The education ministry should apologise to students, secondary education teachers’ union Oelmek said on Monday, following the confusion caused after an exam was interrupted because the topics were leaked.

A private school teacher allegedly leaked the topics of the Modern Greek exam, the first of the twice-yearly exams sat by final year students on Monday morning.

According to sources cited by the Cyprus News Agency, the education ministry has a report from the school where the teacher works and will request the opinion of the legal service on how to proceed.

The ministry had said they were informed at approximately 9:20am that students had been receiving messages detailing the exam topics. After investigating the issue, students were told to stop their exams, about 30 minutes in.

Students then proceeded with a different exam at 11.30pm, despite some had already left.

But teachers and students alike said the exam should have been postponed for a later date.

Following the incident, Oelmek and parents unions held an extraordinary meeting late on Monday to coordinate their actions. The decisions taken will be announced on Tuesday, Oelmek secretary Costas Hadjisavvas told CNA.

He added that the union trusts the teachers who participate in the examination committees. These concern those who photocopy the written text delivered to students. But “unfortunately this unexpected event occurred, which came from a private school teacher,” Hadjisavvas said.

After the topics were leaked, he said the union proposed to postpone the exam recommending another specific date.

Since that did not happen, the education ministry would have to apologise to final year students, support them psychologically and set an immediate date for those students who were unable to take the examination.

Reiterating that the January exams should be abolished, the teacher said the education minister should convene a wide-ranging meeting involving all education stakeholders to initiate a better way of assessment that serves students and public school in general.

Earlier, head of the secondary schools parents association Loizos Constantinou said the topics were leaked in the morning in Larnaca through a message sent by a teacher.

“A message was circulating. The teacher sent a message, it was leaked among the students, and we received the message from them,” he said.

He added that they informed the ministry as soon as they found out.

According to Constantinou, they requested the exam be cancelled for the day, as they said students were negatively affected by the development, and it would be harder for them to sit another exam on Monday.

Meanwhile, head of students union Psem Alexandros Pachitis called the incident “tragic”.

“We started as planned, I had managed to finish the essay and suddenly they came and gave us instructions to stop,” he said.

He added that they were all told stop by the examiners as the topics had all been leaked, the education ministry instructed them to collect the written exams.

In a statement issued later in the day, Psem said: “Once again the education ministry has been heavily exposed. While the exams had already started today at 10:30, they stopped the exam on their instructions by taking the students out of the classrooms, as the essay they assigned seemed to have been leaked.”

The students’ union said that they requested the exams be cancelled for the day, due to the incident.

“The ministry arbitrarily decided to leave the students in the classrooms and wait for another hour, until a new paper came, so that the exam could resume at 11:30am, burdening them [the students] with doubts, anxiety, and more pressure,” they said.

Psem added that many students decided to leave the exam, and that any recourse to these students would not be taken lightly.

The group once again called for the twice-yearly exams to be terminated completely.

Parents were also outraged by the issue and called on the ministry to explain. They said that the exam should have been suspended and rescheduled for a later date.

In a further comment, main opposition party Akel said that the topic leak was a scandal and “pedagogical crime” that drives students, teachers, and parents to lose faith in schools.

“The third world conditions that followed, with students waiting for some time in the classrooms until the other written exam came harmed the reputation of our education system and the institution,” they said.

The political responsibility in the matter is on the education ministry, the party added.

The twice-yearly exams, being sat for the first time by students at all levels of high school as of Monday, will last until the end of next week.

Third year lyceum students started with Modern Greek on Monday morning, while second year students will begin exams in physics, economy, and art subjects.

First year lyceum students will begin their exams on Tuesday, with modern Greek. For lyceums, exams will end on January 27.

Meanwhile in gymnasiums, third year students will begin with chemistry and biology, second years with maths, and first years with modern Greek.

Gymnasium exams will end on January 24.

Written exam scores will count for 40 per cent of the grade, while 60 per cent will be measured by the oral exam, participation in class, homework, written exercises, individual or group work, and bonus activities in each lesson.

During the exam period classes will not be held.