Question Leak and Cheating in High-Stake Examinations | 2018-02-14 |

Question Leak and Cheating in High-Stake Examinations

Ranjit Podder

    13th February, 2018 10:41:45 printer

Question Leak and Cheating in High-Stake Examinations

Morality of some people has degraded so much that they feel happy and proud to perform unethical activities in front of others. Showing disregard to the laws of the country or expectations of the state is a kind of heroism to many people of the country. Some parents and senior members of the society inspire the juniors, directly and indirectly, to engage in the immoral and criminal activities. Like other areas of the society, academic dishonesty has also reached its peak. Those wrong doers go so far that they boast of being able to commit the criminal act in public; they are happy to show others ‘how powerful we are!’ When the state of values and morality is deplorable in the field of education, it becomes a matter of concern for a nation because education forms the character of a nation. When parents, teachers, and others look for opportunities to get question papers illegally and provide those highly confidential materials to examinees beforehand, the society has started to rot much ago, no doubt. The most dangerous thing is that, if education sector is corrupted, no other area is safe! Although some may claim that, if all the parts of a society are corrupted, education cannot remain far from it.

The Secondary School Certificate (SSC) and Higher Secondary Certificate (HSC) examinations are important for the secondary students as these are high-stake examinations. A high-stake examination is a test with important consequences for the test takers such as getting admission opportunities in the next level; getting a scholarship or getting a licence for a profession, etc. As these examinations are so important, students, teachers and the guardians become serious to ensure better grades in these two examinations. Sometimes they cross the limit of morality for better grades; they want better grades any way even at the cost of their honesty and social honour. They compete to be better students instead of trying to be better human beings with improved morality. Our guardians as well as the education system hanker after good grades or results instead of making our younger generation better human beings. It is easier to achieve good grades or results but difficult to achieve humanity which should be the chief aim of education. We will have to decide, if we want better students i.e. better results of the students devoid of human qualities or better people with humanism. It can be said for sure, education which does not promote honesty, humility, humanity, patriotism, love for others, and public welfare is not education at all. Education is not only about reading many books, memorising, being able to solve problems, and achieving better grades, it is all about culturing and improving humanity throughout life. Our morality has so much downgraded that a good number of the guardians likes and appreciates those teachers who leak out questions, help students in cheating, and tell the answers in the examination halls. We call those workforce good operatives who receive bribe and push the files forward promptly.

My experiences show that, for the last few years, tests (question papers) are said to have leaked out almost every year. This question leakage brings dishonour for everyone involved in the education sector. Although some students apparently benefit from the leakage, the majority of the students and the guardians hate it; they whole-heartedly want to get rid of the menace. Academic misconduct has reached such a height that many teachers do not serve the institutions properly; some Head Teachers and the Assistant Head Teachers, and some Principals and the Vice Principals do not invest much time for their institutions. How will the organisations run better? When we give assignment to our students, some complete it properly and others just copy and paste! We see the sign boards in some photocopy shops near our colleges and universities ‘Assignments and theses are available here!’ And these sign boards are seen hanging in the same shops for years and years. Who is responsible to take drastic action against these anti-education elements?

Sorry, the purpose of today’s writing is not providing lessons on morality; it is about providing some alternative strategies for assessment which may diminish the tests leakage initiatives of the dishonest people. All or some of the following alternatives may help get rid of the current suffocating situation in the field of education. We can stop the open competition for grades between and among students and educational institutions; more importance can be attached to continuous assessment and less importance to summative assessment; and cumulative assessment system can be introduced.

Competition for grades is a bad idea which discourages proper learning. Added importance to grades rather than skills and values is spoiling our learners. Why should the educational institutions or education boards inform others what grades I have achieved? Is it not sometimes insulting for a learner to disclose that they were awarded lower grades? Why do friends want to know my grades? Does my grade reflect what I can do in day to day life or what kind of a man I am? New Zealand schools do not hang the results in the school notice boards; they directly send the card to the students and their guardians. Classmates also do not show that much interest to know what grades their friends have achieved. However, they take part in the activities whole-heartedly; submit the assignment in time; get plagiarism or intellectual theft checked in ‘Turnitin’ software; parents are invited to schools to talk about the strengths, weaknesses, and achievements of the learners. Additionally, teacher, parents, and the learner sit together to set future goals; what he/she would achieve in next six months, etc. We can consider this system in our educational institutions too. Competition and greed for better grades may be reduced if this is practiced here in Bangladesh educational institutions.

