Editorial : Victims of a rat race....

April 3, 2018, 3:15 pm
By  : Ananya S Guha
There cannot be toying with education. The fate of 3 million children seemed to be hanging after the CBSE question papers leakages. Though there have been leakages in the past, there have been a recent spate of leakage of question papers for ALL INDIA recruitment exams as well. Where exactly are the sources of such a leakage is the paramount question. And moreover they point towards a heady corruptibility among the echelons. The fact that two teachers and a private tutor were arrested may not answer all the questions. Again, the Jharkhand connection mentioned in the news has not been established. Doing away with preparing three sets of question papers and having only one seems also to have dubious implications. The question is now will the papers be printed again. Or, as some have suggested they will be sent online after computer print outs? Is that also safe and protected? Moreover computer connectivity can be disruptive and fail, specially to schools in rural and interior areas. Many say it is a systemic failure. It is not. The existing system has been continuing: print the papers and send them, in a high level of confidentiality. The point is that the trust has been broken leading to a glaring breach of confidentiality. Many of the panel discussions on television focused on revamping the examination system. That is not the point of debate. The point is corruptibility and corruption. Many 
 complained of cheating. The children have not cheated, those three teachers did, by opening the packets ahead of time and circulating them on the internet. So much for the use of technology in education. Yes parenting is a relevant point here because the parents themselves played stellar roles in buying the question papers.
The moral then seems to be: performing well in examinations at any cost. Peer pressure, pressure on parents seem to take the toll. For what? For admission to prestigious institutions say some. But for class ten examinations you can remain in the same school, which many do. 
Let us not bring affordability into higher education in this discussion. The focal point is corruption and tainting a sacrosanct process, that of examinations. It is not money also, because the papers were sold for a few thousands of rupees. It is the culpability, the treachery and the palpable dishonesty which have taken precedence over commitment to a cause, that is education;  to help a few perhaps known people.
Many other questions arise. Why were not safety measures taken? However look at how ' safety ' was annihilated. Two teachers took it on themselves to open the packets forty minutes early, flagellating all rules in the most gruesome manner. What were the authorities of the school doing ? Were they in cahoots with the teachers? 
Immediate action of course would be to sack the teachers. What will the future action be? Can we revert to the zonal setting of question papers? Can we think of online examinations in schools? Once again the systemic part comes in. Or are we then looking at an overhauling of the education system, because of the fear of recurrent leakages? 
That brings us to the role of tutorial homes. Why do we need parallel institutions, the school and the tutorial home? Often the same set of teachers move between the two. Such duplication has caused irreparable harm and put innocent children in the rat race for marks and suicidal habits. 
Education is for learning, lifelong. Many students do well later in life  given the aptitude for the disciplines they choose. Education at school does not test or even tries to  test   such aptitudes. In the process, with this fierce illogical competition for marks the love for learning, that it is a treasure box of surprises is totally lost. Parents compete in this rat race calling other parents rats. The learning environment in a classroom supposed to be pleasurable becomes a torture for some ' weak ' students. 
True, action will be taken against the perpetrators. Action will be taken against negligence. But what,  will be done to assuage the feelings of children and parents, who feel cheated, what will be done to regain the authenticity of the examination  system , which as it  is,  suffers from writing from rote and memory? Question setting is an onerous responsibility, but question stealing is a criminal act. When the Bihar incident was shown a couple of years back on television everyone laughed and mocked Bihar and Biharis. Now it is happening in the heart of the country. Educationists must bow their heads in shame and say sorry to the students. Say it is a big shame, a slur on our community, instead of mouthing platitudinous hogwash on  rigmaroles like '' Teacher's Day''. 
In conclusion we can have no right to education until and unless the classroom is not vitiated by tension and false sense of competition. And the lesser parents intervene;  as if they redoing their studies, the better.
( The author is Regional Director, Indira Gandhi National Open University Shillong, a poet and a writer. He is also  the Honorary Editor of South Asia Views).

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