Cheating in the examinations

Cheating their way to success

 

http://www.jang.com.pk/thenews/aug2011-weekly/nos-14-08-2011/pol1.htm#1

Use of unfair means in examinations need to be strictly checked to improve credibility and standard of education
By Tahir Ali

Examination results show the ability and capability of students, teachers and institutions. Good results ensure admission to reputable institutions and eventual success in life. The problem of cheating during examinations has rendered Pakistan’s examination system and its results invalid and unreliable. What is more dangerous is that some students think of it as their right.

The superintendent and other invigilators at a given examination centre have to confront pressure during examinations, ranging from requests by friends and family members to allow cheating to political pressure, and attacks and death threats from student groups. All these pressures are aimed at one thing – to allow students use of unfair means to get good grades.

These allegations of corruption are not restricted to the invigilating staff. There are complaints that invigilating staff of choice is appointed at the boards of intermediate and secondary education (BISEs), papers are leaked and even better grades are maneuvered with the help of BISEs staff and marking/checking personnel there, charges which are denied by BISE officials.

The National Accountability Bureau in collaboration with BISEs in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa recently organised a seminar on the issue where a strategy against the same was prepared. Cheating in the board examinations, in one way or the other, is in the knowledge of all and everyone wants to correct the situation, states an official document prepared by a local BISE.

“Parents’ obsession with their child’s future, private education sector’s efforts to ensure good grades for their candidates, lack of required facilities, non availability of sufficient teachers, books and material in schools, paucity of female teachers and invigilators, absence of criteria and favouritism in teachers’ selection for examination duties both at the department and the board levels, political interference, etc, are some of the problems in this regard,” the document says.

According to a senior educationist, who wishes anonymity, negligible remuneration and daily allowance for invigilators for examination duties is another problem.

“Daily remuneration of Rs25, Rs37 and Rs60 for common invigilators, the deputy superintendent (grade 16 or 17) and superintendent (grade 17-18) respectively gets them around Rs225, Rs700 and Rs1080 for the full duration of the examination. Teachers also get a daily allowance of Rs280 and Rs500 respectively in the same order which is being given at this rate for years now. Earlier, it was given on the basis of running basic pay but now at lump-sum basis. Then there are mostly two papers a day but there is no extra remuneration or daily allowance for them for the double paper,” he says.

The remuneration has remained unchanged for years though examination fees and prices have been increased manifold. “Do the board members, chairman, secretaries, controllers and the other officers at the BISEs draw the same level of remuneration and daily allowances for their examination related duties? It is not unnatural if, in this backdrop of meager remuneration by the BISEs, invigilators do not perform their duties on merit and impartially,” he says.

Examination centres also face paucity of space. The students are to be seated at four meters distance from each other but it is hardly practised for space constraints in the halls. Congested seating, resorted primarily to accommodate the students for shortage of space, makes supervision difficult and makes inter-students communication and copying easy, especially when there is frequent power shutdown in the summer, the examination season in the country.

Students usually use mobile phones for unfair means in the examination. Despite warnings from the staff, they bring mobile set(s) along with them. Invigilators ask them to switch their sets off but they usually dodge. Then, in some cases, megaphones are also used by outsiders to help candidates answer the questions.

Number of staff is also a problem. An invigilator is appointed for 40 students. Though an extra invigilator is allowed for 11 more students but if there are less than 11 students, one invigilator may have to supervise upto 50 students, which makes his or her task very difficult.

In some papers, where the number of students increases from average (on the basis of which the staff is appointed) the superintendents are allowed to appoint extra invigilators but they usually avoid doing so as it requires lengthy procedures to take sanction for extra staff and then no one is ready to do the duty for a day or two.

The boards can punish the cheaters on a written complaint from the superintendents, by canceling the concerned paper(s) or ban him/her for a few years from taking examination. But the examiners usually avoid so for three reasons: One, to avoid lengthy paperwork required to prepare a tenable unfair-means case; two, this can ruin the victim’s future beyond repair; and three, students often react violently at cases. Recently, a local BISE’s controller of examinations narrowly escaped an attempt on his life.

Some invigilators also point out that if students resort to hooliganism, it is the examiners who are accused of not using ways to avoid such incidents. What this practically means is: allow the cheaters if stopping them can create problems.

