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House education committee briefed on exams blunder (Updated)

The cabinet on Wednesday approved the coverage of expenses for candidates seeking state school positions who will travel from abroad next week to take make-up exams after their original ones were cancelled on Monday when the material was posted on the ministry’s website prior to the test.

Education Minister Costas Kadis said the maximum amount approved by the cabinet for this purpose was €40,000. The issue however, is to be examined by the Audit Office, Auditor-general Odysseas Michaelides said, as it is a matter of squandering of public funds.

Kadis briefed the House education committee and the cabinet of the “unfortunate incident” on Wednesday.  The minister said that despite the blunder the procedure will continue as planned.

An investigator has been appointed, he said, who will present the findings of his probe into the incident at the beginning of next week.

“If administrative or criminal responsibilities arise, then what must be done will be, in cooperation with the state legal services,” he said.

Kadis said that he briefed MPs on the management of the situation following the error.

On whether the premature posting of the material was due to an error or sabotage, he said that this would be determined by the findings of the probe.

“I cannot say anything now. What emerged also from the information given to parliament, is that the whole procedure was absolutely correct and designed in detail and the mistake was made by not applying the scheduled procedure,” Kadis said.

He added that President Nicos Anastasiades fully supported his and his ministry’s actions.

“We assume our part of the responsibility of course. I was the first to admit it was an unbelievable, unacceptable mistake. We apologised to the candidates for the inconvenience,” he said.

The head of the education ministry’s exams service, Terpsa Constantinidou, said that the incident was not a leak but a publication of the material of the exams. She added that following the opinion of the attorney-general, the rest of the exams will be conducted as planned.

“An error has been made, which is being investigated, in breach of the instructions that were being issued and the measures taken, which were, in particular, based on all the procedures so far followed by the examinations service which are known (to staff),” Constantinidou said.

The five exams that were cancelled on Monday – physics, religious studies, chemistry, physical education and computer science – will take place next week, she said.

In total, 941 candidates were affected by Monday’s cancellation, many of whom had travelled from abroad. More than 5,500 prospective educators signed up to take the exams that began on Saturday with a Greek language test and a skills test on Sunday. This week, candidates will be tested in their subject area. Results were expected at the end of February.

Teachers’ unions however, who have been expressing their discontent with the new reform, called for the intervention of the Attorney-general to rule whether the liability of the exams was harmed.

They also said that many of the affected candidates will sue and depending on the outcome this may render the exams void anyway.

Head of Oelmek secondary education teachers’ union, Yiannos Socratous, said that the incident, except from the economic blow, also hurt the credibility of the exams.

“It is not just the leak, this has proved that it was based on sloppiness,” he said. He added that the ministry had made several changes shortly before the exams, which is contrary to regulations.

The head of primary education teachers’ union Poed, Filios Fylaktou, too called for the intervention of the Attorney-general and that of the House education committee, to discuss if this suffered a blow to the credibility of the exams.

 



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