Hard times call for tough measures, but tough measures also often result in collateral damage.
For years, India’s education boards have been grappling with the issue of cheating during examinations. To tackle the malpractice, often seen on a large scale across the country, these boards have of late issued strict dress codes. But these diktats also unfairly put innocent students in serious trouble.
For instance, in the run-up to the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) for dental and medical colleges, the Central Board of Secondary Education’s (CBSE) strict dress code barred clothes of dark colour and long sleeves, besides brooches, badges, closed shoes and socks. Following a series of embarrassing cheating scandals, all these were seen as potential hiding spots for cheating material and tiny communication devices.
Yet many of the over 1.1 million students who arrived at their test centres across the country on May 07 weren’t prepared for such measures. Students in states such as Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, and Kerala had to rip off their sleeves or change out of their jeans to just enter the exam centres.
One girl in Kerala’s Kannur district reportedly even had to take off her bra minutes before writing an important and potentially life-changing examination.
First, the 18-year-old struggled to find an open clothing store early on a Sunday morning as she had to change her black pants. Then, as she entered the exam centre, the metal hooks on her bra set off the metal detector.
“I told them that it was my bra-strap that had a metal hook on it, but they refused to let me in. They insisted that I remove it. Although I argued with them that the rules (do) not mention anything about innerwear, they refused to hear my pleas,” she told The News Minute. The girl eventually had to take her bra off and hand it over to her mother who was waiting outside.
“As I entered the exam hall to write the test, I had little confidence left in me,” she added.
While authorities at the exam centre denied that any such incident took place, they admitted that they were bound by rules. “We have clear instructions that if a metal detector beeps, no one should be allowed inside,” the principal of the school that was the exam centre told NDTV.
Meanwhile, in Bengaluru, authorities provided half-sleeved t-shirts to those who needed to change; in other centres students wrote the exam barefooted. Many girls had to take off their earrings and nose studs.
These guidelines were issued in July 2015 after India’s supreme court asked the CBSE to re-administer the exam following the discovery of a mass cheating scandal in which over 700 students allegedly received help through listening devices placed inside specially-designed vests. In some regions of the country, the kin of those appearing for tests often even climb up several stories of the exam centres to pass on answers or study material.
Such scandals, alongside the leaking of exam papers, have become almost commonplace in India where students are often forced to prioritise success at any cost over actual learning.
But like in any instance of carpet bombing, it is the many innocents who suffer.