There is no need to be unduly alarmed over the immediate impact of the massive overhaul of the Uttar Pradesh school Board examinations, which has led to about 10 lakh aspirants deciding to not take the test. Students have dropped out because they would not be able to cheat this time. The State Government has cracked down on the ‘copy mafia’, and surveillance cameras have been fitted to check illegalities in conducting the examinations. Touts and middlemen have disappeared from the vicinity of test centres. Finally, the examination will be conducted fairly. These are reasons to celebrate, and one hopes that the stringency will be maintained in the coming years as well — or at until such time as the scourge of cheating in Board examinations is rooted out.
The Uttar Pradesh Board examinations are the world’s largest of its kind, with more than 66 lakh students participating and sitting for the test in more than 8,500 centres across the State. In the medium to long-term, the gainers will be students and society in general. Now, students have to apply themselves to studies and will get through only if they merit the passage. Meritorious students will be a positive addition to the job market as well. The losers will be those who sought to pass through dubious methods and then bring along their inefficiency to their work as well. In addition, of course, the loss will be felt by the middlemen and those institutions in the educational system who used money power to secure examination centres for themselves and then ‘earned back’ the amount spent — and more — by collecting money from students who wished to copy.
By skipping the examinations this year, the students perhaps hope that the next year would be better. Either they will be well prepared or that laxity will return which would help them to indulge in cheating. There is no doubting the political impact in the immediate sense, of the Yogi Adityanath Government’s decision. The affected students, their families, various private institutions who facilitated the illegal set-up, and the many teachers and others support staff who were part of the examination racket, would be displeased with the regime’s crackdown and may even express their anger through the electoral ballot. But that is a small price for the larger good. Meanwhile, the Uttar Pradesh Government must also tackle another important issue: The low quality of teachers and teaching. In fact, the failure of teachers to prepare students for the examinations is one reason for copying to flourish.