Living in a highly competitive world, the students of today sometimes wilt under the pressure to excel. This is especially true in a country like India, which has a huge population. That means too many aspirants for too few seats in colleges and universities. Some, sadly, are tempted to take the easy way out. I am referring to using unfair means to get the desired results. Invigilators have to be alert to detect innovative ways of cheating.
To combat this malpractice, educational authorities in India have come up with a strict dress code for exams, which entails a thorough search of students before entering an exam hall.
In a certain state, girls who were sitting for admission to an undergraduate medical programme, were made to remove certain innerware as the clasp could set off the metal detector. I was taken aback at the use of such equipment for students. Many of them come from conservative homes and this experience must have been embarrassing for them to say the least.
In some exam centres, students are frisked thoroughly, with torches flashed in their ears and hands run through their hair to look for bits of paper. Socks and shoes are banned in many centres.
A certain school-leaving board exam prescribes “light” clothing with no embellishments such as brooches, big buttons and badges.
In order to go through this thorough checking process, students have to make a very early start as these inspections take time when you are dealing with huge numbers. So, their stress is doubled.
As I read these news snippets, I am so grateful that I do not have to sit for exams any more. When we were in school or college or university, we stressed about not being prepared well enough for the test, trick questions or minds suddenly going blank in the middle of writing the paper. We did not have the added pressure of fierce competition as we were sure of getting admission into college or university. The optimism arose from the fact that we knew we had studied as best we could and we were confident that doing our best would be good enough to get us through the next hurdle.
In school, we girls could be seen with noses buried in our text books in between exams in an attempt to absorb as much as we could in the little time we had. We watched in disbelief as the boys “wasted” their time playing a quick game outside.
Exam time meant getting up early to revise and discussing possible questions with friends in the school bus and outside the classroom. There was no body check as we entered the hall or intrusion of privacy. There were a few who were caught cheating but this was usually a case of trying to sneak a look at the paper of the one sitting next to you. Of course you had to be lucky enough to be seated near the brain of the class!
Years later, I found myself on the other side of the fence, invigilating at school board exams. It was a tiring task as you had to be up and about, on the lookout for any unusual movement or signs of nervousness in students who were ill-prepared and ready to take a risk. I did haul up a few boys in possession of crib notes cleverly concealed, but which had to be taken out of hiding in order to consult the same. They were usually let off with a stern warning as their embarrassment and shame at being found out in front of their peers was punishment enough.
I can only feel sympathy for the students of today who are under such tremendous pressure to ace exams if they want to get ahead in life, which is a sad commentary on the state of things at present.
Vanaja Rao is a freelance writer based in Hyderabad, India.