Egypt's education minister has confirmed the leak of a nationwide high school examination on Sunday, saying that mobile phones illegally allowed in classrooms were behind the incident.
Photos of the Arabic language test of the Certificate of General Secondary Education (Thanaweya Amma), along with other pages purporting to carry the answers, circulated on Twitter and Facebook a few minutes after the exam started.
Posts of answers were even being shared online during the three-hour exam period, which began at 9am.
Education Minister Mahmoud Nasrallah confirmed the authenticity of the pages that were circulated, saying they were from Sunday's exam.
He told Al-Ahram's Arabic news website that tens of mobile phones allowed in classes by monitors were responsible for the test pages being photographed and leaked.
"Thirty mobile phones were allowed in by supervisors and monitors of exam rooms in the Nile Delta governorate of Daqahliya," Nasrallah was quoted as saying.
An online campaign under several Twitter hashtags in Arabic – one of them translating roughly to "cheater guerrillas" – was sparked to facilitate cheating during the Thanaweya Amma exams, notoriously the toughest in an already flawed education system. Some students snuck their smart phones into exam rooms to use them to cheat.
An immediate investigation with officials in charge of Sunday's incident has been ordered and students proved to be involved will be officially warned, Nasrallah added.
Thanaweya Amma – essentially the last part of high school before university – used to last two years but in 2013 was reduced to just one year, reviving a system adopted in the past.
Grades from this period determine university prospects and thus are a source of panic for pupils and family alike, as the received qualification is regarded as a key for students' future.
Around 450,000 students take the exam nationwide under the new one-year system, while approximately 43,000 others are being tested under the now-absolved two-year system.