Tuesday, June 5, 2012

To all concerned administrators of academic institutions, examination boards, and Mr. Pir Mazahar ul Haq, Minister of Education:

"I refuse to accept that I am doing something wrong. My kids are hard working. They study day and night. But to see them be defeated in this rat race just because I refuse to encourage them to cheat, whereas other students who usually don't work half as hard get rewarded with top marks because they are copying textbooks word to word...that does not sit well with me. Initially I used to lecture my children on the importance of honesty. But as time went by, due to the relative marking, my children's percentile as compared to others came out to be lower and lower; reason being that the others would get away with doing nothing, as long as they were copying textbooks, whereas my children who worked so hard would not achieve anything in comparison. Jobs and universities demand high percentiles...they won't choose my children over the other students even though it is my children who are actually educated. It's unfair. I told them to do this too... now when I can, I hand them pages of textbooks to stuff in their pockets. I am sorry, but I don't have a chance. I need them to get  what they deserve. And since that does not happen, I am ready to let them have what they don't deserve, because everyone else is getting the same."
       That's what a father, standing outside the exam centre of an Inter exam in Karachi, was overheard as saying to another parent. The policemen guard the centre gates. They do. They roughly ask the students to show their ID cards before being granting permission to enter. The children take out their ID cards, but the policeman does not bother to look at them. Just having one seems to be enough, whether or not it is of the student claiming identity. A man who looked close to 30 flashed an ID card in front of the policeman
s face; he glanced at it and let him go. A 30 year old man? Does he look like an 18 year old to you?
      Another day, a couple of men on a motorcycle were overheard talking amongst one another,"Today they have police!". Promptly, they made a phone call using their cell phone. A man came from inside the centre, gestured to the men to follow him, and took them inside. There appeared no need for the police to check them as they had been beseeched by someone from the administration. 
      Inside, it is an anomaly of sorts. Almost all students are carrying pages of torn textbooks of written formulas in their pockets. Some of them carry their school bags, full of the requisite books. The invigilators take money from the students in exchange of letting them copy their books, verbatim. Every student knows this. It is for this reason that they are always carrying cash in their pockets. Once or twice, an invigilator comes into the exam room and says,"Those candidates who feel there is too much noise here can shift to the other room." Noise in an exam room? Aren't seats allocated as per candidate numbers? Other room? The other room is where those who have paid up can cheat openly. Not that staying in the same room with students who haven't paid to be able to cheat will be an issue... as if what's happening now is really hidden knowledge.
        On an exam day, in such a room, perhaps due to a lack of textbooks to copy from, all answers to the exam questions were written on the blackboard by the invigilator for the students to copy. There can be no blatant mockery of education and rules like in our very own Inter exam centres.  

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