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Erdoğan fires head of test administrator over claims of stolen KPSS questions

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has fired Prof. Dr. Halis Aygün, head of Turkey’s Student Selection and Placement Center (ÖSYM), according to an overnight presidential decree published in the Official Gazette on Wednesday, over claims that questions for the recent State Personnel Examination (KPSS) were stolen.

Erdoğan’s move came after he tasked Turkey’s State Inspection Council (DDK) with investigating claims that questions for this year’s KPSS, a prerequisite for placement in the bureaucracy, were stolen.

The claims were made after main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) Ankara deputy Yıldırım Kaya revealed that at least 10 of the questions in the KPSS held on July 31 were the same as questions previously published in a booklet put out by Yediiklim Publishing.

Following Kaya’s revelation, people who took the KPSS shared images on social media showing that some of the questions in the exam were identical to those published by Yediiklim.

Before his dismissal by Erdoğan, Aygün’s latest post on Twitter was a tweet from ÖSYM in which the test administrator denied the claims against it, saying the KPSS of July 31 “was held safely.”

Yediiklim Publishing also released a statement saying there was no need to create a perception that the questions for the KPSS were stolen just because a few of them were revealed to be identical to those published in their booklet, a comment found unconvincing by many students, their parents and teachers, according to local media reports.

In late 2021 Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) was accused of favoritism in the appointment of public school teachers, with thousands of candidates saying they were eliminated in oral exams despite passing the written exam with high scores.

Since 2016 teachers in Turkey have been expected to score over 50 points in the written KPSS and then over 60 points in an oral exam to be appointed as teachers in public schools.

After the results of the oral exams conducted in November 2021 for the appointment of 15,000 contract teachers were announced, thousands of candidates took to Twitter, asking the Education Ministry why they were given points below 60 in the oral exam and denied appointments despite getting scores of 80 or 90 in the KPSS, accusing the AKP government of favoritism and seeking to place their own people in the positions.

Some critics also previously claimed the faith-based Gülen movement was cheating in the exams, as it had been successful in the education sector, dominating the university entrance exams and enrolling students in colleges affiliated with the movement.

Only one incident of rigging the central exam has been the subject of investigation and trial after claims that some of the candidates had either cheated during the exam or obtained the questions beforehand for the KPSS held in 2010.

The AKP government launched a war on the Gülen movement, a faith-based group inspired by Turkish cleric Fethullah Gülen, after the corruption investigations of December 17-25, 2013 that implicated then-prime minister and current president Erdoğan’s family members and inner circle.

Erdoğan’s government also accuses the Gülen movement of masterminding a coup attempt on July 15, 2016 and labels it a “terrorist organization,” although the movement strongly denies involvement in the failed coup or any terrorist activity.

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