Question paper leaks seem to be the blight of the hour. In fact, the problem has, once again, shone a light onto our ever-troubled education system.
Pretty much each and every level of examination is under the threat of getting question papers leaked, whether they be primary terminal exams, secondary and higher secondary completion exams, undergraduate admission tests, and even job recruitment test.
In any other country, such an epidemic would have raised alarm bells from each and every corner of the government to try and contain it -- so what exactly is wrong with ours?
The steps taken by the government to plug the leaks have all but failed. Even offering a substantial bounty of Tk500,000 for the leakers seems to have fallen on deaf ears.
It’s not that the perpetrators are chumps, of course. Going through the various Facebook groups that these leakers operate through, they are confident in their operations to the extent that they are now offering to leak the answer scripts as well.
Make no mistake, these reprisals have created a vast market with the help of social networks.
Another problem lies in the fact that it is virtually impossible to verify whether a candidate has made use of the leaked papers upon sitting for an exam.
Exactly why would a student feel compelled to cheat in an exam? What is it that drives these criminals to leak the question papers in the first place?
The answer, invariably, lies in our attitude: The higher the GPA, the more brilliant the student -- we have always been led to believe. Everything is a means to an end, after all. We study not to gain knowledge, but to be accepted into a prestigious university. We try to get into prestigious universities not to learn, but to be able to secure a job that pays very well.
What’s the point of all that hard work if almost everyone in the exam hall just cheated their way into a perfect grade? What is even the point of preparing for your entire life for a good job, when someone can just bribe their way into getting it?
And if the cost of such pie-in-the-sky ambitions is your morals and good judgement, so be it.
It’s not entirely fair to blame the students themselves, of course. The driving force behind this culture of scrambling for short-cuts is, perhaps, their parents. Some of whom are always actively on the lookout for leaked papers on the internet, so that their child can glean from them and come back home from his exams with a sense of certainty that he’s done better than the neighbour’s kid … if not exactly in the most legal of ways.
Don’t get me wrong, competition has never done anyone any harm, but it should not be our primary motivation. It is this desire to do better than everyone else that gives way to such an enormous demand for leaked question papers. As conventional economic theory suggests, demand creates its own supply. Unless this demand is stymied, question papers will continue to leak.
In fact, this degeneration of education is reflective of the fact that our education system has, unfortunately, failed to instill any sense of morality in students. It’s not enough for students to simply be able to study the arts and sciences in an education institution, since fostering a good moral foundation is part and parcel of a good education.
These leaks fly in the face of every student who has worked hard to study and excel in their exams in their own right. True merit.
What’s the point of all that hard work if almost everyone in the exam hall just cheated their way into a perfect grade? What is even the point of preparing for your entire life for a good job, when someone can just bribe their way into getting it or call their good friend “nepotism” to get it for them?
A more concerning theory is that these students passing their exams with flying colours by cheating will inevitably bring our nation down. A good education does not simply translate into a degree on a piece of paper, it supposed to equip you with the necessary skills to make your country a better place.
I’ll be honest, the “high time” to tackle this problem went by years ago, we’re already witnessing the fallout of our culture of cheating in the vast majority of the people who claim to run this nation.
But there is no question about it: The authorities need to do a better job to combat these leaks. The perpetrators need to be brought to book, and those who utilize these leaked papers need to be made examples of.
There’s a Chinese proverb that goes something like this: “If you are planning for a year, sow rice; if you are planning for a decade, plant trees; if you are planning for a lifetime, educate people.” Education is nothing to be laissez faire about, it has the power to both uplift or sink an entire nation.
But, of course, these leaks are part of a larger problem in our society, a problem that exists well beyond the realm of education.
Imrul Hoque is a freelance contributor.