PNG Exam Cheating Allegations Prompting Legal Action

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‘Blanket penalty’ against students denounced by officials

By David Muri

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, Dec. 24, 2012) – Speculations of examination rigging in 11 secondary schools in Papua New Guinea’s Highlands will directly affect about 1,500 grade 12 students from the region.

The students’ futures are in turmoil as they are embroiled in serious allegations of cheating in the national examinations, resulting in their marks not being legitimately recognized.

In another twist, certain officials at the Education Department’s Measurement Service Unit (MSU) are alleged to have sold examination papers in Mt. Hagen.

This has forced two concerned provincial governments to vigorously battle the matter in court.

Threats of legal action comes after selectors from tertiary institutions, including universities, are questioning the authenticity of the marks submitted by the MSU and are refusing to enroll these students.

Students affected are mainly from secondary schools in Enga and Western Highlands.

This situation has forced both provincial governments to fight the matter "tooth and nail" in the courts.

Western Highlands Governor, Paias Wingti is believed to have instructed Warner Shand Lawyers to act for the aggrieved schools in his province while his Enga counterpart, Peter Ipatas, is also opting for legal action.

"It’s jeopardizing the education of innocent kids and I’m looking at engaging a lawyer. We will seek redress in the courts and we have to do it quickly before the school year starts," Mr. Ipatas told the Post-Courier over the weekend.

Governor Ipatas described the "blanket penalty" as "unfair and unjustifiable."

He challenged the Education department to produce credible evidence to substantiate their allegations of exam cheating.

"As a provincial government that has been promoting education, this action has painted a negative picture of our province and it’s unfair," Mr. Ipatas said.

He urged for a thorough investigation to be conducted to pinpoint the culprits rather than penalizing innocent students.

Governor Ipatas said if any paper was leaked out onto the street prior to the examinations, then the MSU should solely be held accountable because the papers were in their custody.

In Western Highlands, four schools are alleged to have cheated. They are Mt Hagen Park Secondary, Mt Hagen Secondary, Togoba Secondary and Fatima Secondary.

Prior to this year’s allegations, these schools have always ranked in the top five in the country in previous examinations.

Mt Hagen Secondary principal, John Mamp supported Mr. Ipatas’ remarks, saying officers at the MSU should be investigated for the leakage of exam papers as it was this unit which had exclusive possession, handling and distribution responsibilities.

Mr. Mamp said the move to blacklist all schools was pure jealousy, adding the allegations should be supported with hard evidence. He said schools in Western Highlands have always produced top students since the introduction of the secondary program.

"We’ve been supplying the top students in the country and our academic results over the years speak for themselves. It did not happen overnight. They cannot use mere suspicion or rumors to abuse and penalize us," he said.

Mr. Mamp said the students were supplied the results without the GPAs, and universities are refusing to select their students. He stressed that tertiary institutions are not accepting their students without GPAs.

Mr. Mamp said if exam papers were leaked then officers at MSU who were tasked to distribute them should be held accountable for breaching the system and ruining the future of innocent children.

"We will fight to maintain our reputation that we’ve built over the years in terms of academic standards," he said.

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