Print Edition - 2014-04-27  |  Free the Words

Cheat sheet

  • Widespread cheating during examinations reflects the depravity of society at large
- Chandra Mani Bimoli
Cheat sheet

Apr 26, 2014-

Before we wrote our Indian Certificate of Secondary Education examinations in March 1992, the Principal of our school, Father Felix, warned us not to use any unfair means to pass our tests. Else, strict action, including immediate expulsion, would follow. He warned that instructions to this effect had been given to all the internal and external invigilators. Back then, the exam environment was so strict that using any unfair means to pass the tests was unthinkable.

While appearing for my Bachelors in Nepali examinations at the Mahendra Multiple College in Dharan, I still remember

the cold stare and the bitter scolding I got from one of the invigilators. Actually, I was trying to get a clue about a grammatical question from my friend who was sitting on the next bench. So meticulous were preparations for conducting examinations that a makeshift toilet would be built for the examinations and students’ activities would also be strictly monitored.

Then and now

The examination at all levels; right from the School Leaving Certificate (SLC) to university level, back then, was largely fair. The invigilators had an abiding sense of duty and were ever vigilant during the exams. Many Nepali students who failed to pass the examination here at home used to enroll themselves in schools and colleges in the neighbouring Indian states of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh where there were possibilities of getting through the examinations using unfair means.

However, as things stand, it is utterly disturbing that free and fair examinations have now become a thing of the past. After every examination, particularly when the SLC is over, the SLC Board thanks everybody involved in the examination for conducting it in a largely fair manner. No matter what the Board says, for some years now, examinations in this country have become a mess where using unfair means is common practice. As a result, the SLC exams in particular, have lost its previous credibility.

When I asked some of my students about the SLC exams held in March, 2014 at their examination centre in Damak, they told me that the invigilators turned a blind eye to examinees who were talking, discussing and copying answers. The bright students complained that this frustrated them as they couldn’t entirely concentrate on their answer sheets. They wondered why the teachers had remained indifferent to the violations of examination norms.

Last year, some of my Grade 12 students told me of examinees discussing with others, copying from others’ answer sheets and even from guides and guess papers during the exams. They wondered if the invigilators in that particular centre had been bribed to turn a blind eye to violations by schools and colleges. Such instances are not isolated examples. Instead, they depict the way examinations are generally conducted across the country.

Reasons and realities

Immediately after the examinations are over; scholars and educationists come up with their own versions about why these things happen during examinations. Soon enough, it is forgotten until the next examinations commence. Among the reasons offered are: teachers don’t teach well in the class, the standard of teaching  is not up to the mark, courses are not completed on time particularly in government schools and text books are not available many months into the academic year in the hinterlands. This is what some reputed educationists wrote in their esteemed columns in national dailies after the recently held SLC examinations.

The aforementioned reasons warrant attention. But for me, these are not the root causes of the problem. The reasons, as I see it, are simple and obvious.

Nowadays, teachers no longer embody the moral and intellectual qualities they once did in the past. In government schools, colleges and universities, teachers are often appointed on the basis of their political affiliation, nepotism and favouritism. What good can we expect from such teachers, many of whom, have cheated their way into the system themselves? Terming them ‘cheaters’ might sound harsh, but what else can one call those who have made a name for themselves through gross

dereliction of duty by permitting and sometimes even encouraging cheating in the board examinations. Had teachers been appointed entirely on merit, as it usually was in the past, wouldn’t the situation have been different?

Social decay

Education is a social sector. Unfortunately, education has become  heavily commercialised. Competition among private schools and colleges is stiff and many of these don’t hesitate to resort to either fair or foul means to get ahead of others. To ensure good results, schools do everything to ensure that their students are allowed to copy and cheat in the examinations. Invigilators are influenced and sitting arrangements are tampered with. We repeatedly hear about question papers being leaked and sold out in the open. Many schools are no longer temples of learning they used to be.

Students, young and innocent as they are, learn by imitation. Teachers, parents and society at large have an everlasting influence on them. Depressing as it may sound, students learn early in their lives that one must use all means, either fair or foul, to move ahead in the world from their own parents and teachers. It is hard to find a teacher or a parent who advises children that it is better to fail than cheat in the exams, and that the only way to progress in life is through hard work, dedication, honesty and sincerity. The rampant unethical practices in the examination are thus, nothing but the reflection of the all pervasive decay and decadence among teachers, parents, elders, politicians, bureaucrats.

Bimoli is a lecturer at Siddhartha College of Management, Damak

Published: 27-04-2014 09:05

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