CXC mathematics paper leak not as widespread as indicated--reports

by Miranda La Rose
Stabroek News
July 6, 1999

Initial reports from investigations into the security breach of the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) Mathematics paper have indicated that the leak may not have been as widespread as had been reported in some quarters.

Informed sources told Stabroek News last week that based on the investigations the Mathematics paper might have begun to circulate from May 31. The test was written on June 3, which meant that there was not much time for it to circulate widely.

Investigations were conducted by the police, the Ministry of Education and the CXC Secretariat, which had sent a senior official to Guyana to assist. It is expected that some official feedback will be given to the Guyanese public on the status of the investigations this week. The police and the ministry have told this newspaper that investigations are continuing.

The report indicated that there might not have been adequate time for copies of the paper to circulate and that the circulation of the paper might have been localised, mainly to a few persons in some city schools. Police have also interrogated a student and teacher in the West Demerara area.

Early investigations took a Ministry of Education official into the Rupununi to check on the place where examination papers were stored and to interrogate the parent of the child who was found with the paper during the examinations. Initially, it was alleged that the parent had given the child the paper, hence the ministry official's visit to the Rupununi. This, however, proved not to be the case and the police subsequently held the student and the male friend who had allegedly given her the paper. They were both released on $10,000 bail.

The report noted that there appeared to be no breach in the small Rupununi community.

Investigations in the hinterland revealed that a number of places where the papers are stored may not be as safe as they should be, raising the issue of the need to ensure the integrity of the Secondary Schools Entrance Examination as well.

According to the statements given to the police, the invigilator claimed that the paper was found on the candidate, but the candidate maintained that it was she who handed over the paper to the invigilator. Students in the examination room also corroborated the candidate's version of the incident. They noted that the invigilator was very upset over the incident judging by the remarks she made. The remarks were audible to the students.

Meanwhile, concerns are being expressed over the student not being allowed to continue writing the paper after the discovery was made. It is felt that provision should have been made for her to write the Mathematics Two paper later on.

Though the source of the breach has not been named, Stabroek News learnt that the police and the ministry had spoken to a number of persons who reportedly were in possession of the paper. Indications are that one person obtained the copy from another person, who obtained it from someone else. The investigations revealed that the papers were sold for sums ranging from $3,000 to $5,000.

In terms of how the breach may have occurred, it was felt that it could have happened during transportation to the place where the papers were to be stored or at the place where the papers are stored. The papers are lodged at police stations for safekeeping. If the papers were tampered with while being transported, it meant that they were not sealed properly. The same would apply for papers lodged at police stations, unless there was collusion between the invigilators and the police, both of whom are holders of keys to different locks.

Some persons, knowledgeable in seals, feel that because of today's technology the seals could have been broken and then resealed virtually undetected.

A number of parents, whose children wrote the examinations said that since the breach had been made public, they were very concerned about the integrity of the examinations and in particular the subject paper which is now being investigated.

One parent felt that from the time the breach occurred the paper could have circulated in a day. She felt that the ministry is just trying to find a way to cut costs and make life easier for itself.

An educator and parent felt that one month had already elapsed and the ministry and CXC should have issued a statement on the status of the investigations. The person, whose child wrote the same examination, felt that the breach was localised and that children who were not privy to the leaked papers, should not be penalised for those who were.

Another parent said that "it does not matter whether the paper was widely circulated or not, every student should rewrite the paper as there will always be doubts." He felt that there may have been breaches occurring even before this year's incident was uncovered but it was just that no one paid heed to it before. He opined that now that the media had disclosed the breach to the public, it was the duty of the ministry to take certain steps to reassure parents, guardians and candidates that the examinations were above board.

According to education officials, being caught with an examination paper prior to the sitting of an examination is considered fraudulent and is a chargeable offence. This is the reason why the two who were first found with the papers were placed on $10,000 bail each, pending further investigations. Stabroek News has been unable to ascertain whether others reportedly found with copies of the test papers were also placed on bail.

In an interview almost two weeks ago, Chief Education Officer, Ed Caesar, had said that there was a possibility that local students may have to rewrite the paper. Indications are that the marking of examinations will commence in another week's time when the papers in Guyana will be monitored closely and those under suspicion will be disqualified. Mathematics will be marked in Barbados and local markers are expected to leave the country by July 11.

If it is found that students have to rewrite the paper, the Guyana Government may have to undertake the cost of the exercise which is estimated to be quite high. This is based on an agreement Guyana has signed covering breaches of examinations.

A similar breach occurred in 1982 and education officials said that it was localised to a centre on the East Coast Demerara and to one individual in the city. CXC disqualified the persons who were involved in that breach.

In recent years, breaches in certain examination papers were also reported in Jamaica and the students were disqualified.

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Guyana: Land of Six Peoples