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Turkey to hold state personnel exam again over claims of stolen questions

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The State Personnel Examination (KPSS) tests that were administered on July 31 will be held again over recent claims that questions for the exam were stolen, local media reported on Thursday, citing Prof. Dr. Bayram Ali Ersoy, the newly appointed head of Turkey’s Student Selection and Placement Center (ÖSYM).

Ersoy announced on Thursday that the KPSS sessions on July 31 would be held again and that the sessions scheduled for August 6,7 and 14 had been postponed.

Apologizing to all candidates for the “unfortunate process that caused cancellations and postponements,” the ÖSYM head said the new schedule for exams would be shared with the public as soon as possible.

The allegations that questions for this year’s KPSS, a prerequisite for placement in the bureaucracy, were stolen 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.

The developments prompted President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to task Turkey’s State Inspection Council (DDK) with investigating the claims, and an investigation was launched into them after a complaint filed by the DDK.

Officers from the Combating Financial Crimes Department of the Ankara Police Department on Wednesday searched two locations in the Kızılay and Yenimahalle districts of Ankara as part of the probe, which has been launched by the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office over accusations of “forgery of official documents,” “aggravated fraud” and “misuse of public duty,” and seized some digital materials as well as copies of some books and tests related to the KPSS.

Speaking to the press after the search in the Ostim neighborhood of Yenimahalle, Yediiklim Publishing lawyer Mustafa Serdar Gözüküçük said no one had been detained within the scope of the investigation so far.

Explaining that other than one math question there aren’t any Yediiklim questions identical to those in the KPSS, Gözüküçük claimed that the publishing house has no responsibility for the situation.

Prof. Dr. Halis Aygün, former head of the ÖSYM who was fired by Erdoğan and replaced by Ersoy in wake of the claims regarding stolen KPSS questions, on Wednesday told the Bizim Yaka newspaper in Kocaeli that he was a victim of “character assassination” one month before the end of his four-year term in office.

Meanwhile, local media on Thursday reported that photos from the visit of Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu were used on the poster of the Bursa branch of Yediiklim prep schools, which are affiliated with the publishing house at the center of the allegations.

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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