All the stakeholders in the examination system – students, their parents, teachers, schools and BISEs, who are responsible, though in varying degrees, for rampant malpractices will have to make efforts to stop or minimise this scourge.

It requires a three-pronged strategy to guard against cheating in examination: before, during and after the examination. Teachers and students need to fully commit themselves to teaching/learning process. Students should revise notes at home. Schools with hostel facility usually show better performance. Competitive environment in classes and a proper mechanism for guidance and counseling students are also needed in schools.

To improve teaching at schools, a system of reward and punishment for teachers should be introduced. The performance report of all teachers for this purpose should be prepared on a quarterly basis by the departmental inspection teams from lower classes, rather than on annual basis and at Matric or intermediate levels as these days.

Increase in remuneration and daily allowances of staff and then appointment of honest invigilators should be ensured. This can be easily done by computerising the record and the process of invigilation staff selection. The education department should forward the lists.

Teachers’ unions should not be allowed to interfere in the examination. Ruling political parties will have to take initiative by disowning their political wings in teachers and let the board administrators decide things on merit. Interference by outsiders can be prevented by police personnel and daily visits of inspectors to the examination centre. Moreover, fully enclosed examination halls could also help overcome the problem.

Through awareness campaigns in the print and electronic media and through functions and lectures, people should be convinced of the repercussions of using unfair-means in a students’ career.

“Complete dependence on external examination in total disregard to internal examination for final result of the students is flawed. A comprehensive testing system, which takes into account the results shown by students in both the internal examination conducted by his institution and external one by BISEs, will greatly minimise corruption in the examination,” adds the educationist.

tahir_katlang@yahoo.com

 

Following is the original text of the article as sent to the paper.

 

Arresting cheating in examinations

By Tahir Ali

It is examination season in the country. Examination results are the yardsticks of students, teachers and institutions ability and good results in it ensure admission in reputable institutions and eventual success in life. But the problem of malpractices during the examination has not only rendered Pakistan’s examination system and its results invalid and unreliable but what is more dangerous is that students are beginning to think of it as their right.

The superintendent and other invigilators at a given examination centre, have to confront several pressures and enticements during the examinations. Ranging from requests by friends and family members to allow malpractices to offers for money to political and social pressures and attacks and death threats from students’ groups, the students, their parents, teachers and institutions try their best to get undue advantage from them during the examination papers.

All these efforts, offers and pressures are aimed at one thing- to allow students the use of unfair means to earn good grades.

These allegations of corruption and malpractices are not restricted to the invigilating staff. There are complaints that invigilating staff of choice is got appointed at the boards of intermediate and secondary education (BISEs), papers are leaked and even better grades are manoeuvred with the help of BISEs staff and marking/checking personnel there, charges which are denied by BISE officials.

The national accountability bureau in collaboration with BISEs in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa recently organised a seminar on the issue where a strategy against the same was prepared.

Cheating in the board examinations, in one way or the other, is in the knowledge of all and everyone wants to correct the situation, states an official document prepared by a local BISE.

“Parents’ obsession with their children future, private education sector’s efforts to ensure good grades for their candidates, lack of required facilities, non availability of sufficient teachers, books and material in schools, paucity of female teachers and invigilators, absence of criteria for and favouritism in teachers’ selection for examination duties both at the department and the board levels, political interference and pressures by the teachers unions are some of the problems in this regard,” it says.

According to a senior educationist, who wished anonymity, negligible remuneration and daily allowance for the invigilators for the examination duties is exacerbating the phenomenon.

“Daily remuneration (tea, meal expenses) of Rs25, Rs37 and Rs60 for common invigilators, the deputy superintendant (grade 16 or 17) and superintendant (grade 17-18) respectively gets them a around Rs225, Rs700 and Rs1080 for the full duration of the examination. Teachers also get a daily allowance of Rs280 and Rs500 respectively in the same order which is being given at this rate for years now. Earlier it was given on the basis of running basic pay but now at lump-sum basis. Then there are mostly two papers a day but there is no extra remuneration or daily allowance for them for the double paper,” he said.

