Fourteen students who topped the Bihar board’s Class 12 exams will retake the test, the government announced on Wednesday after one of them said she was taught cooking in political science, triggering a debate over fairness of the examination process.
The results of the state board’s Class 10 and Class 12 exams, announced on Tuesday, had showed a sharp dip in the pass percentage which the education department promptly attributed to a clampdown on use of unfair means.
But a TV channel’s questions to two toppers put the spotlight back on the state’s exam system, notorious for mass cheating backed by a section in the education department.
Bihar board chairman Lalkeshwar Prasad Singh said the results of the two toppers – Roby Rai of intermediate (arts) and Saurav Sresth of intermediate (science) – have been put on hold.
“They will be subjected to written test and interview before a panel of subject experts on June 3. Seven toppers each from intermediate (arts) and intermediate (science) will be called. Their handwriting will also be checked to verify if they themselves wrote the answer books.”
Photographs of hundreds of people scaling walls of a Bihar school building to help students cheat in the Class 10 board exams last year had left the nation gaping in disbelief and raised question marks over the education system in the state.
According to sources, there could be a possibility of change of answer books in connivance with insiders.
“But all these things will come to light only after a thorough investigation, as some colleges are known for manipulating results with enormous clout they enjoy,” a source said.
Education minister Ashok Choudhary admitted that there was an apparent hint of “education mafia”. BJP MP Ashiwini Choubey was quick to describe the Bihar board fiasco as an indicator of rapidly falling education standard in the state.
“It is apparent that the some mafia organise everything for the students. We have ordered an inquiry and strict action will be taken against those found guilty. We made a lot of effort to reverse the state’s image after viral cheating videos last year and we cannot allow anyone to play with the state’s image,” said Choudhary.
Admitting the lapse, the education minister said that the board as well as the teachers and institutions would have to be held accountable.
“We will not let the morale of the genuine students and teachers fall. What will the students feel? We will not spare anyone involved with it,” he added.
Bihar secondary teachers’ association general secretary Kedar Pandey said the issue needed a thorough investigation, as it had diluted the government’s efforts to overcome the stigma of cheating.
“The toppers are under scanner due to glaring disconnect between the marks they have scored and the knowledge they have demonstrated.”
Questioning the claim of strictness due to evaluation and installation of CCTVs, he said, “There seems to be serious administrative lapse. We have been demanding that the board should have a list of qualified evaluators, but they try to do things in a hurry through just anyone and we suspect non-teachers may have also go into evaluation work,” he added.
In matric, more than half -- 53.4% -- of the students failed, a steep fall from the 75.17% pass percentage last year.