“Don’t be so strict while invigilating during exams. They are our kids – so let them score.” – this was told to me on multiple occasions when I used to work for the education system.
Let me share my encounters with this issue. From my formative years till class 10 in Saharanpur (UP), I had not seen many cases of cheating around me. In fact, during the class 10 CBSE board exams, we weren’t even allowed to look sideways. Of course, there were a few cases of students getting caught and a few where students ‘rechecked’ their answers in the maths paper – but that was the limit.
After that, when I sat for my class 12 exams under the Gujarat board, it was a whole new world altogether. The supervision was low, and there were two students giving the same paper sitting on the same bench. People exchanged their answer sheets. In fact, after the results were declared, I was contacted by my ‘bench-mate’ who told me that he had scored 80 in accountancy by entirely copying my answers. Therefore, he wanted to thank me. Fun fact – I had no idea that he had copied because I was too busy finishing my own paper!
After that, I pursued graduation in a top college. The supervision there was high, but the students had new and innovative methods to cheat – through mobile phones and micro-copies. Easy to carry and difficult to be caught, right? And the worse part? They used to get it printed in the official college stationary shop. Yet, the cases were few.
Finally, I joined the ‘system’. This time, I came face-to-face with the reality in a state university college. The supervisors were allotted according to the levels of strictness they observed. The’ strict ones’ were, of course, reserved for the students of other colleges who had come to sit for the exams. Then, if the students did not know the answers, they would call up the faculty members citing their doubts. Subtle hints were then fed as answers, in the middle of the exam.
In one case, I saw students of another college writing the exam in the washroom and posting it on Facebook. Oh yes! In another case, I saw students discussing how they had hid their notes in the toilet and later copied from them. To add to this, there were many instances where students were caught carrying chits to the exam – and still, but no action was taken against them. Many a time, the faculty members were scolded for being ‘too strict’. And in the end, the high scores, the high rates of success and the top performances were hailed.
Now, who is responsible for all this? We talk about reservations creating ‘bad graduates’, but what about the cheating system? We are talking about students belonging to the majority communities here. Think of it like this – if medical students behave the same way, will you go to that doctor?
They are doing it because we have taught them all the wrong things about failure. Also, if they actually knew the answers, they wouldn’t cheat. The one thing our education system has never emphasised upon is its ethical compass. A single subject of moral science isn’t enough to address this.
Well, we always like to blame everything on the education system, don’t we? Of course, it’s not perfect. Judging the quality of a human through a handwritten answer sheet is definitely not fair. But with our population and resources, that’s the only standardised way, unless we are willing to take some drastic, revolutionary reforms.
If a student wants to earn a degree just for gaining a name and reputation, the teachers are mostly unable to do anything. Also, teachers are expected to produce results ‘in numbers’ as well. Their careers are dependent on it, a lot of the time.
That being said, the prime reason why I did not see much cheating during the CBSE exams was due to the presence of great, experienced teachers. So definitely, some correlation exists. But, if a batch of teachers also study in the same university under the same conditions, how can you expect them to change? After all, they are being conditioned by the same institution.
Many a time, parents seem to be unaware about what’s happening in their kids’ lives. Yet, most of them put tremendous pressure on them to score more than Sharma ji ka beta. In all probability, they simply want to show off.
However, this is only one part of the story. In most cases, parents also want their kids to get into good colleges and jobs, start earning and help the family. So, the pressure keeps on mounting on the student.
Get 90%, enter a top college, become a gold medalist – and your life is set, right? What about failure? What about the taunts like “you will not find a girl to marry if you don’t perform well in studies and succeed in life”? Furthermore, don’t we use these as examples to ‘teach’ our kids not to be like us? This subconscious fear of failure in kids can often lead them to use methods like cheating to ensure success. Later, when we come across the rising cases of student suicides, we blame everyone else.
I do not have a definite solution to this problem, but all the stakeholders need to buckle up if we want to transform our human capital. Otherwise, we shall remain a country of literate yet uneducated people.
Finally, I would like to say that I believe in this one thing, not just for teachers but for parents as well – “If I can’t learn the way you teach, teach me the way I can learn.”
PS – I don’t believe in a narrow definition of education.
PPS – I have taken the liberty of including the experiences of my friends.
Featured image used for representative purposes only.