Question papers for the second round of competency tests — to assess math and first language skills of students from Classes 1 to 8 — held on Wednesday and Thursday, were leaked in different parts of the city, according to parents. They complained to the state education board that the papers were being sold to students before the exam for Rs20 to Rs30 in shops at Byculla, Agripada and Nagpada .
Although the department is probing the leaks, education activists wrote to chief minister Devandra Fadnavis on Thursday demanding changes in the way the tests are conducted.
They were introduced last year by education minister Vinod Tawde to identify learning levels of students in Maharashtra schools. Three rounds of tests are scheduled this year — one was held in July and the next will be in April.
According to officials, the leak occurred because the papers had been distributed four to five days before the exams on the orders of the Maharashtra State Council of Educational Research and Training (MSCERT). “We don’t know how the shopkeepers got hold of the papers. We have asked our officers to look into the incident,” said BB Chavan, deputy director of education, Mumbai region.
In a letter to Fadnavis, activists said several lapses on the part of the department and schools may have led to the leaks. They said that unlike board exams, officials don’t take any extra security measures to store the papers. “Papers arrive in a sealed packet, but no one checks if the seal is intact while distributing the papers,” said Herambh Kulkarni, Pune-based activist with the non-government organisation (NGO) SYSCOM, which works in the education field. “If students get the question papers beforehand, it defeats the purpose of the exams, which are conducted to gauge how much they have learnt.”
School principals in Mumbai pointed out another problem: the department often sends insufficient number of papers to the school, forcing them to distribute photocopies to students. “We end up asking our teachers or staff members to get photocopies. If the school copy machine doesn’t work, we approach Xerox shops. This increases the risk of the papers falling in the wrong hands, but we have no choice as the department always sends fewer papers,” said Suresh Nair, principal, Vivek Vidayala and Junior College, Goregaon.
Activists complained that both the schools and the department are taking the exams lightly. “There are not external examiners, no checks on how the exams are held. Some schools distribute the papers to the students before the exam for practice, others assign it as homework,” said Rajesh Pandya, teacher, Fatimadevi English High School, Malad.