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.