Government officials have ordered fourteen students who scored top marks on their final exams in India's Bihar state to be retested amid concerns of cheating.
The decision to retest the students was made after one of the students told a local media outlet that political science was about cooking. Another student, who scored high marks on her science examination, said the most reactive element in the periodic table was aluminum.
These comments, because they are so patently erroneous, have raised suspicions that the students could not have scored such high marks without assistance.
According to the BBC, last year, in an image that went viral, parents of students in India's Bihar state were photographed climbing school walls to pass on answers. The state government responded by imposing tough anti-cheating measures like fines and jail terms. Chiara Palazzo of The Telegraph notes that one of the more outlandish tactics to curb cheating was making 1,000 students take exams in their underwear in a field.
Evidently, the lower rate of passing students announced last week was seen as an indication of the anti-cheating measures' effectiveness. Only 45% of students passed their exams this year, whereas 75% passed last year.
Footage of the student linking political science with cooking was released, however, and raised new concerns about academic dishonesty in the Bihar state. The fourteen students who excelled in the examinations will have to take a written test and appear before a panel of subject experts on June 3 in order to pass their examinations. Their handwriting will also be scrutinized to verify that they answered their own questions.
Despite these students, education officials report being satisfied with the progress they have seen. "I agree that there has been some lapse. But you can't raise questions over the whole examination system due to a couple of such cases," said Ashok Choudhury, Bihar's education minister. He also announced a government probe would investigate the issue further.
According to The Hindu Times, the education minister alluded to a possible existence of an education mafia that manipulates students' exam results from within the system. Despite progress, education officials are still trying to rebuild their public image after the cheating videos of parents climbing over fences embraced them last year. Any educator, administrator, or student found culpable of abetting cheating will face stiff repercussions.
Generally, cheating is rampant in India's education system compared to the Western world. Students, feeling pressure from their parents, want to achieve high grades in order to be eligible for highly-sought government jobs. The impoverished state of Bihar, also one of India's most populous regions, is notorious for academic dishonesty.
The general secretary of Bihar Secondary Teacher's Association, Kedar Pandey, urged officials to look into the matter. "The toppers have come under the scanner over a glaring disconnect between the marks they scored and the knowledge they demonstrated," he said. "There seems to be a serious administrative lapse. We have been demanding the board make a list of qualified evaluators, but they try to do things in a hurry using just about anybody."