The ongoing Higher Secondary Certificate (HSC) and School Secondary Certificate (SSC) examinations, which began just a couple of weeks ago, have as usual been tainted with cases of malpractices, paper leaks, wrong questions this year as well.
While the Board claims that the measures to curb malpractices are all in place, experts feel that there is a need to evolve these with time.
Change in evaluation pattern
Vasant Kalpande, former chairman, Maharashtra State Board of Secondary and Higher Secondary Education, stated that teaching and evaluation methods need to be evolved in such a way that students will not be able to indulge in malpractices. Learning should also be in such a manner that students don’t find the need to copy at all, he
Adding to that, Basanti Roy, former Mumbai divisional secretary, Maharashtra state board, said, “The Board is presently developing a more application-based question paper format where it would be difficult for the students to copy at all. Even if the students have carried copies of the textbooks, the questions will be such that they cannot be copy-pasted into the answer sheet. The language papers have already been changed into this format, and from the coming academic year, we will also change the other subjects into this application-based format.” Roy also added that the new syllabus textbooks are also designed in such a way that they will promoteapplication-based learning.
Errors in question papers
Till now, while the Board has already decided to award seven bonus marks to the Std XII students for errors in Chemistry paper, the mistake was also found in a one-mark MCQ in SSC Science and Technology Paper I.
“The Board never learns from its mistakes,” said educationist Vivek Velankar. “We have had the same issues over and over again. And yet, after so many years, we are still not able to find a concrete solution. We have mistakes in at least a couple of question papers every year, but the Board never takes this seriously, as they feel that they can simply get away by awarding bonus marks to the students. Those who set the paper are never held accountable for their mistakes,”
The Board rules also state that even for the smallest of the error in question papers, the students can challenge the Board in the High Court. Hence, instead of thinking too much about improving the question papers, the Board prefers awarding the students with bonus marks, even if the question is found to be slightly doubtful by the students.
Experts also feel that although the problems are the same, each year, a new set of students experience them. Hence, their seriousness remains the same.
Use of technology
This year, the first paper of HSC examination, English, was reported to have been leaked on WhatsApp within one hour of the beginning of examination. While the Board denied the occurrence of the leak, there was a probe into the matter.
For the past couple of years, technology and social media have been observed to be used extensively by the students for cheating. Question papers are being leaked on WhatsApp, the students are carrying photos of notes on the cell phones and so on.
Experts stated that in order to beat the new methods evolved by the students for cheating, there is a need for the Board as well to use technology extensively. “We see the students using mobile phones and Internet to copy. But do we see the use of CCTV cameras in order to supervise the classes more strictly? No! We can at least do this at the centres that are very sensitive. If the students can use the technology so effectively for bad practices, why can’t we use it the other way round?,” Velankar questioned.
Kalpande said that though this misuse of technology is concerning, it shouldn’t be seen as too dangerous.
“Everything evolves, and so would be the methods of cheating. But I agree that even the Board has to keep up with these changes and implement the correct measures. It’s impossible to achieve a 100 per cent malpractice-free Board examination. But the Board can certainly try to be more vigilante to catch hold of what’s wrong,” he stated.
“Copying is more prominent in the rural areas than in cities,” said Roy.
“Usually rural students have Board examination centres in the same school where they study. Hence, the students find it much easier to copy in their own schools. In some cases, the school teachers who were the invigilators at the centres were found to be a part of the malpractices, in a bid to help a maximum of their students pass examinations. The State Board has also implemented measures to beat this. We have sudden visits by Flying Squads, and they also wait throughout the duration at many centres to ensure a malpractice-free exam,” Roy said.
This rarely happens in the cities as the students almost never get their own school as centres, or their friends at the same centre as theirs.
The barcoding system on answer sheets, strict entry timings for the Board exams are some of the measures already implemented by the Board that have helped drop the number of copy cases to a large extent in the State, said Roy.
The only way the Board can curb malpractice and mistakes in the examinations is by staying up-to-date with the technology. Though it’s difficult to eradicate the issues of Board examinations totally, continuous evolution and improvisation is the way ahead. The long-awaited change in the evaluation pattern can also play a significant part in bringing about the change in the exam coordination.