Bihar is now under an international media spotlight after a picture of a school in the state went viral on news websites and social media last week for cheating during examinations.
Parents and peers of students appearing for their Class 10 exams at Vidya Niketan, Vaishali scaled the walls of the school building to pass chits to their wards writing the exam. After the initial shock over the absurdity receded, some key questions were raised about the incident.
Is there a larger issue that is being overlooked?
Ratnesh Kumar Singh (38) and Balbir Kumar Singh (40) teach Maths and Physics to classes 9 and 10 in Gandhi High School. The school has 17,000 students, who are ideally meant to be divided in 13 sections, but in reality, function from 5 classrooms, The Indian Express reports.
"I am dreading going into the classroom when the school reopens," says Ratnesh. "Almost 200 students are crammed into each room, seven-eight on a bench supposed to seat four."
A total of 515 students were expelled after the mass cheating story made headlines. The parents blame the teachers.
"These government teachers don’t teach anything in schools. Most of the times they are absent. That’s why we have to resort to such things to help our children," recounts Balbir after he met the students following a cancellation of the exams.
"They were scared, tense. They are hoping the government will change its mind.”
"There are over 1.4 million examinees and with each of them there are usually three-four people. Managing six to seven million people is not a cup of tea for any administration. It requires parental and societal support as well," an exasperated Bihar Education Minister, PK Shahi said.
Is there a difference in cheating pattern for boys and girls?
Ratnesh claims that the cheating would not have been so large scale if more boys and less girls were taking their Class 10 exam at the centre. Reason? The Bihar government gives Rs 10,000 to every girl who clears matriculation with a first class, and also helps in their recruitment.
"Since the government has been recruiting women in a large way, even husbands coax their wives to give the matriculation exams," he adds.
Is there a power-play involved?
Baidyanath Prasad, a superintendant at the centre, told The Indian Express, "We cannot blame students alone. A gazetted officer once gave me a chit ahead of an exam paper valuation and said it was the roll number of someone close to a political leader."
And the most baffling question, how was it done?
There was a proper system adopted to execute this mass cheating. And as everything else in the country, those putting in that extra 'effort' got paid.
"Eyewitnesses say youngsters scaling up the walls of the Vidya Niketan asked students to spell out what questions they wanted answered. They shouted the same down to waiting parents, who tied money and the relevant page torn from an exam guide book to the end of a rope the boys threw down. The going rate was Rs 50 for the third floor, Rs 40 for the second and so on," Indian Express reports.