More than 1,000 students in India were expelled this week for openly cheating on highly important 10th and 12th grade exams. Since the Bihar School Examination Board tests started Tuesday, hundreds of students have smuggled in textbooks, used WhatsApp to text about the questions and caught answer sheets folded into paper airplanes, the Gulf News reported. Although cheating is not unusual in Bihar, India's least literate state, the scandal went viral after local media published photos of parents climbing school walls to help their kids pass.
"Should we shoot them?" state Education Minister Prashant Kumar Shahi said at a news conference. "On average, four or five persons are helping each student use unfair means."
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More than 1.4 million students at 1,217 centers are taking the college prep exams, which end Tuesday. The standardized tests are highly competitive and have the potential to change poor families' lives. Because the quality of their education is spotty, with teacher shortages and irregular class schedules, students often resort to cheating -- and their parents help.
Officials have been video-recording what goes on at the testing centers, holding awareness workshops and doing random room checks in an effort to curb the practice, but it's not effective. "If we try to stop unfair means at a center, friends and family members of the examinees gang up to intimidate us," teacher Saroj Sinha told the Hindu. Reuters reported that some family members threw stones Thursday at police who were trying to prevent cheating.
Cheating students may be forbidden from taking the exam for up to three years, have to pay a fine or go to jail, but in Bihar they rarely face those consequences. "I am really shocked at the ongoing trend of cheating openly at examination centers, but the students alone can’t be blamed for this menace," grandfather Dinkar Lal Sah said. "Schools and government too are [equally] responsible for this since they are not serious about imparting good teaching."