As this year’s SLC Examinations neared, the anxiety levels of 16-year-old Dipendra Bhandari soared high. Called the Iron Gate and dubbed the “benchmark” of school-level education, the demands for Bhandari to excel and meet expectations of his teachers and parents in the national board examinations created immense pressures. And being an average student, it made it all the more difficult for him.
Each year, apprehension and pressure mounts among students who appear for SLC exams to such extents that despite the penalty if caught, the fear of failure lures students to dare cheat anyway. In this great gamble, even villages and communities back their local students by participating in supplying answer chits to them, relaying answers via mobile phones, provoking security personnel at examination centers and daring to challenge officials managing the exams.
Ambika Prasad Regmi, Deputy Controller of the Office of the Controller of Examinations (OCE), confirms many cases of cheating in this year’s SLC exams. “There have been cases of fake examinees, filling in for someone else and dozens of examinees have also been expelled on the very first day of SLC exams after they were caught cheating.”
In 2011, 227 students across the country were expelled for cheating. Exams were also cancelled for certain subjects of 421 students.
“But compared to last year, the overall management of the examination has been fairly better,” said Regmi.
If we are to believe him and if the stats post-SLC this year does indicate positive results, the question still remains – Why do students cheat?
“The way the students have been brought up is what determines their behavior in the examination hall,” says Manesh Shrestha, A-Level teacher at Rato Bangla School.
“Students have the wrong notion that since everyone is doing it, cheating is ethical. This gives them the leeway to cheat. And the penalty for cheating is not severe, so the students feel that they can cross the line and can get away with it as well.”
Changes, however, cannot take place overnight, stresses Shrestha who believes values should be instilled in pupils from their early years so that they grow up thinking that cheating is immoral.
Dipendra, however, laments that SLC is overrated and it just isn’t enough to judge the capability of the students. A student at Little Angels’ School, he has been graded and placed in “Section B” of his batch. The grading refers to his intellectual capacity, which labels him an average student.
“We should rather mix the brilliant, average and poor students so that there’s no discrimination. Also, every student should be encouraged by the teachers,” he says. Even during midterm exams, he mentions that students are on the lookout to make attempts to cheat.
“I too have copied answers of my friends at times. But that is because we don’t have the confidence of getting good marks by expressing ourselves in the answer sheets. There’s always the fear of not getting good marks if we don’t have answers as close to the textbook.”
Recalling an incident when he couldn’t even recognize a species in a laboratory despite his good textbook knowledge, Dipendra laments, “This is the condition of our teaching methods in schools. We are made to mug up everything. So this pressure of memorizing and learning is what compels us to find a way to cheat so that we can score high marks.”
“We want to learn practically where we can have more room to show our creativity, but categorizing students and labeling sections humiliates us as our worth is put into question,” the teenager is clearly frustrated and concludes that the education system is too rigid and traditional.
And Dipendra is not alone among his ranks to express frustration.
After eight hours of school, 16-year-old Ajit Kumar Baral, a student of DAV Higher Secondary School, returns home every afternoon only to dive deeper in his textbooks. With eight subjects to revise and piles of assignments, the pressure is grilling, to say the least.
“For teachers, assignment submission is the main priority and it is do or die for us,” says Baral, whose friends even copy his math assignments. “It’s not a rare thing, either. We have even more assignments during vacations and when we don’t have the time, we have no other option but to copy from each other.”
Bal Chandra Luitel, Associate Professor of Masters Program of the School of Education, Kathmandu University (KU), criticizes that Nepal’s education system doesn’t encourage or foster creativity in students.
“Early from the nursery level, toddlers are made to memorize from their textbooks and are discouraged to express themselves. They are enveloped inside a certain structure by the teachers and are made to mug up what the teachers know without letting them open their creative selves.”
As per Luitel, the entire curriculum and teaching culture needs to be altered. Even faculty-wise, the preparation is not sufficient as teachers usually teach the way they have been taught without seeing it from the perspective of the students.
“Only 10 percent of what they learn by memorizing will be useful later in life. This kind of system just kills the potentials and hinders the ability of expression. So change can be brought about from the classroom itself.”
Amrita Sharma, founder principal of Bidya Vyayam English High School, claims that the problem of cheating has been mainly seen in government schools.
“In government schools, the numbers of students are more and they have irregular classes. The quality of education is also poor. In private schools, the teachers train the students well before the examinations so cases of cheating are less.”
If there are students who despise the way education is imparted in the country and experts like Luitel who criticize the unscientific system of educating children, some blame the students too.
Sangita Aryal, a tenth grade teacher at Mahendra Bhawan Higher Secondary School, says students are just content with scoring pass marks. “Those students who find it hard to study are always on the lookout for an easy way out and so they rely on cheating.”
Kashiraj Pandey, whose son is currently taking the SLC exams, feels that the trend of expecting answers in a fixed pattern by the teachers and the students in hope of getting high percentage is what makes students cheat.
He is also of the opinion that commercialization of private schools pressure students to score distinction marks. “We don’t have trained teachers who see the creative side of the students and how they assimilate what is being taught in class.”
TU Professor Dr Tirtha Khaniya, however, states that examinations have been looked upon from the administrative point of view, rather than seeing it academically.
He says that the questions asked, especially in the SLC examinations, are not up to good standard. Answers are all found in guidebooks and students just mug the answers before taking the exams.
He mentions that there is also more hype about the administration rather than the academic itself as the aspect of the latter hasn’t been looked upon. “So the only concern of the students will be to score high marks by cheating, mugging or any other means.”
“There are hundreds of students giving the same answers so that way we are not producing creative students at all. We really need to change the question patterns. And the marking should be done on the basis of creativity.”
That way, he thinks the students won’t be tempted to cheat as they will have all the rights to express themselves in the answer sheets.
(Source: Republica National Daily)