Exams conducted by Punjab School Education Board (PSEB) have for long been often perceived to be ones where a candidate could copy and get through, often with the active assistance of somebody from the board or the invigilating staff.
This year too, Amritsar district has seen 17 cases of cheating in Class-10 and 19 cases in Class-12. Papers at three centres have been cancelled, according to deputy DEO Satish Kumar.
What does the top brass of the board think of the menace and how is it tackling it? While admitting that checking copying remained a challenge, board chairperson Dr Tejinder Kaur Dhaliwal claims that the root cause lay in a faulty education policy, as students could not be failed till Class-8 and struggled to pass exams Class-9 onwards.
"There is a fundamental policy flaw in our education system. We promote students till Class-9 without failing them till Class-8.
After Class-8, when suddenly students see that they can be detained, they take to cheating as an easy way out. Exams need to be conducted and students detained if they fail to perform even before Class-8. Punjab education minister Daljit Singh Cheema has raised the issue in the assembly and the matter is also in the notice of the centre," she said.
On cheating in PSEB exams, she said, "I will not deny that there is cheating. However, from a situation where thousands of cases were reported, we are down to hundreds. There were flaws in the system that led to mass copying."
She added that steps like re-shuffling invigilator duties, informing the invigilator of the centre with minimum time lag, the idea of open examination centres and appointment of special observers had all contributing to curbing copying to an extent.
"Flying squads are informed of the centre to be raided just a few minutes before the inspection," she added.
Situation in Amritsar.
Here, authorities are struggling to curb the menace. In spite of videographing 52 sensitive examination centers, appointing 80 observers and 14 flying squads for Classes 10 and 12, examinations, papers at three centres - LB Sanik School (Court Khalsa Road, Dashmesh Nagar), SC High school (Islamabad, Amritsar) and Sri Guru Ram Das Senior Secondary school (Chali Khui) - were cancelled.
"District education authorities had organised anti-copying campaigns for all stakeholders, yet cases do come up," claimed DEO Kumar.
He added that this year cheating cases were recorded even in the Punjabi exam besides English, Maths, Physics and Chemistry papers.
Another district education department official, requesting anonymity, said 'smart' students and some members of the staff had found out ways to beat the steps taken by the board.
"Now, informers are posted on roads leading to exam centres and inform teachers if they see a flying squad or an inspection official approaching the centre. An effective way to curb cheating would be to ban mobile phones in examination centres for all," he claimed.
He also suggested that certain policy clauses also encouraged teachers to ditch ethics.
"Some teachers aid cheating as a good pass result helps them get an increment. Linking pass results to cheating is a wrong policy guideline and needs to go."
SOME STEPS TAKEN
" Re-shuffling invigilator duties
" Informing the invigilator of his/her posting centre with minimum time before exam
" Appointment of special observers
" Even flying squads are informed of the centre to be raided just a few minutes before the inspection