As a result of obvious cheating on school exams, over 300 people, the majority of whom were parents, have been arrested in the Indian state of Bihar and 750 students were expelled.
Photos of the cheating were published in the Hindustan Times, showing a large number of men scaling the walls of a test center, hanging on window ledges and passing answers to the students inside. Others folded the answers into paper airplanes and flew them into the windows of the building. Video footage of the event has since been released.
Hundreds of students inside the testing centers were caught cheating with textbooks or answer sheets given by teachers and state education department officials who were supervising the exams.
While cheating is a common practice among certain areas of India where job positions and spaces within colleges are scarce, the idea of scaling the walls of a building is something that comes as a shock to many.
According to education experts, the act of cheating is revealing of a number of underlying issues, including teacher absenteeism, an emphasis on rote learning, and inadequate school infrastructure. Each of these issues is prevalent throughout India’s education system, reports Rama Lakshmi for The Washington Post.
The Pratham Education Foundation recently released a study that found only 48% of 5th-graders could read at a second-grade level.
“According to the reports we received, there have been complaints about cheating in many places, especially in rural areas,” P.K. Sahi, education minister of Bihar, told reporters on Thursday. “Is this just the responsibility of the government? Is it possible for the government to conduct fair tests without public support? You tell us what can the government do to stop cheating if parents and relatives are not ready to cooperate?”
The exams, carried out by the Bihar School Examination Board, are considered to be “make-or-break” tests that have the ability to give opportunity to the millions of children who grow up surrounded by poverty.
“Should we shoot them?” asked Prashant Kumar Shahi, Bihar’s education minister, who addressed the media after news of the scandal broke. “It’s virtually impossible to conduct fair examinations without the cooperation of parents,” he said.
While police were stationed at all schools conducting the exams, “we cannot use force to drive away the parents,” said Shahi.
Due to the anti-cheating laws in the state, over 700 students have been expelled and parents have been placed in jail as a result of their actions. A number of police officers were also arrested after having been accused of taking money to allow the parents to help their children cheat. The law states that students caught cheating could be banned from participating in the exam for three years, ordered to pay a fine, or even receive jail time.
A large number of students in the country end up dropping out of school after failing the standardized exams taken in the 10th and 12th grades.
The exams have been taken by over 1.4 million students in 1,217 examination centers last week.
Testing was cancelled at four of the testing centers after state education officials received word of the widespread cheating.