Internet access is an essential part of life for many people around the globe – but not during the school exam period in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.
This is the message that is conveyed by the ongoing disruption of Internet access for millions of people, in part or in full, to stop students from cheating on public exams in several countries, including Syria, Sudan, Jordan, and Algeria. Often used as a method to stop questions from being leaked prior to exams as well as to prevent cheating during exams, these Internet shutdowns block access for everyone, not just the students taking the exams. They affect the livelihoods of millions of people by cutting off their access to online businesses, services, and communication methods, which is wholly disproportionate.
Path to the Future
In many MENA countries, general public exams decide students’ futures. The grades achieved to determine which universities a student can go to and which subjects they are qualified to study. This places enormous pressure on students to perform well so they can secure themselves a brighter future, pushing some to resort to cheating. However, cheating is not an Internet-related issue but rather an educational practices issue, and using Internet shutdowns as a method to prevent cheating often doesn’t deter the most determined cheaters. Because the results of these exams can be life-changing, students still find ways to cheat, even in countries that have severe punishments – including jail time – for cheating.
Exams in 2022
This year, the exam period is already in full swing:
- Syria: 30 May to 21 June
- Sudan: 10 to 22 June
- Algeria: 12 to 16 June
- Jordan: 30 June to 25 July
At Internet Society Pulse, we are already recording shutdowns consistent with these dates in Syria and Sudan. In Algeria, however, no disruption is visible so far. The measurements reflect that both Sudan and Syria were offline for hours each day of the exam schedule. The links above include the exam schedule.
See full coverage for Syria and Sudan.
We believe that all Internet shutdowns harm societies, economies, and the global Internet infrastructure and have campaigned to highlight that shutting down the Internet to deter cheating on exams doesn’t work: The Internet Society is tracking and measuring these disruptions and working with partners in the region with the objective of bringing awareness that this practice should end. We hope that this is the last year this method will be used.
- Watch our panel session Offline: When Exams Disrupt Everyone’s Internet. Experts from around the region discuss the issue of Internet shutdowns in the MENA region and alternative methods to prevent cheating.
- Watch the Panel the Internet Society and SMEX organized during RightsCon2022: School exams: why the internet needs to stay on and available
- Read the “Shutdowns as a measure against exam-cheating in the Arab region: implications for the Internet and societal and economic impacts” Report, authored by SMEX to be published soon. We’ll add the link here as soon as it is available.
- Read our previous blog posts on this issue: