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Cheating In Exams Is Just A Symptom, The Real Problem Is Way More Complex

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By Rahul Mazumdar:

Recently, the officials of the People’s Republic of China made it clear that they plan to pass a regulation that would make cheating in the nation’s college entrance exam ‘gaokao’ punishable by up to seven years in jail. Obviously, this has triggered a major debate with both proponents and opponents of the soon to be enforced regulation voicing their arguments and concerns. While some cite curbing corruption and ensuring fair selection of students for advocating the law; the ones against say that the quantum of punishment awarded is too stringent and that it would discourage students from reporting incidents of cheating as they would risk sending another student to jail. While there is serious weight behind the arguments of ones against the proposed regulation, one has to accept that at no cost can corruption in such life-changing exams be condoned.

India too has much work at hand in this regard. Recently the nation witnessed another incident of the use of unfair means in exams when the results of two toppers of the Science stream of the 12th standard Bihar State Board Examination were cancelled. The result of a third, the topper of the Arts stream of the same board is under scrutiny after she refused to attend a special interview conducted by the Board citing depression. These toppers were unable to answer a few basic questions posed by the media. An inquiry has also been registered against the college from which all these three students appeared for the State Board exams which also seemingly has an impeccable record with all its students clearing the exam in the first division.

Such incidents, however, are not uncommon. The nation was shocked last year when images of parents and relatives abetting their wards by using illicit means in Board exams surfaced in the media. This incident portrays an alarming sign that such cheating in exams occurs at the behest of guardians, and they are the real culprits of this crime. But this incident also portrays the excessive importance that these exams command and the significance that they can have in determining one’s career. While it would be entirely incorrect to blame exam pressure as the real culprit, we must accept that these single-day performance exams are a very poor indicator of a student’s actual academic potential. Perhaps, the structure and the organisation of these exams needs to undergo a change.

As the exams for almost all the Board exams in India are conducted within a month, there is no parameter to gauge a student’s performance for the rest of the academic year even in classes 10th and 12th, forget about other classes. Thus, an academically bright and consistent student who has one bad day suffers, while a few who join dozens of coaching classes and are trained like animals performing in a circus, might fare wonderfully well. This has also led to the springing up of hundreds of money minting educational factories (the so-called coaching centres) and a race among students to get enrolled in these classes charging exorbitantly high fees. In a few extreme cases, teachers in schools and colleges start their own coaching classes, and the entire course is covered in those private classes and not in actual school and college classrooms. As a result, those not joining these tuitions are disadvantaged.

A refreshing step in this regard was taken by the Central Board of Secondary Education (C.B.S.E). A few years ago the Continuous and Comprehensive Evaluation (C.C.E) pattern was introduced by the C.B.S.E that aimed to replace the current mode of examination by a system that would evaluate the performance of pupils during the entire academic year. Though some criticised the move at that time, many appreciated the much-needed reforms that were introduced by the C.B.S.E. Indeed such a continuous evaluation would drastically reduce the lure of cheating as surely nobody can consistently cheat throughout the year. Further, the conducting of periodic monthly/quarterly exams would inculcate a habit a regular learning by students concurrently as those topics are taught in schools, rather than leaving the entire syllabus pending until the end.

But a major flaw in this system is the over-dependence on the evaluation of schools. While a certain degree of co-operation between schools and the Board is necessary to ensure smooth functioning, giving 70% weightage to the marks allotted by schools (the final Board exam marks have just 30% weightage), the C.B.S.E is walking on a very tight rope. In a bid to inflate their students’ scores and their respective results, C.B.S.E schools nowadays wholeheartedly distribute marks to their pupils as is evident with the alarmingly high numbers of 10 pointers every school manufactures these days. Indulgence in such practices seriously damages the sanctity of these results. Before introducing such a method, C.B.S.E should have introduced checks to guard against such practices.

Overall the state of secondary and higher secondary teaching in India is not in a very good state. As a result, a majority of the students of these schools suffer. This has effects in the long run as a weak foundation affects their performance in universities and colleges and reduces their employability. Barring a few institutes of world-class quality, the Indian education system is characterised by amazing mediocrity. Bringing about reform in this sector is a Herculean task. An appropriate and detailed discussion is required between every stakeholder before introducing any major reform. As India aims to transform into a developed nation, its policy-makers need to ensure that its future generations are not just educated but are imparted a quality education. Because ‘Sirf padhne se nahi balki dhang se padhne se hi badhega India’ (India move forward not only by education but by progressive learning.)

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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