With the arrival of this year’s ‘Bac’ – France’s crucial, pre-university Bacchalauréat exams – education authorities have vowed to combat test cheats harder than ever before.
Electronic smartphone detectors are among a raft of tools available in the fight against academic dishonesty, but common sense and a keen eye thwarted one outrageous cheating effort in a lycée in Paris on Wednesday.
A 52-year-old woman, named only as Caroline D., impersonated her 19-year-old daughter Laetitia and attempted to sit her English exam for her at the Lycée Bossuet-Notre Dame in the 10th arrondissement of Paris, according to French daily Le Parisien.
Dressed in Converse shoes, low-waisted jeans, and covered in elaborate make-up, the helpful mother managed to enter the exam hall and take her place among the ranks of young scholars, at around 2pm.
Caroline launched into the three-hour composition test, but her audacious deceit didn’t last long.
An exam supervisor who had been in charge when Laetitia herself – who is not an enrolled student at the school – sat a philosophy test on Monday, quickly figured out the chicanery.
Rather than interrupt Caroline’s efforts, however, the mother-in-disguise was allowed to keep writing for two hours, while school officials notified local police.
“An intervention during the exam could have disturbed the other candidates, and turned into a reason to cancel the test for everyone,” a representative from the lycée told Le Parisien.
According to another staff-member, four plainclothes police officers arrived at the school, and an exam supervisor discreetly escorted Caroline from the hall.
“The 20 or so other candidates definitely didn’t notice anything,” he added.
For her part, the mother admitted to having cheated, in a blatant effort to improve her daughter’s performance in the English exam.
She faces legal repercussions, while her daughter risks the hefty punishment of being banned from taking all official exams for a period of five years.
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This week’s incident came amid controversial new initiatives by France’s education ministry, aimed at catching more exam cheats, and increasing punishments.
In May, Daniel Roben from the teaching union SNES, told The Local: “Over the last few years there have been many incidents of cheating, and for us it is unacceptable.”
“Exams are designed to give an equal chance to all pupils, so anything which acts against that equality should be punished severely,” he added.
Authorities want to strengthen the punishments handed out, the harshest of which is a five year ban before a pupil can retake the baccalaureate exam. This penalty was slapped on 140 pupils last year, compared to 67 in 2011.