Exam. This year there will be more. “We are aware that no technical measures will guarantee success 100 percent, Livanov said. “It is an important part of our work to persuade one and all to take the exam honestly.”

“It is very unlikely any technical measures will be able to reduce the scale of USE-related abuse,” says a co-chair of the school teachers’ trade union, Andrei Demidov. The daily Novyie Izvestia quotes him as saying the best way to minimize violations would be “random selection of tests from an open data base right before the examination.” The education watchdog says this year such practice will be tested, and if it proves successful, it will become a routine in 2015.


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