The state secondary education board has decided to make invigilation and selection of exam venues more stringent following reports from various parts of the state of mass cheating during this year’s Madhyamik.
The board also plans to increase the number of exam venues, stop holding the exam at centres where invigilation has been lenient for years and engage social scientists to understand why students from particular pockets tend to copy.
“We want to ensure that the examination is conducted in a fair manner at each and every centre across Bengal. The board will take all possible steps to make sure that students are not allowed to copy even at a single centre,” said Chaitali Dutta, the president of the West Bengal Board of Secondary Education.
More than 50 people were arrested across the state during this year’s Madhyamik, held in February-March, for helping students to copy.
Most of the incidents was reported from South 24-Parganas, Murshidabad, Malda and North Dinajpur.
The reports had apparently disturbed chief minister Mamata Banerjee enough for her to meet Dutta at Writers’ Buildings while the exam was on and ask her to take steps to stop cheating fast.
“We first need to identify the pockets where cheating is rampant,” said a board source. Once the schools where invigilation has been lenient over the years have been identified, board officials and teachers will visit them and speak to students, teachers and guardians about the problem.
“We will stop holding Madhyamik at these schools if we find the malpractice is too deep-rooted. There is no dearth of schools to hold Madhyamik,” said the source.
There are about 16,000 Madhyamik schools across Bengal, of which close to 2,500 host the test.
The board is examining the possibility of increasing the number of centres. The only consideration is whether adequate staff is available to conduct the exams at the additional venues.
The distribution of centres is also under the scanner. “Some centres in remote places are difficult to reach. But these schools have been chosen as centres year after year. They will not be from next year,” said the board source.
Examinees had complained to the board that they had to travel 20km to write Madhyamik. “We are trying to choose the centres in a way that no examinee has to travel more than 10km,” said the source.
As a long-term measure, the board will seek the suggestions of social scientists to eliminate the tendency to adopt unfair means.
“Mass cheating is a social problem and we need to know the cause. A child may want to copy for several reasons. It could be because he did not get proper facilities in schools or because he was never taught the value of education,” said the source.