The dress code that Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) prescribed in its information bulletin for National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) for medical entrance comprised just two points.
One is that candidates have to wear “light half-sleeved clothes not having big buttons, brooch/badge, flower, etc. with salwar/trousers”. The other is that they have to “wear slippers, sandals with low heels and not shoes”.
Neither condition appears to offer scope for reports such as a candidate being asked to remove her innerwear before entering the exam hall because the item of her clothing had a metal part. The instructions are simple and, obviously, aimed at preventing malpractice during the exam.
They had to be introduced after some bad elements reportedly tried to leak question papers using devices stitched into their vests last year: a very interesting and unique approach, which would have required enough time and energy to be concentrated for proper execution.
Obviously, such so-called bright people focus their energies in the wrong places. In response to the incident, the board has had to acquire hand-held metal detectors to frisk candidates at its exam centres across India. These devices are said to be sensitive enough to detect bugs and metal even as tiny as a stapler pin.
In 2015, the CBSE had to conduct All India Pre-Medical and Pre-Dental Test all over again on a directive issued by the Supreme Court. The order was issued as it was found that the solved question papers of the test had been leaked in ten states across the country.
India is a country where the common citizen time and again blames politicians and people in higher places for corrupt practices.
What we forget is that corruption is deeply embedded in our psyche. Corruption is not just the act of accepting a monetary reward for biased preference in getting work done. It is the act of voluntarily compromising your values and morals for personal gain. From a very young age, the message that the majority of children get from their parents is that marks are above everything, even morals.
It does not matter if a student has not been able to grasp the essence of a subject as long as s/he scores good marks. This very mindset is seen as proof in the images of parents scaling high walls to pass answer sheets to wards during examinations and offering bribe for lenient correction; as also for changing figures through data entry operators, if all else fails.
By now, there is an alternative system in place to circumvent the system. Cheating in exams has become an art and many specialise in it.
Question paper leaks are not unusual in India. States such as Bihar have gained notoriety for the means people adopt to beat the system. The toppers’ scam in that state is among the most recent of news. It is difficult for any board to overcome the issue unless it has the backing of people themselves.
Change may come only when the focus shifts to identifying the core strength of a student and improving on that. Even in this digital age, where the arena for performance is global, and prospects one too many, India is yet to wake up to widening streams. A few professional courses still hold unexplained charm for parents and, therefore, students. This mad rush gives ample scope for all things evil.
The way things are headed, it wouldn’t be surprising if in the future, examination centres would need fortification and armed guards to screen candidates before they appear for tests. This kind of unhealthy competition can be blunted only if sectors outside the few haloed ones are built up.
It is a shame for a country banking on its demographic dividend to witness such murky practices. Our young brigade, on whom the hopes of countless are supposedly pinned, are busy finding ways to fool the system. India is so focused on creating an ever growing band of corrupt job seekers that no one has time to think about entrepreneurs or job creators.
From close family members to government policies, an entrepreneur is seen as an aberration, to be criticised or challenged. Until there is a clear change in attitude, positive spirit for entrepreneurship and dignity for all occupations, exams such as NEET cannot be neat. And the complexities of conducting them are only bound to rise.