CBSE paper leak: Online exams, end-to-end monitoring, decentralised printing process may check menace
There should be strict monitoring of the entire process from paper setting, printing, storage and distribution.
The question paper leaks have become a recurring phenomenon in the country having catastrophic consequences for the education system especially showing a deleterious impact on student community. But, the authorities close the issue only with firefighting measures and shady investigation often not leading to any serious action. This only perpetuates the system to generate more leaks. The problem is only a symptomatic of a larger malaise requiring comprehensive measures to plug the leaks.
The emphasis should, therefore, be on the systemic measures needed rather than pandering to the emotions which can be understood.
Such recurring leaks erode the credibility of the examination system stifling competitive spirit among students. It thus leads to mortality of merit which is already endangered at the marketplace of education.
The education mafia created by this ever-expanding education market is at the root of the problem. The spiralling coaching industry has commoditised education beyond a point. The obsession with marks in our education system has come in handy for this coaching industry which turns the students into 'markists' rather than critically thinking individuals. The overemphasis on marks make the parents, students and the education market to get the marks by hook or crook. Thus, the malpractices are a result of an unprecedented emphasis on marks in our examination centred, classroom specific and syllabi confined education system.
But, such larger educational reforms take a long time and the students perturbed by frequent question paper leaks need certain immediate measures to stem the menace.
The confidentiality of the examination process is critical to prevent leaks. There should be strict monitoring of the entire process from paper setting, printing, storage and distribution. Technology can help a lot in this regard.
The papers should be printed at highly confidential and undisclosed locations which should be changed every year so that the education mafia would not get access to this vital information by corrupting concerned officials. Even the officials entrusted with the responsibility should also be changed to avoid their vulnerability to the machinations of the mafia.
Multiple sets of question papers should be set and the choice of the question paper should be taken at highest levels, if possible at the last moment to prevent this highly confidential information.
The printing and storage centres and channels of their distribution should be properly guarded.
The printing process can be decentralised if the question papers are printed at the last moment. This would avoid problems in transportation.
Innovative solutions to the recurring problem should be evolved using technology. For instance, a bank of questions can be prepared and the data may be posted to a secured data source with proper cybersecurity measures. The question paper can be prepared by selecting questions from the question bank and delivered to the examination centres in the encrypted form. Highly confidential top officials should be provided with decryption rules just before the examination. The online delivery of question paper and decentralised printing at the centre or nearer to the centre with fixing of accountability would significantly cut down the time and stages in logistics. Such a method of cutting down transaction time can reduce the risk of a leak. Mafia getting access to this vital information as the risk of leakage compounds with every step of the process.
Online examinations can prevent malpractices to a great extent. In fact, multiple question papers for the students writing examinations at different dates will further reduce the possibility of leakage. However, effective moderation system should be put in place to judge the competitive performance of students. But, such online examination is possible when the number of students is limited. It may be difficult with CBSE or state board examinations where lakhs of students appear. However, online examinations are most suited for objective type tests whereas academic examination questions are in descriptive formats.
The examinations often test the information levels of students where memory matters. This results in a desire to get access to the questions prior to the examination. Instead, the question papers should be designed in such a manner that they test the latent creative talent in the child. Instead of a yearend examination to assess the knowledge acquired throughout the year, the pattern of having tests throughout the year and a cumulative score or a sum of the best scores can be taken to arrive at the final score of the child. An effective investigation into the cases of paper leaks is necessary to award deterrent punishment. Besides, such investigation could be helpful in throwing light on the nexus, the syndicates that promote this crime and the modus operandi adopted by the leak syndicates. This will lead to constructive measures to diffuse such syndicates and plug the loopholes in the system based on the understanding of the modus operandi adopted by these criminals.