Bulgaria’s Ministry of Education is continuing to receive tip-offs about cheating in school-leaving examinations, the head of the inspectorate at the ministry, Lazar Dodev, said on May 27.
Responding to allegations in media reports that invigilators of exams in the Kurdzhali region had helped examinees to cheat in a Bulgarian language exam by copying answers, he pledged that all invigilators across the country found to have assisted in cheating would be punished.
A report by Bulgarian National Television on May 26 said that schools in the Kurdzhali district had produced Bulgarian language exam results that put them among the top 10 in the country – close even to the prestigious American College of Sofia*.
Nova Televizia reported on May 26 that the Vassil Levski School in Ardino came in at seventh place in the top 10 for 2014, with all 18 school-leavers achieving grades close to the maximum. Its place among the very best schools made inspectors suspicious.
The station also reported that at a school in Ihtiman, the headmaster allegedly forced teachers to send the correct answers to pupils by text messages.
The apparently anomalous results prompted the Education Ministry to send inspectors, who prevented a repeat of widespread exam cheating at the Ihtiman school.
Dodev, who has condemned what he called “pupils’ arrogance and the invigilators indifference” in cases of copying, told BNT on May 27 that there also had been cases of cheating reported in Haskovo, Vratsa, Plaven, Pernik and Sofia.
He told BNT earlier that at a Kurdzhali school, the correct answers had been concealed in the toilets. Pupils had been hurrying back and forth, trying to memorise the answers, write them down and return – eventually becoming flustered by the process.
Pupils, who had to hand over their mobile phones before writing exams, had concealed second or even third phones, with the sound switched off, to receive answers by SMS.
Dodev said that when inspectors arrived to check up on 11 schools in the Kurdzhali district, paying special attention to the small school with suspiciously spectacular results, they had found that there were no closed-circuit TV cameras, until these were installed at the last minute.
Asked about the involvement of teachers in cheating, he said, “unscrupulous teachers? Of course. Unfortunately, while there are very strict people in the system, at the same time there are people who do not care or who are involved in such schemes”.
Dodev said that he had spoken to a pupil who had been found to be carrying a second phone to receive the answers in the Bulgarian exam: “I talked to him. It was definitely difficult for him to speak Bulgarian”.
The headmasters of the two largest schools in Kurdzhali declined to speak to the media about the alleged organised cheating, beyond saying that much had been prevented by the large-scale check-up by the Education Ministry.
Bulgarian language teacher Elisabeta Tomcheva of the Vassil Levski school in Ihtiman rejected allegations of cheating, telling a BNT reporter, “I think this is absolute slander”.
Earlier, when school-leaving exams started, Bulgarian television reporters – those young enough to pose as 12th-graders – exposed the purchasing of what were purported to be genuine exam answers, in some cases blatantly offered for sale online.
Bulgarian media noted that on June 9, when results are released, it will become clear whether any schools beyond the country’s customarily most successful have managed again somehow to make it into the top 10.
*Disclosure: The American College of Sofia advertises with The Sofia Globe.