Monday, June 23, 2008 - Around 28,000 pupils in the 10th grade in Berlin schools will have to take a new math exam. There is a central examination in German, mathematics and the foreign language (English or French) that has to be taken in order to obtain the school-leaving certificate MSA (Mittlere Schulabschluss).

The reason: the questions to the test were being sold on the Internet and in subway stations near high schools all over Berlin. At least 87 schools have reported irregularities.

One pupil had alarmed the teacher proctoring the exam that she had been offered the questions in the subway just before the exam. The teacher alarmed the principle, and more and more reports rolled in while the pupils were sweating out the answers.

The Berlin Senat responsible for schools decided then in the afternoon to invalidate the test and have all the students re-take the test, although they still, today, have not been able to determine how the questions leaked out. The questions are printed centrally and distributed by courier to each school in sealed envelopes, to be kept in the school safe. But apparently, not all schools have safes and not all examined the seals on their envelopes.

There has been quite a protest rolling through Berlin, as the honest pupils do not want to have to retake the test. They feel the schools should go after the cheaters and not make everyone retake the test. One pupil took the government to court, but the ruling yesterday was that since so many schools have reported irregularities - including a pupil asking the teacher to please go over a question that was indeed on the exam or groups of students meeting in the library and working through the problems in advance - the test must be retaken by everyone. If you don't appear, you fail 10th grade.

In the name of justice and equality, the honest are being punished and the dishonest get a second chance without further punishment. A rather strange message to be sending.

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