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Algeria shuts down internet for exam period


Algeria is resorting to strict measures in order to rein in rampant cheating on national exams: it is shutting down internet access across the country during certain times this week. The internet will go dark for an hour after the beginning of national high school graduation exams, this includes ones on cell phone and wired internet connections. This will continue till June 25. Social media website, Facebook, is also to be blocked nationwide for the entire time period of the exam, according to Education Minister Nouria Benghabrit. Benghabrit added that, while the measure was not optimal, “We should not passively stand in front of such a possible leak”.

The country has installed surveillance cameras and mobile jamming devices at the printing presses that publish the exam, Benghabrit said, in an effort to keep the exam under secret till it hits students’ desks.

Over 700,000 Algerian students are to take their high school diploma exams over the next week. The results will be published in the following month. The strict precautions taken this year are because of widespread cheating in 2016, where exam papers were leaked online. This move forced the Education ministry to hold retake of the exams a week later. Subsequent efforts to restrict social media access through internet service providers proved insufficient.

Algeria isn’t the only country to turn off the digital media and internet in an attempt to stop cheating. Ethiopia undertook a similar measures last year after activists published the university entrance exam online in 2016. While, Iraq shut off internet access for a few hours in 2015 and 2016 to coincide with sixth-grade national exams. Uzbekistan also blocked mobile internet and SMS services in 2016 during university entrance exams.

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