Cairo: Egyptian authorities have seen early success in their efforts to stop leaks of high school examinations that embarrassed the government last year and triggered rare street protests.

Around 592,000 secondary school students started Sunday taking their final-year tests across Egypt amid tight security and official warnings of tough penalties against involvement in massive leaks.

Education officials said that there has since been no significant leak bid in these crucial exams that run until later this month.

“We congratulate the state agencies because there have been no [exam] leaks,” Reda Hejazi, a senior official at the Education Ministry, said.

“We also thank the Interior Ministry for securing the exam boards and question sheets,” he added at a press conference.

Around 50,000 policemen have been deployed around schools where exams are held to foil any attempt for mass cheating, local media reported.

In recent years, relatives of high school examinees often gathered outside schools mainly in rural areas and used microphones to blare out answers to leaked exam questions.

President Abdul Fattah Al Sissi this week met Education Minister Tareq Shawqi and discussed the ministry’s plan for conducting the secondary school tests and education reform, state media reported.

Last year, Al Sissi pledged that the exam leaks would not happen again and that the education system would be revamped. His pledge came after the government cancelled and repeated some high school exams after they were leaked on social media shortly before students sat for their tests.

In the run-up to this year’s tests, penalties against exam leaks were toughened to reach a maximum seven years in jail and a fine of at least 100,000 Egyptian pounds (Dh20,408).

The printing of exam sheets was devolved to unspecified top security agencies as part of state efforts to curb leaks. Previously, the printing process was the Education Ministry’s responsibility.

Students are also banned from entering exam boards with cellphones and other electronic gadgets believed to have been used in online leaking and cheating.

However, some candidates were caught this week with tiny cheating devices installed in their glasses and wristwatches inside the exam boards, authorities said. These students’ exams were scrapped in punishment.

Scores obtained in high school exams directly determine university admission in Egypt.