Fresh cell phones in exam rooms warning
br> By Shirley Thomas
Guyana Chronicle
May 16, 2007

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CANDIDATES found taking cellular phones into examination centres/rooms and marking centres run the risk of being disqualified from writing the examinations for which they have been registered, Education Minister Shaik Baksh stressed yesterday.

He said he wished to remind students writing both regional and local school examinations that it is forbidden for candidates to take cellular phones into examination rooms/centres and marking centres.

Mr. Baksh, noting that his ministry views this development very seriously, reiterated his earlier comments that any student/candidate found breaking this regulation “shall be disqualified from the examinations, and serious disciplinary action taken against the Chief Invigilator.”

Meanwhile, Invigilators are being called upon to be very vigilant and ensure they remind the candidates writing examinations of this regulation, and the need for strict compliance.

And another senior official in the Education Ministry said the debarring of cell phones from examination rooms is not practiced only in Guyana, but regionally and internationally.

The official said the presence of cell phones in exam rooms presents candidates with the opportunity of texting persons – fellow students or others - requesting information in relation to questions on the examination papers.

With the Caribbean Secondary Examination Certificate (CSEC) and other examinations currently being written, the Education Minister considered it important that students be reminded of this very important development, and hopes that it will be strictly adhered to.

Baksh first sounded the warning at the onset of the Easter term, when he made the announcement at a press conference, prohibiting the use of cellular phones by students during assembly and class hours. That rule took effect from the first day of the Easter term.

Noting that the CSEC examination currently being written commenced on May 8 and will run until June 15, Baksh said he was also happy to report that all systems are in place to ensure the safety and security of examination papers.

The Education Minister, who had earlier this year signalled his ministry’s intention to place a ban on the use of cellular phones in schools altogether, said consultations were since held with head teachers and principals of schools in Georgetown.

Outlining the outcome of these consultations he said three options were considered:

** a total prohibition on children taking cellular phones into the schools

** a prohibition of cellular phones during school hours – 08:30h to 15:00h

** the prohibition of the use of cellular phones in class rooms during hours of teaching and during student assembly.

Baksh said that following consultations within the ministry and with other stakeholders, the ministry decided on implementing the third option – the prohibition of the use of cell phones or any similar gadgets or device during class sessions or student assembly.

Except in the examination centres/rooms and marking centres, cell phones have not been banned from schools altogether, but its use at certain hours of the normal school day has been restricted.

In that case, the penalty for any student found breaking the rule, the minister said, will be suspension for a minimum of three days in the first instance.

Further, Baksh announced: “Any student who leaves the class session, and is found using the cell phone during class hours, shall be suspended for a minimum of three days.”

The prohibition law governing the use of cell phones during school hours (not exam centres) the minister said, will be implemented initially for a period of two school terms, after which it will be reviewed to test the response and determine whether more stringent measures should be taken.

In the case of examination rooms, the law debarring entry of cell phones will continue to apply.

Baksh said this decision is in keeping with the ministry’s mandate to ensure that all learners benefit from the maximum instructional time allocated for each school day. He noted that already, too many hours are lost, and this move is intended to ensure that the delivery of education is properly focused and that better results are realised at the end of the day.

Meanwhile, noting that a high incidence of theft of cell phones and gadgetry in schools has been reported by administrators, the minister made it clear that schools shall not be responsible for loss, theft, or damage to any cell phone or any such gadget.