Continuous assessment in the educational institutions can be of great use to ease the current situation in the field of education. Instead of holding year or course final examinations the way we are doing now, we can allot 80% marks for internal assessment by the educational institutions. More practical activities can be considered for assessment. And there could be 20% marks reserved for comprehensive examinations. This comprehensive examination can be organized at the end of a year or a term to check whether the learners have studied the whole syllabus or not. In this comprehensive examination, 20 short-answer questions can be set from every subject and paper and students may be allowed to bring the textbooks in the examination halls; textbooks can be allowed as it would be difficult for the students to find answers from the textbooks in the fixed examination time. It is worth mentioning that our new curriculum - 2012 allotted 20% marks for continuous assessment (CA) where teachers are supposed to assess students’ learning through class tests, different class work, and homework. Teachers can give assignment that students would complete at home and submit it to the subject teachers for evaluation. Additionally, the new curriculum has provision to consider students’ other performances such as music, sports, behaviour, etc. in the progress report. This is a good idea to consider students’ overall growth, intellectual, moral, and social in the progress report and in the Marks Certificates. In order to avoid long time external examinations, students can be assessed internally through keeping a learning log; recording students’ learning and behavioural traits throughout their schooling; informal assessment inside and outside the classrooms; and so on in addition to other strategies mentioned. Continuous assessment is better as teachers of a school or a college know their students better than teachers in other institutions and so they can judge them more flawlessly. The educational institutions can keep on uploading the results of every examination in the education board’s website and the results in CA; other activity assessment in the educational institutions; and the comprehensive examination results all together can determine a student’s grade. If CA is introduced, every test, examination, or practical activity is final examination.

The idea of value added assessment system can be the other alternative to the current examination system. Marks or grades of all internal and external tests and examinations can be cumulated to determine the final grades or results of students. There may be a question that teachers may be bias towards some students.

The rate and the amount of partiality is expected to be minimized if marks or grades obtained from class six to 10 are averaged since bias is always two-way, positive and negative. If every year’s results are recorded and uploaded to the education boards’ websites, it would also show how much value the teachers have been able to add to the academic and other growth of the learners. If the records of all classes can be preserved, the education authority can provide required interventions to the teachers, schools and colleges. Additionally, if the SSC certificate contains the previous important activities good or bad, the young generation may feel a kind of obligation to avoid practising vices. In the similar way, the results of HSC examinations can also be calculated adding the results of the SSC, CA in eleven and twelve classes, and other tests and examinations organized during the session. If any of the second thoughts or combination of the said ideas can be implemented, number of class-days can also be increased.

It is high time the education authority took necessary steps to stop immoral practices in education sector. We will have to remember that impact of activities in education is not tangible immediately but the effect, good or bad, is visible after some ten/twenty years. If the competition between students and institutions for grades can be minimised; CA can be attached more importance in the education system; and if the value added or cumulative assessment system can be introduced, it is hoped that the infamous situation regarding question leakage can be minimised if not eliminated. If this system of adding internal marks can be introduced, we can get rid of the exam-related crisis that we have to come across every year. The way our education is running, negative impact of this is a must in near future. When young learners go through illegal, illogical, immoral processes and practices sometimes forcibly imposed on them, they may be habituated to behave in the similar way in future. Therefore, for the greater interest of the nation, we should devise a way where students will not have to engage in immoral and irrational activities. If CA and alternative assessment strategies are employed, cheating in examinations is expected to be minimized to a great extent.


The writer is Associate Professor, currently posted at Govt. Teachers’ Training College in Dhaka. He can be reached at email: