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Posted at: Mar 11, 2018, 1:18 AM; last updated: Mar 11, 2018, 1:24 AM (IST)

Right to cheating!

Manmeet Singh Gill
Punjab’s Tarn Taran emerges as the most cheating-friendly district in the state. There are various reasons; one is weak teacher strength in govt schools and a corrupt system
Manmeet Singh Gill in Tarn Taran 

The Punjab School Education Board’s first exam was on Feb 28. Of all the districts in state, Punjab secretary education, Krishan Kumar, chose to remain present in Tarn Taran. His mission: check mass copying. The senior IAS officer faced sloganeering by parents of students at Khemkaran girls school. The parents virtually took over the centre and forced invigilators out to help their wards copy in English language exam, the most dreaded subject for rural students. 

The parents had a straight explanation: that the government did not provide teachers. So, there is no point in preventing copying. For government file-holder officials, this sounded as if the students had a right to cheating! 

On March 7 hundreds of students didn’t appear in the physics exam. Reason: the education department has changed 20 exam centers and shuffled their superintendents and other staff. The procedure to cancel affiliation of six private schools has also begun. Also, the department has ordered reexamination of English language subject for 3,257 students of eight schools. 

Insiders in the education department say that for years, certain schools have offered a deal of a guaranteed 80% marks for a certain amount of money. In some cases, these schools have charged Rs 80,000 this year, confirmed a senior education department official. There were hints of cancellation of affiliations ever since the department acted in Valtoha area around a month ago. Yet the ‘education entrepreneurs’ blinded by greed did not bother. 

The schools in the district have acquired the notoriety of being the most cheating-friendly. A distant second in the cheating friendly category is Gurdaspur district. So, students from the nearest Amritsar district and as far as Moga, Mansa, Ferozpur and even Abohar (a good five-hour drive from Tarn Taran) prefer to take exams in Tarn Taran to get higher percentage of marks. Education department officials say those who skipped exams came mainly from outside the district. 

“In the 20 centres, which have been changed so far, most students have submitted almost blank sheets during subsequent exams after English,” says district education officer (secondary) Nirmal Singh Jaitosarja. The shifting of examination centers has affected around 6,800 students. 

Sources in the district administration say there are large-scale violations of rules in all schools. The open schools cannot admit students from outside the district, but this is widely violated. In case of regular schools, large-scale dummy admissions have reportedly been made. 

Patti is a sub-division of Tarn Taran district. The education department has asked Patti’s sub-divisional magistrate Surinder Singh to inquire into cheating and mass copying in the area. He is yet to submit his report. “A thorough investigation is being conducted. No one will be spared,” he said. 

Copying is a ‘necessity’ for academically weak rural students who have to pass somehow and be eligible for Army recruitment. But cheating is equally prevalent among students admitted at costly tuition academies to prepare for medical and engineering competitive exams. A government school teacher with 30-year experience said: “The competitive exams have an objective-type format, while board exams offer a detailed format. Private academies target competitive exams and teach students accordingly. For students studying in such academies, preparing for board exams is a distraction. So, they often take the easy route.” These students take dummy admissions — they don’t attend classes and appear for only board exams at their preferred centers.

Even for students with foreign dreams, an aggregate of 70% marks increases their chances of getting a student visa. This is despite the fact that in 2016, Australia had reportedly rejected applications of students clearing Class 12 through the PSEB. Later the Punjab government had issued a press release and claimed “as per PSEB’s correspondence with education and training department of Australian government, no visas have been denied on such grounds.” 

For students with purely rural background and no big dreams, the absence of adequate number of teachers leads them to cheating. In Tarn Taran, of the total 132 sanctioned posts of science teachers; physics, chemistry, biology and mathematics, 69 (52%) remained vacant for most part of the year. Residents in these areas say the education system in district has almost collapsed, and that petty criminals are being roped in cheating. 

But what worries is the fact that as state returned to normalcy, no serious efforts were being made to set the things right. A testimony to the neglect and apathy is huge shortage of teachers. Even in primary sections, ad hoc and unqualified teachers hired through employment guarantee scheme (EGS), alternative innovative education (AIE) and special trainer (STR) programmes are holding the fort. 


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