Is there a point to taking exams at all? This is an unending debate. Educational systems have implemented testing as a means by which to discriminate academic performance between students. This system gives emphasis exam day performance; a cruel meritocracy that pushes students to value marks, grades and divisions. Students are conditioned to value outcomes rather than the process of learning.
That in part helps explain why examinations are important to students and indeed parents, who would go out of their way to facilitate their children to cheat in their exams or bring out question papers before the examinations. Schools, especially administrators, love examinations. Student examination performance is taken to reflect teaching excellence.
Bangladesh education system has been graduated from cheating inside exam hall to leaking question papers well ahead of examinations. Question paper leaking is one of the most common and unwanted topics now. This unfair way of being passed in a public examination or to take admission in the universities or to get a job is almost out of control. From primary examinations to the university admission tests or any job related tests, we are sure to hear that the question paper is leaked out. Sometimes, the authority postpones the examination, sometimes the scheduled examination is held with the leaked question paper.
Question paper leaking is destroying the students’ creativity. They are getting habituated to the shortcut way of overcoming examination hardships. When questions are available before examinations, students and surely their parents, cannot resist themselves to adopt this way. In this way, the talents of our children are misused and their intelligence is destroyed. The nation is deprived of having a talented and truly educated manpower. Despite various measures, cheating goes on unabated.
The present government has done a lot for the improvement of education in the country. A significant progress has been achieved in the enrolment in primary education and reduction of dropouts in all education levels. But all the achievements are being affected because of the curse of leaking question papers. Now the education minister and other bosses in the education system admit that questions are being leaked. Unfortunately they were in a denial mode for long time.
A problem in Bangladesh is the degree of inequality, particularly when it comes to opportunities available to students. Those from less affluent backgrounds do not enjoy the same level of support as do their more affluent peers. They are at a disadvantage because they attend a government or MPO schools and colleges where perhaps the teachers are under resourced, the infrastructure dilapidated and teaching methodology outmoded.
They cannot compete with students who receive high priced private tuitions and parental contacts that provide a ready network for both academic and professional progress. Not to mention access to a more financially secure environment at home, private schooling and avenues for learning through play. Leakage of question paper is more rampant among the affluent class as they can pay more than the poor families. The smart way of leaking question papers through digital channels including Facebook, WhatsApp and Viber are also at the hands of rich section of the society.
Parents, who have invested a lot of financial resources into their children’s studies, may feel that the outcome of one exam is too important to be left to solid hard work. A small amount of money here and there is perhaps a small price to pay to ensure a desirable outcome. Due to this unethical practice, the sanctity of exams and the quality of education have got affected dreadfully. Also, principles of healthy competition are being affected.
This system of education emphasizes not on learning, but on results that encourage students, parents to go for this immoral practice. Usually, it is the handiwork of insiders in cohorts with some outsiders which, with timely internal surveillance coupled with police vigilance, could have been stopped. But we failed.
On the current system of reaching the question papers to their final destination, there are a large number of people involved — right from those in the printing press, those in logistics of the delivery, teachers, officials and employees in places where the papers are stored and also political goons. The risk of leakage compounds with every step of the process. The government should adopt deterrent measures to preserve the sanctity of public exams. The culprits involved in the scam must be identified and punished. Education boards and law enforcement people must work together to crush the network of criminals.
Our exam system needs an overhaul, but which is the best and cost-effective alternative? While not many view technology as the ultimate solution, it is increasingly emerging as an alternative. We have seen the change of times and technology, but we couldn’t bring changes in our system to face this technological process of cheating. We need full proof technological innovation to contain cheating and leaking of question papers.
Syed Ishtiaque Reza
Director, News and Operations