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It’s still a sinking ship

  • Published at 12:00 am February 3rd, 2019
Leaked Question
Just one of the many holes in the system MEHEDI HASAN

The question paper leak is just a small part of a very big problem

It is good to see that the CID has been busy, taking down the terrible people who leak question papers and sell them to a market of desperate students just trying to survive.

The latest accomplishment is a bust worthy of a front-page photo op, with nine people arrested, including some of the question paper-leaking kingpins.

This brings the arrest total of the past one and half years up to 46, and the CID is claiming that this organization has now been completely taken out; so once again, the streets are safe, the integrity of our examination system has been preserved, and the future of our children is protected.

If only.

Like the recent Hollywood remake of the movie A Star is Born, the question paper leak story is a tale as old as the country itself, and manifests itself not just in JSC or SSC or important high levels, but really at every level of society. Where cheating is possible, there will be cheating.

It is tempting to find a convenient villain for this menace of cheating, in this case, the big bad syndicate getting our children addicted to leaked question papers, and we call them a “ring” to give it that spine-tingling flavour of danger, that image of unsavoury men with semi-automatics in dark rooms reproducing question papers Narcos-style. Lock them up and we will have cured the disease, the authorities would like us to believe.

But one hit of a leaked question paper is a lot less likely to be fatal than a botched attempt at shooting heroin, and it is not typical to hear of young people dead in crossfire over a question paper war.

The sad reality that most clear-headed education professionals of this country already realize, and have known for quite some time, is that the phenomenon of question paper leaks is just a symptom of a much deeper disease in our education sector.

And here the lion’s share of culpability lies with the public education system, the symbol of which is Dhaka University, an institution of higher learning that still speaks about itself in clichés (Oxford of the East, etc) while becoming a laughingstock to everyone else, for its cadre culture, sexual harassment, and a mindset so-outdated that dust falls out of its every syllabus. This is where primary, secondary, and intermediate institutions of learning take their cues from, and it is no surprise that a bad role model like DU can really mess you up.

And so, the disease keeps on growing -- schools emphasize rote learning over any kind of actual comprehension, they punish rather than encourage, dehumanize children by referring to them by their roll numbers instead of their names, and do all they can to destroy individuality, creativity, or any true spirit of learning.

This starts at the earliest age, and only keeps getting worse as children get older and approach the more important exams in their lives. Passing the exam seems like the be-all and end-all of life, as seen from the inevitable spike in suicide attempts after the publication of SSC results.

Parents, themselves lacking any kind of perspective of what an education should be, double down on their children. Sit down and study! That is what a child is told when he or she is trying to nap or daydream, because most parents are clueless about the fact that both napping and daydreaming play integral roles in the growth and development of the brain.

So here we are; year after year, systematically, we destroy their brains until they look for that quick fix, a shortcut that will help them pass the exam, because that is all that matters. Everything else -- the desire to read a new book, to think in new ways, or to dream big -- has been beaten out of them.

So we’ve plugged the question paper leak -- for now. Big deal. It’s still a sinking ship. 

Abak Hussain is Editor, Editorial and Op-Ed, Dhaka Tribune.