How to turn around from 2017 leaks

Imam Hossain | Update:

Students sit for a public examination. Prothom Alo File PhotoOften seen in higher level exams as well as admission and recruitment tests in recent years, examination papers of even the most junior levels in school have been leaked in the year 2017.

From class I to recruitment tests -- Junior School Certificate (JSC), Secondary School Certificate (SSC), Higher Secondary Certificate (HSC), university admission and recruitment exams -- all such exams had been plagued by question paper leaks throughout the year.

Though all concerned quarters are sick of repeated question paper leaks, a remedy to the situation remains elusive till date.

Education minister Nurul Islam Nahid himself apparently expressed his helplessness in checking the leaks, and he held a section of teachers responsible for this.

Against this backdrop, a holistic change in the education sector including the pattern of exams and pay for teachers has been recommended.

Only on 30 December, the education minister said, a question paper gets leaked on the exam day morning when it is handed over to the teachers.

On 17 December, he said, “It doesn't matter even whether we print questions half an hour early as it's the teachers who leak the questions.”

However, educationists think otherwise.

'The blame game, like holding teachers responsible for question script leak, won't work. It's a major malady and requires a long-term medication,'' said professor Syed Manzoorul Islam.

“We can blame our teachers all day long for question paper leaks. But we have to remember a trained school headmaster gets only Tk 14,000 as salary,” he argued.

The crisis is not created in a single day, rather it has evolved slowly in the society, in every strata of the education sector, Manzoorul Islam said adding that it requires a long-term policy to get a remedy.

Allegations of question paper leak have been a common phenomenon for the past few years.

Many students and guardians said the questions of public examinations including JSC, SSC, and HSC were available on Facebook and messaging applications like Viber and WhatsApp just before the exams.

A former student of Holy Cross College in Dhaka city, who failed to get GPA-5 in HSC but secured a seat in Dhaka University's management studies department, told Prothom Alo that almost all question papers of HSC were leaked this year.

''I came to know some students were always busy around one hour before the exams. On several occasions, I could come across the question papers. They were mainly MCQs (multiple choice questions) and pictures of actual exam scripts, not hand-written. I understood everything later,'' she added.

Prothom Alo File Photo of a leaked question.The police arrested at least 71 people on charges of being involved with question paper leak this year.

Of them, 36 were arrested allegedly for leaking question papers of public universities while the rest were held for job recruitment and public exams.

The question papers of class-I and IV were allegedly leaked in Barguna on 12 December, prompting the authorities to postpone exams in 248 primary schools.

University entry and job recruitment tests were also marred this year by question paper leak allegations.

Dhaka University’s D Unit entry test was held on 20 October. But, a few hours before the test, the questions were reportedly circulated online.

Similar allegations were also brought by examinees over the Jagannath University and Islamic University admission tests this year.

DU authorities initially ruled out allegations of question script leak. But, law enforcers arrested 23 people, including an employee of a press that prints DU question papers, a government official and several university students in connection with the question paper leak.

Meanwhile, authorities cancelled a number of recruitment tests after their question papers were leaked.

On 7 October, the Public Service Commission cancelled a test a day after holding it to recruit senior staff nurse over similar allegations.

Agrani Bank cancelled a test for appointing senior officers scheduled for 19 May over allegations of question leak.

The Anti-corruption Commission (ACC) presented a total of 40 recommendations as measures of question paper leak.

Educationist Syed Manzoorul Islam, however, said organisations like ACC cannot thwart corruption or question paper leak if teachers are not paid respectable salaries.

''We have to invest in the education system. At least 25 per cent of our annual budget or six per cent of GDP should be spent in education. And this should start from our primary schools where an assistant headmaster gets only Tk 11,000 as salary, equal to the salary of a car driver,'' he said. 

The government initiated public exams like PEC and JSC to satisfy a syndicate of coaching centres and guide book businessmen, he said.

“Teachers are teaching students in coaching centres or in batches. If they are paid respectable salaries and other facilities, we can expect them to teach in the classrooms. If they don’t do so, we can take action against them,’’ he said.

“But banning coaching centres is not a solution. These institutions will remain in one form or another as teachers are not teaching wholeheartedly in the classrooms,” he added. 

Professor Syed Manzoorul Islam thinks students are now burdened with the pressure of so many exams and experiments by the education ministry.

“Nowhere does the Education Policy-2010  mention the existence of PEC and JSC. These exams are creating an environment favourable for question paper leak. Besides, students are becoming victims of too many experiments by the education ministry,” he told Prothom Alo.

According to professor Syed Manzoorul Islam, politicising in education sector is also linked to question paper leaks.

''Politicisation in every branch of education administration including school management committees is increasing corruption, propelling the crisis of question paper leak,'' he said.

Asked whether he sees any sign of solution for question paper leak, educationist Syed Manzoorul Islam said the question paper leak crisis would be acute in the future as the government does not seem to have any approach to resolve this crisis holistically.

Education minister Nurul Islam Nahid, however, said they have brought massive changes in the BG Press so that questions cannot get leaked in any way.

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