fifty years ago August 6, 1970 Archives

Cheating at examinations

It is difficult to believe that so responsible a body as the Executive Council of the Indore University should have decided that students copying answer papers or resorting to other unfair means should not be suspended but merely fined Rs. 50 and allowed to appear for the same examination soon after. It could be argued that, even under the current system, the student who cheats at examinations is allowed to appear again and that all that has been done is to reduce the period of waiting; It does not follow, however, that an unsatisfactory method of punishment should be altered in the direction of greater leniency. It is well known that copying at examinations has been extremely common in some universities and has reached the point in some places where students believe that they have a right to do so, because so many others have done so without being penalised. It is scarcely necessary to labour the point that, if cheating is tolerated, condoned or treated as a minor offence, the value of the public examination disappears as an objective test of merit and the whole system might well be cast on the scrap heap. In fact, two alternatives have been suggested which merit consideration. One is the American semester system in which class tests take the place of long drawn out public examinations. In this system, the responsibility for judging the performance of the pupil is placed on the local professor and the college. The other alternative is to allow the use of books and reference material in the examination hall, the questions being so framed that an intelligent use of material is needed to answer them. But neither of these systems envisages the copying of answers by one student from another or assistance by teachers to students during the examinations. The general weakness of the examination system in India is that the questions set are of the kind which can be anticipated and stock answers prepared along conventional lines. The examination system usually becomes a test of memory rather than of knowledge or intelligence. Therefore if the system is reformed so that new questions require new answers cheating would become more difficult. No doubt both teachers and students would then object that the examinations were impossible to prepare for. To this the answer must be that the whole purpose of examination is to test ability and not to reduce the degree to the lowest common denominator. The action of the Indore University is obviously moving in this direction and can only have the consequence of devaluing the education it provides. The less qualified students will be encouraged to cheat and it will be very difficult for examiners to distinguish between the competent and the incompetent.

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