Final Examination at the Secondary School
The year 2005 was the first year when school-leaving examinations were administered in the new system. In addition to the provisions of the Public Education Act, the regulations concerning school-leaving examinations are laid down in Government Decree 100/1997. (VI.13.) on the Issuance of the Examination Regulations for the School-Leaving Examination. The Government Decree came into full force with the new two-level school-leaving examination having been administered from 2005 onwards, as in former years only a few provisions thereof were to be applied. The transition to the new system raised several issues.
The advanced examination is organised by a central body, therefore candidates not necessarily take this examination at their own secondary school.
Our Office received a letter from an examinee who complained that for him the venue of the advanced oral examination was difficult to access. He told us that he lived in the country and was scheduled to take the examination in district IV in Budapest . He stated that from his place of residence there was no means of transport by which he could arrive at 8 a .m. to sit for the examination, no matter how early he got up.
We informed the petitioner of the following. The advanced school-leaving examination has replaced the former entrance examination. From this year onwards, candidates applying for admission to a higher education institution are not required to take a separate entrance examination, they only need to pass the school-leaving examination. Before, entrance examinations were organised by the higher education institutions. These examinations were held at the seats of the higher education institutions, which placed some extra burdens on the candidates, namely, they had to arrange for their transfer to the venue or for accommodation at the location. Now the advanced school-leaving examination poses the same problems. There are no legal regulations in place stipulating that the advanced school-leaving examination should be organised in a way so that each candidate can as easily access its venue as possible. Naturally, the National Evaluation and Examination Centre of Public Education makes efforts to draw up the schedule in a way so as to cause the least trouble to examinees, but obviously it cannot meet all demands. This may be disadvantageous for examinees, but certainly does not violate their rights. (K-OJOG-564/2005.)
Another issue was the impartiality of teachers at the advanced school-leaving examination.
A petitioner claimed that it was against the principle of equal opportunities that in the case of an advanced school-leaving examination the examining teacher was at times the one who taught the candidate during his or her secondary school studies. We told the petitioner that pursuant to Article 17/A (1) (b) of Government Decree 100/1997. (VI. 13.) on the Issuance of the Examination Regulations for the School-Leaving Examination , if for an examination subject an advanced school-leaving examination is arranged , the oral examination shall be taken before a subject examination board - comprising a chair and two examining teachers - the members of which shall be appointed by the National Examination Centre. As defined in Paragraph (2), a member of the subject board shall comply with the criteria established for examining teachers, and shall have fulfilled the requirements set by the National Examination Centre in respect of the in-service training that serves the preparation of teachers for organising school-leaving examinations.
According to our position, the above provisions guarantee impartiality. That the examination is held before a subject board of which another examining teacher and the chair are also members, is sufficient to ensure impartiality. The opportunities of examinees would be unequal if this impartiality was not secured. Conditions beyond the above cannot violate the principle of equal opportunities. Moreover, it is impossible to eliminate every potentially disturbing element, in other words, there is no way of setting up a system that could fully exclude all psychological factors. This would mean that care should be taken that the examiner and the examinee are not at all acquainted with each other, that is, they could not happen to live in the same street, to have regularly met in the local grocery store, etc. In this respect, for example, that the examinee has seen the examining teacher on television in a special program and so he or she knows what the teacher's favourite topic is or that he or she is simply familiar with the teacher's face, could also be to the advantage of the examinee in one way or another. In our opinion the legislator was right not to deem the preclusion of such advantages necessary. (K-OJOG-578/2005.)
The legal regulations permit that students with special educational needs are granted preferential treatment in taking their school-leaving examination, this, however, does not mean that they would be totally exempted from the obligation to sit the examination. In the event that, due to his or her special educational needs, a student has formerly been exempted from the assessment of certain subjects during his or her studies, this exemption is also granted for the school-leaving examination and so the student can decide to sit an examination in the subject of his or her choice instead of the compulsory examination subject concerned.
Based on Article 30 (9) of Act LXXIX of 1993 and Article 6 (7) of Government Decree 100/1997 (VI.13.) on the Issuance of the Examination Regulations for the School-Leaving Examination if a student with special educational needs (e.g. student with speech disorder, etc.) has been exempted from the evaluation and assessment of certain subjects in secondary school, on the school-leaving examination the student can choose other subjects instead of the given subjects. At the school-leaving examination longer preparation time shall be ensured for the student, for written tests the use of devices applied during school studies (typewriter, computer, etc.) shall be made possible, and if necessary, the replacement of written test with oral test, or the replacement of oral test with written test shall be allowed. (K-OJOG-140/2005.)
The whole country was stirred by the advance disclosure of certain school-leaving examination theses during the May to June examination period. On account of the petitions we received, our Office also investigated the situation that emerged as a result of the baccalaureate scandal, as the press called it, or to be more precise, of its consequences. In its resolution of 11 May 2005, the Minister for Education annulled the results of the standard written school-leaving examination in mathematics that was held on 10 May. In the resolution he cited Article 95 (9) of Act LXXIX of 1993 on Public Education as the grounds for his decision. In the following days we were contacted by an unprecedented number of students, parents and teachers challenging the legitimacy of the decision via the phone, in e-mail, in fax, and in letter.
Our stance is that the decision of the Minister for Education was lawful. Within the meaning of Article 95 (9) of the Public Education Act that is, the Minister of Education - in accordance with the rules of the examination regulations and acting in the framework of the procedure regulated in Act IV of 1957 on the general rules of administrative procedures - has the right to declare the results of the school-leaving examination void in case it is proved that the examination was organised contrary to the law. Hence the Minister, in virtue of the power vested in him by the law, has the right to annul the results of the examination. In this case, the existence of the condition must be explored, namely, whether it was proved that the examination was organised contrary to the law.
The set of theses in mathematics were disclosed to the public a few days before the examination. The exercises were available on the internet, or were offered for sale at several places, and even the press reported that they could access the set of exercises. What's more, one of the reporters of Este (an evening news program) on Hungarian Television handed over the closed envelope which contained the theses to the Minister of Education on the evening before the examination. All this is enough to prove that the exercises became known to the broad public so that it could influence decisively the examination results.
The school-leaving examination had first served as an entrance examination in 2005. Therefore, it was of extraordinary importance that all conditions of the examination be fair and honest and that students be assessed on the basis of their actual knowledge at the examination. However, equal opportunities were jeopardised by the fact that to some of the examinees the theses became known in advance. They gained an advantage this way, making it impossible to compare the actual knowledge of the students.
The very purpose of the baccalaureate/entrance examination, as defined in the law, was injured. By administering a written examination the theses of which were not unknown, the organisation of the examination proved to be unlawful. We may as well treat this as well-known fact, since nearly the whole country knew of this, therefore no further evidence is needed.
The annulment of the examination results is not a sanction. Its aim was not to punish the examinees that learned of the exercises in advance. The annulment of the examination was a legal consequence which takes place if the organisation of the examination is contrary to the law. Therefore, those examinees who did not know the exercises in advance, cannot refer to the fact that they acted in accordance with the rules. The examination results were annulled not on the grounds of irregularity, but because of an objective fact, that the manner in which the examination was organised was unlawful. And there is no doubt to that.
Based on the above, we are of the view that the Minister for Education took a lawful decision in ordering the annulment of the examination results. Accordingly, we could not answer the request which motioned us to take measures for the withdrawal of the decision annulling the results. We continuously informed the petitioners of the aforementioned facts.