Exam preparation or exam fraud?

Teachers want their students to be well-prepared when they enter the examination hall. In Rotterdam, a 61-year-old criminology teacher went too far. He was fired for giving his students information about an upcoming exam. When does tipping off students to help them pass an exam amount to fraud?

The fired criminology teacher had sent an email to his first-year part-time students prior to an exam, in which he gave the students a list of tips. The tips related directly to the exam questions, and were listed in the exact same order. Educational institution InHolland opened up an investigation, which eventually resulted in the teacher’s firing.

According to InHolland, the fired teacher’s “preparatory tips” went far beyond standard guidance. The question arises: where should teachers draw the line when it comes to preparing their students for exams and helping them succeed? When does exam preparation become exam fraud?

Sample questions

At Tilburg University, the rules are quite clear. “Students have the right to know in which ways their knowledge will be tested on the exam”, says Rein Cozijn, assistant professor at the Tilburg School of Humanities and chairman of the department’s Examination Board. “This generally means that teachers should provide a sample exam, along with the corresponding answers.”

Cozijn refers to Article 9 of the department’s Rules and Regulations, which states: ‘The examiner will give the examinees an opportunity, if possible and well in advance of the test of examination, to study sample questions or an example of a comparable test of examination and provide them with answer key.’

Fraud

“That obviously isn’t the same as providing information on the contents of the yet-to-be-taken exam, which is what the InHolland teacher appartenly did”, Cozijn adds. “Such behavior, in this case carried out by a teacher, amounts to fraud.”

Cozijn explains that, at Tilburg University, teachers would not be helping their students by sending them information about an upcoming exam. In fact, they would only be helping their students get in trouble. “Students who would take the exam while in possession of the tips of the teacher in question, would be violating Article 13, Section 2E of the Rules and Guidelines, which states that ‘getting possession prior to the examination of the questions or assignments, by oneself or together with one or more fellow-examinees, of the exam in question’ is considered fraud.”

The examination protocols of Tilburg University’s other departments are very similar. For example, the Rules and Guidelines of the department of Social and Behavior Sciences states that examiners should provide sample questions and answers no later than one week before the exam, and that the prior possession of ‘information or answers pertaining to the exam in question’ is seen as fraud.

€115.000 in damages

Although the firing of the InHolland criminology teacher occurred back in 2014, the case made headlines again this week after the court ordered legal insurance company DAS to pay the fired teacher rougly €115.000 in damages. When accused of fraudulous behavior, the criminology teacher sought legal aid from his insurer DAS. His lawyers and InHolland reached a settlement, and the teacher received a severance pay of €11.000. Considering that the 61-year-old teacher was unlikely to find a new job before his retirement, this was only a fraction of the monetary damages that the teacher’s premature dismissal cost him.

The teacher filed a complaint against DAS for not acting in his best interest and for giving poor legal advice. The judge agreed, ordering the insurer to pay €114.929,44 in damages earlier this month. A DAS spokesperson has announced that the company does not agree with the judge’s ruling, and will fight it. Whatever the final outcome of the case will be, one thing seems certain: the best advice teachers can give their students prior to an exam is to get a good night’s rest, eat breakfast and take a few deep breaths.

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