With the Maharashtra state board grappling with paper leaks over WhatsApp for the past three years, there is an urgent need to plug these leaks.
College heads suggest replicating the University of Mumbai’s use of technology to send papers online, and mandating a webcam scan before downloading it. However, the large number of students appearing for the board exams poses a hurdle.
The HSC secretarial practice paper was leaked on social media minutes before the exam began on Saturday. This is the second paper to be leaked during the ongoing board exams, and the fourth in the past three years.
Facing similar problems months ago, MU came up with a hi-tech model to improve security for the March-April exams. Colleges will have to download the question papers sent to them online, after undergoing a facial-recognition scan.
The paper downloading and printing process will be recorded and CCTV cameras will be installed in all exam rooms.
Principals said the board needs to implement a similar system to prevent future leaks. “Electronic downloads are the only option available,” said Kiran Mangaonkar, principal, Khalsa College, Matunga. “It eliminates the risks in transporting the paper and storing it in exam centres.”
However, the state board caters to at least 15 to 17 lakh students across Maharashtra, while the university has a few thousand students in Mumbai and other parts. This makes it tough for the state board to send papers online, especially to centres located in remote and rural areas, prone to load shedding and lacking the infrastructure to print large quantities of paper.
“When the university sends us papers, degree colleges can get it printed in an hour and a half as they have fewer students. Printing SSC and HSC exam papers could take several hours,” said Mangaonkar.
Looking beyond technology, other principals suggested sealing individual question papers, a process that is carried out during certain competitive exams. “By sealing each question paper, we can maintain confidentiality to a certain extent,” said Vidyadhar Joshi, vice principal, Vaze Kelkar College, Mulund.
However, Joshi said that even this method is not foolproof. “The culprits can always break the seal and look at the extra papers or those belonging to absentees,” he said.
However, educators agreed that the board needs to review its system and own up to the leaks. “In the past, the board would change the question paper sets given to the students even if someone opened a sealed packet accidentally. Only filing a police complaint isn’t enough,” said Ashok Wadia, principal, Jai Hind College, Churchgate.