“The remuneration has remained unchanged for years though examination fees and prices have been increased manifold.  Do the board members, chairman, secretaries, controllers and the other officers at the BISEs draw the same level of remuneration and daily allowances for their examination related duties? It is not unnatural if, in this back-drop of meagre remuneration by the BISEs, invigilators hardly resist the offers provided by the institutions and parents of candidates and if they don’t perform their duties on merit and impartially,” he questioned.

According to another public school teacher, examination centres also face paucity of space. “The students are to be seated at four meters distance from each other but it is hardly practised for space constraints at the halls. Congested seating, resorted primarily to accommodate the students for shortage of space, makes supervision difficult, renders inter-students communication and copying easy and makes time miserable for students and the staff especially when there is frequent power shutdown in the summer, the examination season in the country,” he opined.

Students usually use mobile phones for unfair means in the examination. Despite warnings from the staff, they bring mobile set(s) along with them. Invigilators ask them to switch their sets off but they usually dodge. Then megaphones are also used by outsiders to help the candidates answer the questions.

Staff paucity problem is also there. An invigilator is appointed for 40 students. Though an extra invigilator is allowed for 11 more students but if there are less than 11 students, one invigilator may have to supervise upto 50 students. Is it possible?

In some papers where the number of students increases from average (on the basis of which the staff is appointed) the superintendants are allowed to appoint extra invigilators but they usually avoid doing so as it requires lengthy procedure to take the sanction for the extra staff and then no one is ready to do duty for a day or two.

The boards can punish the cheaters, on a written complaint from the superintendents, by cancelling the concerned paper(s)/examination or ban him/her for a few years from taking examination. But the examiners usually avoid so for three reasons: One, to avoid the lengthy paperwork required to prepare a tenable unfair-means case; two, this can ruin the victim’s future beyond repair; and three, students often react violently at UFM cases and even fire at the staff. Recently, a local BISE’s controller of examinations narrowly escaped an attempt on his life.

Some invigilators also pointed out that, if students resort to hooliganism anywhere for strictness of the invigilating staff and any untoward incident happens as a result, it is the examiners who are accused of not knowing/using the tactics to avoid such incidents. What this practically means is clear: allow the cheaters if stopping them can create problems.

How to tackle the problem

All the stake-holders in the examination system- students, their parents, teachers, schools and BISEs, who are responsible, though in varying degrees, for rampant malpractices, will have to make concerted/joint efforts to stop or minimise this scourge.

It requires three-pronged strategies to guard against cheating in examination: before, during and after the examination.

Teachers and students need to fully commit themselves to teaching/learning process. Students should revise the work at homes. Schools with hostel facility usually show better performance.

Competitive environment in classes and a proper mechanism for guidance and counselling of the students are also needed in schools.

To improve teaching at schools, a system of reward and punishment for teachers should be introduced in schools. The performance report of all teachers for this purpose should be prepared on quarterly basis by the departmental inspection teams from lower classes, rather than on annual basis and at Matric or intermediate levels as these days.

Increase in remuneration and daily allowances of the staff and then appointment of honest invigilators should be ensured. This can be easily done by computerising the record and the process of invigilation staff selection. The education department should forward the lists.

Teachers’ unions should not be allowed to interfere in the examination. Ruling political parties will have to take initiative by disowning their political wings in teachers and let the board administrators decide things on merit.

Interference by outsiders can be prevented by enough strength of police personnel and daily visits of resident inspectors to the examination centre. Moreover, fully enclosed examination halls could also help overcome the problem.

Through awareness campaigns on print and electronic media and through functions and lectures by social, political and religious celebrities, people should be convinced of the repercussions of the unfair-means for the students’ careers. Obviously, when children know that their parents can go to any limit to get them pass, why would they work hard after that?

“Malpractices in the examinations could be minimised by reducing the weightage of external examination. The present complete dependence on the external examination in total disregard of the internal examination for the final result of the students is flawed. A comprehensive testing system which takes into account the results shown by the students in both the internal examination conducted by his institution and external one by BISEs besides taking other aspects of his performance and character, apart from the written one, will greatly minimise corruption in the examination,” adds the educationist.

(tahir_katlang@yahoo.com)

 

Advertisements

About Tahir Ali Khan
I am an academic, freelance columnist, writer and a social worker.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: