Leaking of question papers of all public examinations in the country has become so widespread that the integrity of our examination systems has come under question. Starting with the PSC (Primary School Certificate) examination and ending with the Bangladesh Civil Service examination—which recruits our administrators, doctors, teachers and others into government services—there is not a single public examination whose question papers haven’t been leaked in the last several years. It’s a practice that has created a lucrative market which, with the introduction of each new public examination, becomes bigger and draws more investment. Our law and order agencies seem powerless to bust the syndicates that run this business since these are often backed by powerful people including student leaders and local influentials. What the leaking of questions papers indicates is a frightening slide in our morality as some teachers, students and their guardians are also involved in the enterprise. It also suggests that our education system, particularly our classroom teaching and testing mechanisms, have failed to match contemporary global practices, and that our society craves easy solutions to issues that need hard and dedicated involvement.
For questions papers to be leaked and sold at a hefty price a demand and supply situation has to exist. On the demand side are the students and their guardians, and on the supply side are the syndicates. Three factors are mainly responsible for creating the demand: a faulty testing system which makes Multiple Choice Questions the most preferred question type; introduction of two unnecessary public examinations (PSC and JSC – the Junior and its Madrasa equivalent certificate examination) which have taken away the joy of learning and replaced it with an exam driven, rote learning based learning system, and the incomplete and less than satisfactory teaching given in the school. Many teachers are involved in giving private tuition, and students – both out of need and the fear of being discriminated against—take up private tuition with them. There are also coaching centres which run a parallel education system of their own. According to estimates, the coaching business has a yearly turnover of about 45000 crores of taka. Many coaching centres are behind the leaking of question papers, and many guarantee students good results in their exams if they take their lessons.
Leaking of examination questions is thus linked with our faulty teaching and testing systems and the dominance of the coaching enterprise. If the practice continues unchecked and unabated, it will destroy the integrity of our examination systems and spell ruin to our education efforts.
There are many ways we can face and eventually solve the problem. First, our teachers should be given better salaries, perks and privileges so that they do not have to offer private tuition. If they do even after a raise in their salary, legal actions can be taken against them. Secondly, our school and college education, particularly classroom teaching should be improved to make it more life-centred and effective. Thirdly, the testing system should be changed. All the questions should be, what is popularly known as ‘creative’, so that students write a few pages to prove their ability; fourthly, PSC and JSC should be abolished and in their place the usual classroom performance and school exams should form the basis of their evaluation; fifthly the law and order agencies should be given full power to arrest anyone—irrespective of their social position or political affiliation—and bring them to justice; and finally, there should be a strong political will to address the issue so that our students, like those elsewhere in the world—pass an exam purely on their own efforts and merit.