Question-paper leak: Breaking the vicious cycle brooks no further delay  

Shihab Sarkar   | Published: October 22, 2018 21:51:28

To a lot of knowledgeable people, it is something grotesque that defines youth activities in the present Bangladesh. There are two types of them; but it is an absurd proposition to put the two youth groups side by side. For nearly a decade, a group has been demonstrating their innovative and entrepreneurial flairs in different spheres. These ventures are largely unheard-of in the country's context. Beginning from engaging in robotics science, invention of new agro-technology to making an impressive entry into NASA or the covetable Oscars recognition, these youths are leaving their distinctive mark on a global level.

The other group is found going to the devil. Youths in this group look the other way, while hundreds and thousands of their innocent contemporaries are being pushed into the door of ruin. They orchestrate a dark and vicious network. Outwardly, the clandestine act doesn't smack of much dread. But the leaking out of the question-papers set for entry tests to enrol in public educational institutions spells doom for the admission seekers. It is an evil process that makes innocent and bewildered students easy victims of a cruel fraudulence. It is planned and finally proceeds insidiously. A virtually unassailable and countrywide chain is said to be behind the act, which allegedly involves huge sums of money changing hands. What's most worrying is there is no dearth of students who fall prey to this trap. Many of them pay for this slide in morals in their later lives.

Like the last few years, the year of 2018 too witnessed a reenactment of the grim episode. The characters are almost similar to that of the past. The earlier actors have been replaced by the new ones; new characters are popping their heads up into the scene. With sophisticated online devices becoming handy, increased numbers of tech-savvy clientele are found reaping the benefits of the evil activity. The people desperately searching for the leaked question-paper outlets include students and a section of morally bankrupt parents. The easy and apparently lame-duck target this year, like before, was the University of Dhaka. Allegations of taking a laidback attitude towards the menace by the authorities of some other institutions have been rife over the last few years. To the distress of the saner sections of society, nowadays almost all public examinations are blighted by the scourge of question-paper leaks. Even levels as low as Primary School Certificate (PSC) examinations have not been spared this curse.

Despite the grand plans and dreams to promote higher education, accompanied by granting of hefty funds, the vital sector is apparently bogged down in an ever deepening quagmire. Dearth of qualified and dedicated teachers, their political affiliations, infrastructural constraints and the increasing number of students have already burdened the institutions beyond their capacity to cope with. The scourge of question-paper leak only aggravates the situation. The chronically pessimistic segments of people might feel tempted to dub this menace something preparatory to the driving of the last nail in the coffin of higher education in Bangladesh. They can present an array of reasons, which cannot be brushed aside. Coming to the professional life awaiting these dubiously faring students, the predicament of their appointing authorities is understood. The fact that they have passed out exams crossing academic hurdles in due process, with academic certificates in their possession, complicates the situation.

It may take some time before the unwitting employers can see through these employees' facade of so-called educational achievements. The certificate holding under-qualified and inept service persons can, however, manage to avoid being cherry-picked in government service. There are scores of escape routes, and loopholes in rule that can conceal their original identity for a considerably longer period. In fact, few in the higher administrative authorities are found eager to find out the root causes of sloppy performance of an official. After the elapsing of a long period, it will matter little to them if the person concerned got admitted to the university on leaked-out question-papers. Already the intermittent detections of a few high officials entering government service on production of forged academic certificates have undermined the image of the bureaucracy.

The administration appears to be still unaware of the future dreadful effect of question leaks on it. The fact is the nation continues to suffer due to the recruitment of wrong persons and spending of taxpayers' money on them. The sector likely to be most affected by these poorly groomed 'graduates' is that related to education. The so-called teachers in charge of grooming future citizens will lack scruples and ethical strength. Realising their level and quality of teaching doesn't require much brainwork.  The nation raises an outcry every year over leaked-out questions after the end of public examinations and admission tests. Probe committees are formed. Promises of nabbing the culprits and adopting leak-proof system of question setting and distribution follow. A few persons or whole syndicates are nabbed. In the meantime, the uproar dies down until the exams are held next year. This is a vicious cycle that moves on year in and year out.

In the whole episode of question-paper leaks, it is the two segments of students who suffer badly. One group comprises students who cannot pass the tests, despite being talented. The other segment has the students who have qualified on the strength of leaked questions. The sensitive of them feel the prick of conscience throughout the rest of their student life. A student doesn't deserve this ordeal. According to academics, this unbridled situation ought to be blamed on the absence of the higher authorities' effective oversight of the education sector, especially at the higher level. Moreover, lack of willingness to view the episode with due seriousness by taking into account the fallout at national level aggravates the situation. There are no scopes for short-cut in education. Those who resort to collecting leaked questions emerge finally as victims of adversities of their own making. The nation and society suffer along with them. Meanwhile, without stringent preventive measures in place, the general students are increasingly being put in career-related ordeals.                            

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