The Malady of Malpractice

Feb 20, 2011

Recently when the high school board in Karnataka introduced close circuit cameras in all the examination halls I started wondering if the government suspected the integrity, honesty and reliability of the teacher invigilators. But my past experience as an invigilator gave me a new insight that it was indeed a wise decision by the government. For, no matter how vigilant the invigilators are, the students are equally shrewd and strategic when it comes to indulging in malpractices.

In fact, one finds a lot of creativity and innovation in students’ attempts at malpractice. Carrying chits to the examination halls, scribbling on the palm, trying to peep in to the neighbour’s paper are (mal)practices perhaps as old as the examination system. When squads cast a raid, it sends shivers down the spine of the guilty students. It would be an interesting subject for psychologists to observe how the guilty feelings of the culprits are manifested in varied forms of emotions such as acute apprehension, awe, nervousness and intense fear. It is thanks to this outward manifestation of the guilt that they usually fall in to the police net.

As the police learn the ways of the thieves, the latter become cleverer in designing new ones. As the invigilator becomes strict, students learn new and cunning ways of malpractice. I am still reminded of a boy who, finding the arrival of the squad, crumpled the chit he was carrying and gulped it!  The member of the squad, though he became suspicious of his behaviour, had no proof to declare him guilty.

Malpractice becomes an acute problem when the nature of the question paper is objective and the questions are of multiple choice types. In such examinations students would have already evolved some kind of code language or rather sign language which less agile teachers may find hard to detect. The way students design sign language is very creative and interesting. Placing one's hand on different parts of one's face is suggestive of the four different answer options to the question. It is very interesting to watch and study such behaviour if one wishes to! If someone is seen scratching his forehead, another is seen rubbing his nose and the third may be stroking his chin!!

There are others who engange in (mal)practice using a different sign system. If they sit straight, that indicates the first option. Tilting slightly towards right or left indicates second and third options respectively. And if the invigilator warns the students he is quick to justify himself and sometimes even charge him with disturbing the students unnecessarily. The invigilator in turn has no solid proof to punish the students in a country where evidence matters more than the crime! This use of sign system for malpractice made me to believe in the saying of the communication experts that 93 percent of communication is indeed non-verbal!

From the students’ point of view, the terms ‘good’ and ‘bad’ are only relative. An invigilator who does not carry out his duty of invigilation with utmost seriousness and appears to be a little lax is perceived as ‘good’ by the copycats and ‘bad’ by the so-called studious students. Then there are some invigilators who would like to prove their humanity in the examination hall by prompting answers or coaxing bright students to permit their neighbours to copy from them. The copycats hail such invigilators as God-sent saviours but the bright and serious students curse them because their efforts come to a naught.

Leaking the question paper partially or completely by the teachers not only brings disrepute to the profession of teaching but also causes injustice to hardworking students. There have been instances where teachers and managements have been accomplices in the crime of allowing students in mass copying acts. Media, especially the electronic media, is laudable for exposing the institutions which indulge in a lot of malpractice. Teachers need to be sensitive to the fact that any help given by them after the commencement of the examination amounts to academic crime. Any extra help given before the examination justifies the humanity of the teacher.

The copycats who wait desperately for an opportunity to copy in the exam hall may not be really aware of the irritation and distraction they are causing to the academically inclined students. When a good student is being pestered to show the answers, he is compelled to make a choice between his friend and his bright future. Letting the friend copy would mean wasting his own precious time in the exam hall on the one hand and pushing himself into the risk of getting caught for malpractice on the other.

When I was giving my final year degree exams, a student was caught by the squad for carrying chit to the examination hall. The words uttered by the members of the squad still resound in my ears: "Do you know the sanctity of the examination?" The student lost one year. All of us busy writing the exams were distracted for nearly ten minutes by the incident.

Why do students copy in the exams? In a desperate attempt to pass the exam, one might say. True. But there are students who might copy just to score better marks. Copying is often considered by students as the easiest short cut for passing or scoring in the exams. Copying may be a conditioned behaviour. A student who successfully copied in the past without being caught is likely to continue the habit. Parental pressure which does not teach a child to accept failure may prompt the child to resort to such a maladaptive behaviour. The very attitude of taking the exam lightly is another factor contributing to malpractice among students.

What distinguishes the academically poor students who copy from the ones who do not copy is their value system. Students who have internalized the values of honesty and sincerity would not feel compelled to copy even if the exam is a tad difficult to pass. In today’s rat race where money triumphs over everything, values seem to have lost their value. The parents and teachers have a great role in influencing the younger generation to develop a proper value system. Students who cheat in the exams today may get involved in bigger frauds tomorrow. Hence, it’s important that the evil of malpractice is nipped in the bud so that we can lay the foundation for a better society.

By Anthony D'Souza
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Comment on this article

  • mohsin ahamad, moodbidri/dubai

    Wed, Feb 23 2011

    Nice article, even the examiners or institutions need be innovative, CET exams, are conducted with less chances of malpractice, where in evaluation is done electronically, based on pencil tick marks.Like wise there should be more innovation in examination criteria as well as students must not be put under number based exam performance so as to avoid all these nuisance and pressure.

  • Ivy Mendonce, Udupi

    Mon, Feb 21 2011

    great idea..nicely presented

  • Arwin Rodrix, Mangalore

    Sun, Feb 20 2011

    Such a blunt thought, beautifully expressed...

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