Cheating: what do you risk?

Following last year’s fiasco when a bac question was leaked onto the internet, French authorities are beefing up anti-cheating measures this year.
New exam disciplinary procedures come into force this month along with a new Academic Discipline Commission to oversee them.

And, according to L’Express, private detective may also be called in to detect cheating, including carrying out internet surveillance in the weeks preceding the exams.

Some 70% of students admit to having cheated at some stage during their schooling, although the figure is much lower for the bac where latest government figures show that 272 cheats ere caught in 2010 out of 600,000 candidates.

The sanctions for cheating range from fairly lenient to severe – being banned from any public education institute for 5 years, or even for life –  depending on the circumstances and the magnitude of the offence.
In all cases, if you are caught cheating the test you are taking (apart, bizarrely, from the bac, which you can still get even if you are caught and sanctioned for cheating) is void.
In the more serious cases, getting another pupil to sit your exam for you, for example, you can be prosecuted and face up to three years in prison and a 9,000€ fine.

At the very least, cheaters lose a year of their schooling.  If you are caught cheating at your bac, while you may still get the bac, you won’t know your results till September (as your case has to be examined) which means you will have missed out on most university applications. In addition, the more prestigious institutions are unlikely to accept a candidate who has been caught cheating.

Panic cheating
The authorities may apply discretion if they think it is a case of last minute panic cheating as opposed to a pre-planned fraud.  If a candidate, for example, is caught with a tissue up their sleeve or a mobile phone but insists they haven’t used either to cheat AND they have an excellent average – around 15/20 – for their coursework, they could be given the benefit of the doubt and face a less severe punishment, such as a one year ban on attending school or university.

Pre-planned cheating.
More methodical cheating, such as receiving answers by SMS, risks more drastic measures. For example, if the student could still get their bac, even with the paper they cheated on is cancelled, the commission may decide to void all the student’s exams and coursework – so that they would have to do the year again – as well as ban them from public education for a year – i.e. they would have to wait a year before repeating the year.

Despite the severity of these measures, in many cases the commission will transmute these sanctions into suspended sentences and put the student on probation since denying a pupil access to education is obviously not ideal. Roughly speaking, around half of those caught cheating have their punishment relaxed in this way.

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