The five exams for those wishing to become state school teachers that were postponed on Monday after the questions were inadvertently posted on the education ministry’s website will be held on November 17 and 18, Education Minister Costas Kadis announced on Tuesday.
In a statement, the ministry said the Physics and Religious Studies exams will be held on Friday, November 17, while the Chemistry, Physical Education and Computer Science exams will be held a day later.
“The exams will be held between 3pm and 6 pm, and candidates will be notified electronically with regard to the examination centres,” the ministry announced.
Kadis told Sigma TV on Tuesday that the government will “support” applicants who traveled from abroad to take the exams.
“The education ministry fully appreciates the inconvenience suffered by the candidates, particularly those who arrived from overseas for the exams,” the statement said.
“For this reason, it will propose to the cabinet that the state covers the airline fare of candidates that will be required to come back to sit the exams.”
The minister has ordered an administrative probe on the bungle and is expected to release the findings.
Asked whether political responsibility will be assumed, Kadis said his resignation is “always at the disposal of the President”.
Earlier on Tuesday, government spokesman Nicos Christodoulides dismissed claims that the leak would not affect the progress of school reforms.
“It is an unfortunate development, there is no doubt about it,” he said.
“But under no circumstances can this unfortunate development affect one of the greatest reforms in the history of the Republic of Cyprus, which was achieved after discussions of 26 years.”
Asked whether the government thinks the leak may have been intentional – a suspicion alluded to by Kadis on Monday – the spokesman said “everything is on the table”.
“This is why the matter is being investigated and when there is a result there will be a public statement,” Christodoulides said.
But despite assurances, political parties and the campaigns of presidential candidates did not let up on criticism, raising the issue of why the exam questions were in the hands of ministry officers ahead of the examinations in the first place.
“The reliability and esteem of the exams for the new appointments plan have unfortunately been damaged irreparably,” Akel’s Christos Christofides said.
“Public opinion has lost all confidence in the process. The education ministry cannot be trusted to hold an unimpeachable process.”
Spokeswoman for the campaign of Diko leader Nicolas Papadopoulos, Anna Koukkides-Prokopiou said the government’s “irresponsibility, shoddiness and unreliability” has undermined yet another institution.
“We await the findings of the administrative probe and specific answers on how and why the exam topics were given to education ministry officers in advance,” she said.
The Citizens’ Alliance and the Green party suggested that the fact that the questions had been in the hands of people other than exam invigilators prior to the examination raises suspicions that they could have been shared.
“The status of the process has been undermined and, until we have a result on how the leak came about and those responsible are held accountable, the candidates’ concern can only be deemed justified,” the Greens’ leader Yiorgos Perdikis said.
But a source from the education ministry told the Cyprus Mail that, despite Monday’s incident, the ministry’s examination procedures are “impervious”.
“I was not directly involved in this particular exam but the only possible explanation I can think of is that the leak was an accident,” the source said.
“The team that selects the topics for any particular exam is holed up in a hotel with security guards posted outside the room, and once the exam is prepared it is sent out in sealed envelopes to the examination centre, with a soft copy dispatched to the education ministry to upload 40 minutes after the start of the exam – because exam-takers are allowed to enter the examination hall up to half an hour after the exam has started.”
But, while most exams organised by the education ministry are held early in the morning, Monday’s exams were scheduled for the afternoon.
“I can’t be sure, of course, but my sense is that the person who received the USB flash drive at the ministry falsely assumed that these exams were, as usual, in the morning, and accordingly uploaded the exam paper,” the source added.
A special hotline regarding the new appointments system has been set up, it added, at 80008844, which candidates can call on a daily basis as of Wednesday from 8:30am to 3pm.
Additionally, candidates may contact the ministry’s Examinations Service at [email protected]