The government's own investigation found that question papers of 12 out of the 17 subjects were leaked during this year's SSC exams. But the education minister yesterday sought to whitewash its impact on the overall results, saying only “an insignificant number” of students benefited from the leak.
“Their number is very insignificant. It won't be right to retake those exams, as doing so will put around 20 lakh students in trouble,” Nurul Islam Nahid told reporters at the secretariat yesterday.
Multiple choice questions of only "Kha" set were leaked, the minister said, just two days before the SSC results are due on May 6.
“We have a meeting [later in the day] and you [journalists] can attend it. If you have any questions, I will reply to those after the meeting,” Nahid said.
He did not take any questions from journalists, although he spoke for around 30 minutes about the findings of the probe and other issues related to the education sector.
This year, the SSC question leakers caught the government off-guard, offering question papers online, in some cases for free.
Despite several government steps, including the announcement of Tk 5 lakh bounty for information leading to the arrests of the perpetrators, questions papers of almost all the subjects were available online, sometimes a couple of hours before the exams.
This is the largest-ever reported question leak that has drawn fierce criticism from educationists and guardians worried about the education system.
The issue was also discussed in parliament and many called on Nahid to quit. As the leak continued, the High Court intervened, asking the authorities to stop it.
In response to the leak, the education ministry formed an 11-member committee headed by Md Alamgir, secretary of technical and madrasa division, on February 4. Representatives from the Cabinet Division, public administration ministry, home ministry, police, SSC section of the education ministry and education boards were also on the committee.
The committee submitted its report last month with four recommendations to the ministry and the ministry endorsed it.
Citing from the report, Nahid said MCQ questions of just "Kha" set containing 30 marks were leaked. No question paper of creative portion (comprehensive question), which contains 70 marks, was leaked.
But the fact is questions of all the sets were exactly the same, but in different orders. Also, exams under all the boards were held with the same questions. This means, if a particular set of question paper gets leaked in Dhaka, students from any other board could benefit from the leak.
However, pointing to the probe findings, Nahid said, “The question papers were not leaked publicly, meaning most of the students did not get those.
“Only an insignificant number of students linked with 'close groups' [in Facebook or WhatsAapp] got the questions some 20 minutes or so before the exam.”
But during the exams, which began on February 1, The Daily Star found comprehensive parts of the two English papers were also leaked.
A handwritten mathematics comprehensive question paper, which was identical to the original questions, was found online at 5:56am on the exam day. The exam began at 10:00am.
Besides, “Ga” set MCQ question papers of ICT and physics were also found online around an hour before the test.
“Around 4,000/5,000 students might have got question papers before the examinations through 'close groups,'” Nahid said, claiming these “close groups” had some 10 to 100 members.
But, The Daily Star found some leaked questions went viral around an hour before the exam through Facebook close groups, some of them having more than 1 lakh members.
For example, the Facebook group titled “PSC JSC SSC HSC Exam Helping Centre” has 1.49 lakh members now. During the exam, it had around 1 lakh members.
Downplaying the leak further, the minister said students had to enter the exam halls 30 minutes before the test. So they might have got only 10 to 20 minutes to find out answers of 30 questions, “which is not so easy.”
“So it won't have much of an impact on the overall results,” he said, adding that most of the question papers shared on the social media were “fake” and uploaded by “tempering time”.
The committee said only 0.25 percent of the examinees (about 5,000) were the beneficiaries of the leak.
“So there is no possibility of having any impact of question paper leak as 99.75 percent students did not get question papers before exams,” it said.
As a result, it would not be logical to cancel and then retake the exams, it said.
The committee recommended taking stern actions, including cancellation of the certificates of those who benefited from the leak.
Nahid said police so far arrested more than 250 people over the leak.
According to him, some people circulated “fake question papers” while others leaked question papers to embarrass the government.
He also said no question papers of Higher Secondary Certificate exams were leaked as the government took various measures.
About the MCQ questions in future exams, he said they would decide on the matter soon.