Turkey: A Cheating Scandal (of the Academic Kind) Grips the Country
As reported last month in this blog, the Turkish government agency responsible for administering the country's university admissions test has been facing charges that the most recent exam was plagued by widespread cheating, thanks to the existence of a code that would allow test takers to provide the correct answers. After taking a look at the evidence, prosecutors have decided not to go forward with an investigation, but have also said that the government-appointed head of the agency, the Student Selection and Placement Center (OSYM), could face prosecution for "abusing his authority." (More details here and here.) It's a bit of a complicated story, but one that may be worth watching in light of the upcoming elections. Success (or failure) on Turkey's grueling university admissions exam can be life-altering for Turkish students and any implication that the test was rigged (by government appointed personnel in order to favor their supporters) could work against the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). The issue clearly is gaining some traction: there have been several student protests held about this issue and one poll I just saw found that over 70 percent of those surveyed believed that the recently administered test was flawed. Clearly, it's an issues that cuts across ideological lines and could provide good ammunition for a Turkish opposition that is accusing the government of growing corrupt and incompetent after eight years in power.The story does undeniably bring up questions regarding the competence of some of the government's appointments, particularly in the field of higher learning. Ali Demir, OSYM's head, has clearly bungled both the process of creating the recent test and of dealing with the subsequent questions and criticism about the possible cheating. Meanwhile, the head of Turkey's Higher Education Board (YOK), Yusuf Ziya Ozcan, made waves late last year when he suggested that Turkey start producing its own genetically-modified tomato seeds since the ones currently being imported from Israel and the United States could be programmed to kill Turks. More on that here.