The Education Ministry intends to strike back at high school students who use their cellphones to cheat during matriculation exams by blocking the phones’ transmissions during tests.

The drastic move is part of an effort to stamp out to cheating on the tests, following up on a recent drop in the number of disqualified papers in recent years, the ministry said Tuesday.

According to ministry figures for 2009, 11,322 of 1,375,339 students were caught cheating, about 0.82 percent in total. In 2010, the figures improved slightly with 11,256 out of 1,386,404, roughly 0.811 percent. The next year saw a bigger drop with 8,840 out of 1,333,764 exams, about 0.662%, disqualified. Those caught can face up to a three-year ban before they can take the tests again.

“As the education system, we are committed to the future of our children and strictly adhere to values and morals,” said Education Ministry director general Dalit Stauber, who stressed that every instance of copying during a test is fraud.

Education Minister Shai Piron further instructed schools to engage in activities aimed at impressing on pupils the importance of test integrity.

The National Student and Youth Council pointed out in response that students must surrender their cellphones before the exams anyway.

“If the Education Ministry sees fit to take additional measures then we have no objection,” the statement said. “It seems that the Education Ministry is putting in a lot of effort to prevent a problem that hardly exists.”