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European Court of Human Rights to rule on annulment of secondary school leavers’ exam

The ECtHR has communicated to the Polish Government 18 applications submitted by secondary school students taking the end-of-school examinations invalidated in 2011. According to the applicants, their inability to seek a judicial review of the decisions of the National Examination Board amounted to a violation of their right to a court and right to education.

The case is handled by the HFHR’s Strategic Litigation Programme and the applicants are represented pro bono by Mr Mikołaj Pietrzak of Pietrzak Sidor & Wspólnicy.

Exam assignments discarded

In May 2011, a Regional Examination Board invalidated the results of the chemistry section of the secondary school leaving examination, the matura, taken by a group of secondary school leavers from schools in Ostrowiec Świętokrzyski. The REB claimed the students had cheated during the exam. However, a written note that the students received from the Board did not reveal which of the test assignments raised suspicions of exam supervisors. The decision was affirmed by the National Examination Board.

Administrative courts dismiss complaint

The students asked a provincial administrative court for a review of the exam’s invalidation but the court ruled they had no such remedy. The Supreme Administrative Court upheld that ruling. The SAC emphasised that the possession of a certificate of completion of secondary education did not grant, in itself, a “right” to be admitted to university studies of one’s choice.

Case goes to Constitutional Tribunal

Having exhausted their appellate remedies, the students brought constitutional complaints before the Constitutional Tribunal. However, the Tribunal dismissed their case in 2015, holding that a determination of students’ ethical conduct during an exam constituted an element of the substantive assessment of an exam assignment. As such, such a determination is not a matter within the meaning of the Constitution and as such is not the subject of a judicial review.

What will be Strasbourg Court’s ruling?

In their applications to the ECtHR, the students allege that the absence of a judicial review of decisions of the examination boards resulted in a violation of guarantees enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights: the right to a court, right to privacy, right to an effective remedy and the right to a court.

The ECtHR communication of the case may be accessed here.

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