While it is fun to watch Spiderman climbing the walls of high-rise buildings, it is miserable to watch parents, friends and relatives climbing the walls of school buildings to help the students writing their exams inside. Last year, a picture showing many such “Spidermen”, trying to climb the walls of examination centers in Bihar, went viral. This exposed the laxity with which exams were conducted and caused huge embarrassment to the state government.
In order to undo the damage done to its reputation, the state government initiated a number of steps to curb mass cheating in the state. CCTV cameras were installed, thousands of officials and policemen were deployed and a fine of Rs 10,000 was imposed on those caught using unfair means to pass the exam. The result was that more than half of the students failed the Class X Bihar Board Examination, in sharp contrast to the results last year, in which more than 75% of the students had passed.
This meant that only deserving students had passed the exam and the government initiatives had paid off. But, a recent controversy has put a big fat question mark on the government’s effort to curb this menace. A sting operation conducted by a local news channel has revealed that the toppers of class XII Bihar Board Exam lacked the basic knowledge of the subjects they had topped in. The state government, as a result, asked 14 toppers to reappear for another test followed by an interview. This test was conducted to test the true potential of the students and to match their handwriting with their answer scripts. The Bihar School Examination Board announced cancelling of the results of those who failed the test.
But what effect will the entire episode have on the state of mind of these students who are being mocked at on the national television. Was it ethical on the part of the news channel to conduct such a sting operation. While wide media coverage is being given to the answers given by the toppers in the sting operation, nobody talks about the lapses in the policy formulation and the education system of the state.
Both the toppers belonged to the same institute, which was infamous for the large number of rank holders it produces every year despite holding irregular classes. Its director has close relations with many leaders of the grand alliance. It would have been better if the news channel had conducted a sting operation on the activities of the director and the so called leaders.
The answers given by the students in the sting operation is a reflection of failure on the part of the state government in providing quality education and curbing mass cheating. The state of Bihar has the lowest literacy rate in the country. Even the teachers are not qualified enough as compared to those in other states. This, topped by high rates of absenteeism among the teachers, has further aggravated the situation.
Instead of penalizing the students by cancelling their results and demotivating them, strict actions should be taken against the teachers. Only well qualified and eligible teachers should be appointed. Regular classes should be held. Surprise checks should be conducted by authorities to prevent cheating.
Many a times, parents bribe the teachers to help their girls pass the exam. A pass at the school level is required to get suitable grooms for these girls. While, during the entire year, girls are made to learn household chores. In the end, parents have no option but to bribe their teachers to help them get through the exams. A change of mindset is the biggest reform that needs to be promoted at the highest level.
Conducting ‘open book test’ can be another way out of this situation in which concept based questions are asked instead of the routine definition based ones. Such questions test the true caliber of the students without any scope for cheating as they are allowed to keep their books open during the test.
A number of initiatives had been taken by the government last year after the wall climbing picture went viral. But, another controversy this year proves that the Bihar government has a long road ahead and sustained efforts are required to improve the literacy rate of the state. Making fun of the students at the national level shows the low standards to which media has come down to in order to increase their viewership. The onus to prove their caliber, should not be on tbhe students but should instead be shifted to the government and the teachers appointed by it as it is their duty to provide quality education to the students.