For every student appearing in the CBSE board exams, mathematics and economics are literally the final frontiers. Throughout the year, these two subjects keep students under tremendous pressure and stress, leading to hard work and late nights. So, it is criminal of the CBSE to callously announce a re-test because of its own failure to prevent leak of papers before the Class 10 and 12 exams. It negates a year’s sweat and toil. It shatters the dreams and faith of thousands of children.
There is nothing crueller than betraying the faith of children, making them pay for the follies of others. The observant may have noticed the impact of the CBSE decision in their own neighbourhood. Just a few days ago, playgrounds and streets were buzzing with kids who had ventured out of closed doors after a long hiatus, relieved that the final hurdle had been crossed. But, since the CBSE announced a re-test, they have gone back to the grinding schedule of tuitions and late nights.
It can be argued that for the sake of parity, the CBSE had no option but to announce a re-test. In a competitive environment where students lose out on career options because of a decimal point, allowing cheaters the benefit of scoring more from leaked papers would have been unfair. But, how fair is it to line up every student for re-examination to catch a few culprits?
The more pragmatic thing would be to identify where the paper was leaked and how long before the exam. Wherever the cheats enjoyed the advantage of knowing the questions in advance, a complete crackdown should be ordered. Only at these centres should re-tests be ordered.
Students petitioning the government to reconsider the re-test are right. Instead of taking a hasty decision, the CBSE should focus on finding out the beneficiaries of the leak and then punishing them. It should ask investigating agencies to trace the source of the leak and then track its beneficiaries. If all this takes some time, so be it. Justice could be delayed, but it should not be replaced by injustice to all.
How difficult would it be to track the source and the beneficiaries? If the government sets about the task in the right earnest, it would not take too long to identify the thugs and their clients. It is apparent there is an entire leak factory in operation. The way papers of both Class 10 and 12 were leaked suggests it was not a random accident.
There is an organised network comprising people related to setting, printing and safe-keeping of paper behind it. They are being aided by touts who sell them for money. The other culprits could be schools and coaching institutes who compete for better results to snare more and more students. All of them need to be identified and punished.
Students who have cheated should not be spared either. If they have paid exorbitant amounts for buying papers, it is unlikely their parents are not complicit. For participating in this organised cheating, they should be penalised too, not just through a re-test but perhaps also a year’s ban.
What should be worrying for all of us is that the system of exams is failing with alarming alacrity and nothing is being done to stem the rot. When the Vyapam scam in Madhya Pradesh made headlines because of its scale and collusion of the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government’s premier institution, it should have set in motion measures to ensure such incidents are not repeated.
Playing with the future and dreams of the country’s youth is the vilest thing possible. The spate of suicides by students because of the Vyapam scam should have alerted the government to the menace of leaks, cheating and manipulation. But, nothing seems to have been done.
It is common knowledge that money and clout play a big role in selections for jobs, even for that of a peon in India. At every level, the process is subverted by corrupt government staff and their touts. Selection committees are packed with sycophants and political appointees who use the opportunity to mint money and dole out favours.
That this rot has now entered the very foundation of our education system — Class 10 and 12 exams — is calamitous. If urgent steps are not taken, it will establish a culture of cheating and short-cuts among children, thus corrupting the soul of India. When children lose hope, believe that an unjust system can be countered not through hard work and honesty but only through cheating, a country is doomed.
The government needs to treat the current crisis in the examination system as an emergency. Culprits need to be identified, responsibilities need to be fixed, and heads need to roll. At every level, without favour. Our children deserve to live in an honest and just country where everyone who is willing to work hard gets rewarded, not punished.