On February 16, Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed the students from across the country to give them tips on appearing for exams without stress. On the fortieth day of his exhortation, the very students had a rude shock, and greater stress, inflicted by the very government and its institution. The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) came out with the alarming revelation that Class 12 and Class 10 students will have to take retest in one subject each – Economics and Maths respectively – as question papers were leaked prior to the examination. It affected a few lakh students. The CBSE which has strenuously built its reputation since its inception in 1952 has bruised its image in the recent past due to leak of question papers and other issues.
It was still worse with the Staff Selection Commission which conducts examinations to recruit non-gazetted employees for various Central ministries and departments. Every year lakhs of aspirants sit for a range of exams held by it. This year close to two lakh students appeared for about 9,000 vacancies when screenshots of question papers along with the answers went viral on the social media before the exams carried out between February 17 and 21. After days of protests by affected students and demands from several political parties, the government was forced to set up a CBI enquiry into the issue.
In both cases the credibility of the bodies conducting examinations has been eroded. The secrecy and integrity of the process have been breached. The students who have spent months burning the midnight oil have been cheated. Their efforts have gone waste. Their hopes have been belied. It is worth recalling what a girl, appearing for the SSC exam, said: “I live in a window-less room, eat food which is fit for a prison and somehow manage to focus on my studies. It is enraging to see that the question papers of such exams are being leaked by somebody within the SSC.” Her moving words tell the real story of lakhs of students who find themselves cheated.
Exams of all categories are meant to give merit a chance. It is to reward the hard work put in by students and job-seekers. Denting their sanctity is nothing but playing a cruel joke on them and rewarding the cheats and charlatans. Such things happen because the exam-conducting bodies have abrogated the age-old practices like setting multiple papers to take care of eventualities like paper leak. Technology has contributed to the ease of conducting exams. Equally, it has also increased the chances of committing frauds. More technological innovations are needed to counter the racket by tech-savvy fraudsters.
Re-examinations and setting up enquiry committees will only help to tide over the present crisis. It is not a permanent solution. The government should work on better methods for which a robust system has to be put in place. It is equally important that responsibility should be fixed for paper leaks and heads should roll. Unfortunately, the government has not touched anybody at the top of the CBSE or the SSC. Arresting a coaching centre owner or a few students will not solve the issue. The top officials should shed complacency. They should be made to answer to the leaked papers.
(Published on 09th April 2018, Volume XXX, Issue 14 & 15)