France to crack down on school exam cheats

One month before thousands of pupils across France sit their all-important baccalaureate exams, France’s Ministry of Education has set out a raft of measures aimed at thwarting the cheaters among them.

France to crack down on school exam cheats

With unemployment in France reaching record levels, school pupils are under more pressure than ever to succeed in their exams and give themselves the best possible start in life.

But unfortunately, many pupils have shown they are willing to get the best results by fair means or foul and the French government has been forced into action to stamp out cheating.

Bosses at the Ministry of Education want to make sure that more of those caught cheating receive the appropriate punishments. In 2012 two thirds of cheaters caught red handed were punished, compared to only half in 2011, but education chiefs want this ratio increased further.

For their part, teaching unions are supportive of stricter punishments.

“Over the last few years there have been many incidents of cheating, and for us it is unacceptable,” Daniel Roben from the union SNES told The Local.

“Exams are designed to give an equal chance to all pupils, so anything which acts against that equality should be punished severely,” he added.

Robben added that the amount of information on the internet as well as the fact that most youngsters have smartphones has made it easier for pupils to cheat and harder for teachers to detect them.

Last year authorities took the step of allowing teachers in France the use of special smartphone detectors to try and identify anyone tempted to secretly Google the answers.

This summer the tool will be more widely used and all headteachers across the country will be armed with the devices, which make a noise whenever a phone is turned on.

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.

Any instance of cheating or even attempted cheating will now be recorded in a pupils school handbook.

Teaching unions in France, however, have voiced fears that pupils could pay for their mistakes for the rest of the lives if the punishments are too severe.

“There is a risk of a double punishment, that is to say that pupils are punished for their whole lives, for having cheated in their baccalaureate exams,” Claire Krepper, from the union SE-Unsa told Europe1 radio.

Concerned that certain pupils have bragged about cheating on the internet once they are in the clear, France’s Education Minister Vincent Peillon wants authorities to pursue the fraudsters even after they have graduated from school.

Under the proposals, authorities will have the powers to annul a pupil’s diploma and allow a jury to decide what the real results should be.

Once again, the teaching unions have reservations regarding this point.

“We have asked how long after the exams we would be able to pursue a candidate, knowing that the papers are destroyed after one year,” said SE-Unsa’s Krepper.

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Blind teacher in France told to supervise exams

A blind teacher in southern France was baffled to be called in to supervise students during a an exam. Despite her appeals that she wasn't est suited, her school forced her to do it.

Blind teacher in France told to supervise exams
The woman was told to supervise an exam, even though she can't see. Photo: AFP
Caroline Bouffard, a music teacher at the Jean Moulin high school in Alès, southern France, has extremely poor vision. 
So poor, in fact, that the 20-year teaching veteran always has an assistant with her during her classes. 
And even though Bouffard says it would be impossible for her to act as an exam supervisor due to this lack of vision, that's exactly what she was asked to do for the national diploma exams in her middle school, known as the “Brevet”.
“I tried to argue and say that I wouldn't be able to do it, but it just fell on deaf ears,” she told the Midi Libre newspaper.
She added that the vice principal said the move was made to ensure the school couldn't be taken to task for discrimination – a move that did little to impress Bouffard. 
“I'm not the kind of person who would sue. It's absurd,” she said. “I expect a little more compassion and humanity.”
A spokesperson for the school told the paper that Bouffard always carried out her teaching with another assistant teacher present, and that exam supervision responsibility was to be no different. 
Bouffard spent three shifts “supervising” the students, during which time her assistant and another teacher carried out the actual supervising.