April 3, 2007

Coping with copying in exams

Karnataka education minister Basavaraj Horatti has decreed that SSLC candidates found copying would now be debarred for three years, instead of a year or two as was done earlier. This is a deterrent insofar as the students planning on copying in exams would now think thrice (not just twice) before taking the plunge, besides upgrading their anti-detection skills. It has been established that copiers are usually smarter than exam invigilators.

The (mal)practice has now become a joint enterprise involving students and unscrupulous teachers. Recently it was reported that 52 Bangalore SSLC candidates had their answer papers replaced with ghost-written ones, in as many as five subjects - Kannada, English, Hindi, Math and science. That they managed to get this far before detection speaks of lapses in the system. We’re dealing here with a candidate-examiner collaboration on an organized scale. Three school headmasters are reported to be in custody and six others face criminal charges.

Debarring candidates – whether for two or three years – makes sense only for those who are found out. But then candidates who are determined to copy and the teachers willing to accommodate them abide by the 11th Commandment – ‘Thou Shall Not Be Caught’. So long as we press on with the current exams system, copying wouldn’t go away. The only way to fight the menace is, perhaps, by reinventing an exam system in which copying would be pointless. Open-book exams may well hold the key. Would it work in all exams?

Educators and policy-makers ought to think of devising a system in which students are tested, not so much for what they know on a given issue or subject, but for their knowledge on where they could find relevant information. In the age of information overload propensity to identify right sources, presenting relevent information in context, and doing it all within a specified time assume importance. Info is free; packaging it in answer papers takes intelligence and gets the grades.

Here is a thought, how about an Internet-driven exam system? In which candidates (with laptops in ‘hotspot’ exam centres) could browse the Net to get answers.On test would be their presentation skills and propensity to identify sources tap-able for answers. Candidates would be required to list their sources for the benefit of examiners. I know this system would not be compatible with all SSLC subjects. Math is one I can think of, where an open-book approach wouldn’t work.


parvathivattam said...

Sir, i fully agree with you regarding the loopholes in the existing examination systems. My daughter faced the SSLC exams recently. JUst imagine the plight of the students who have burned mid night oil for a full week and beside them if they notice someone copying their answers how bad they feel??? Surely, they feel desparate and lose concentration to recollect what they had studied. This experience was faced not onlyby my daughter but also many of her friends. Fortunately or unfortunately 2 students and a teacher were debarred on the English exam thus filling some ray of hope tothe students who really toil the whole year to get good marks.

Anonymous said...

hello gvk sir,
first time here. came via anand balaji's blog. loved your site. will visit here regularly.

i have always hated exams. leave alone writing, i felt bored to even copy.

but i loved the open book tests. btw, a friend's friend's father was a teacher in a village. very basic fascilities were also not there in the school. had to forcibly bring and make kids sit in the class. in order to keep the school running, certain number of kids had to be passed. and seeing the answer sheets, the teacher knew none would pass. but it seems a colleague adviced him: Shamu, simply blindfold your eyes and give marks.
sometimes it seems the teacher himself used to fill up the answers.


sir, you have been blogrolled.

Lakshmi Bharadwaj said...

I agree with this too. Learning is not only about writing exams. There are many dimensions to it. My tenth ICSE was especially tough and we were forced to work very hard for it. We toil so much, but others sometimes simply 'copy' and pass with flying colours. Today's students are pretty smart. We know stuff like invisible ink, effective ways to hide some notes, etc. But if something like knowledge of a person can be tested without writing a paper, that would be simply wonderful. I think the government needs to think about it.