The Case of Leaked Question Papers – Part 5

by Sahadev Komaragiri

QuestionsThe next day I arrived at the school early in the morning. The students were still in their study hours. I started recapping the events of the previous day. I kicked myself for missing something so vital and so obvious. Why did I think only these 5 boys are getting benefitted by the availability of questions much ahead of the tests? These are the papers for unit 3 exams, Kanth reported that this thing happened for quarterly exams as well. If that is true, is it possible that these kids entered the principal’s office more than once? Is it possible that John had no idea about the leaked question papers until Kanth mentioned about it? Are there any teachers who already knew about it and decided to did nothing about it?

This is a five part short story. Links to the other parts: Part 1  Part 2  Part 3  Part 4

The school bus arrived with another set of students and teachers. Assembly was about to start in about 15 minutes. There was a small window of opportunity to discuss this matter with a few trusted teachers who have been with the school for a long time. I requested two such teachers to come to my office and told them everything that happened the previous day. To my surprise they were not surprised at all. They told me that this thing happened last year as well. One of them suggested that they suspected this when they were correcting the quarterly papers. They found it strange that almost all the students got the answers right. Leaking of question papers was a recurring event at the school. How did I not know this? John, who was my trusted lieutenant, did not say a word about it. My honeymoon period at the school is now over. Four months is a long time.

classroomThe assembly got over, all the teachers left the staff room on their teaching assignments. I had to go to 9th class and I somehow dragged myself to the class. On the way, I decided to tell the students about what is going on and ask them what they thought. I opened up the topic and asked them if it is alright to know the questions ahead of a test. There was some obvious silence as they all knew why I was asking these questions. One student mustered courage and mentioned that his parents would thrash him thoroughly each time he did not get good marks. That, in his opinion, is a valid excuse to make use of the available questions ahead of the test. However, he opined that he would not steal the question papers himself. What about reporting to the teachers about the leaked papers? He did not think it would be wise as he would get beaten up by his classmates if he did so. He confessed that he would rather play it safe. I ceased to be a teacher. I became a very lonely student of about 30 teachers.

After the first hour, I requested the 10th class teacher to permit me to use her time during the second hour. I discussed the topic with 10th students and the response was pretty much on the same lines. The tenth batch has a unique status, they are going to leave the school in a few months and they can discuss these issues more openly. They were of the unanimous view that all the teachers are aware of the leaked question papers. One or two students, the emotional types, told me that they reported the case to the senior teachers including John. They were told that the case will be investigated. They were delighted to note that I was the only one who actually did something about it. One of them was even bold enough to say that if the teachers are teaching well and if they understood the topics well, they would not resort to these measures. I was smelling a virtual revolt and decided to end it swiftly. I asked the rest of the students if they agreed with this view. There was silence and I was relieved. This errant boy was chided by all the others. The school bell rang and it was time for a 15 minute interval break. I returned to my office with a heavy heart.

From my discussions with a few teachers and students, I understood that the teachers decided not to do anything about it for strange reasons. After every test, the school correspondent collected the report cards and issued stern warning to teachers no matter how the students fared in that test. Less than 70% for any student is too bad and considered a failure of all the teachers. The test results, he announced, did not justify the high wages of the teachers. They actually considered their salary a pittance. I attended these spectacular meetings 3 times this year. The principal agreed with the correspondent in those tough staff meetings and sympathized with the teachers in private. I was a mute spectator as I was in a learning mode. Even though I am an administrator, not being a teacher at any other institution ever was my biggest drawback.

At every parents meeting, no matter how their wards fared, the parents always complained that their children got better marks when they were in their previous school. If things continued this way, they threatened that they are left with no choice but to take their children to some other school.

StaffMeetingLater that afternoon the school correspondent arrived. Correspondent Venkatesh, whose actual age depended on who asked, was a school dropout who made a fortune in his agriculture business. He is a self made man. He somehow figured that starting a school is the best that he could do with his surplus funds. I entered his office and narrated the entire story. A staff meeting was called immediately. He screamed his heart out at everyone including all the parents, all the teachers, all the peons, the dhobi and everyone that he could think of. He yelled out loud that he was tired of hearing the same thing year after year.  He said that he was unable to control this menace and it was in the best interests of everyone to close down the school. I learnt a little later that this was the standard raga that he hummed after every major crisis in the school. He left the meeting huffing and puffing and was soon in his car on his way out. I was left with a strange feeling of churning in my stomach. It was something that I never ever experienced before.

I returned to my office, shut the door and with the hands stretched out on my table, I put my head down. I wanted to just force myself out of my body. Without my knowledge tears started rolling down my cheek. Is this all there is to the world of teaching? Did I pick a wrong profession? Am I a total misfit in this part of the world? I prayed hard. I looked up and there it was, my favorite idol. I peeped deep into His eyes. I found the same torment in his eyes as the one I found in my own heart. Of all things in the world that need the most help, it is this school, these teachers and these children. If there is any profession in the entire world that should not be deserted by good people, it is the teaching profession.

As for the broken mineral water plant machine, at around midnight time it was dropped on the floor by a disgruntled school attendant with the intent purpose of damaging it. The dhobi who got up to attend a nature call observed it. He was too afraid to report it until several weeks later. As for Vasu, he was stripped off of his prefect role. Bhanu tormented himself between his mother and his uncle on the kind of repentance that he should observe. Ram was untouched as it was decided that he was an unwilling partner in the crime. Kanth and Paramesh were mere beneficiaries and are no different from the other students who copied the questions in their notebooks. They were given a verbal warning. I still do not know why Kanth volunteered the information about the leaked question papers. John and I never exchanged a word on this topic again. I was offered a chance to prevent such thefts for the rest of the year.

I decided to continue in the field of education. What we have is an examination system, not an education system. As long as the level of intelligence of students is measured by the marks they score in the tests, we will continue to be mired in such problems in all schools. I really do not know if there is going to be a fix either in the short term or even in the distant long term. Who do we start with? Parents? Teachers? Children? I don’t know yet. But I am not giving up.

readThere was a knock on my door. Sweta, a 5th standard girl was at my door with a book in her hand. She enquired, “Sir, I finished reading this book. May I get a new book?”.

The cause of education is not lost. There is hope.

This is a story from a fictional school with all fictional characters. Any resemblance to anyone is purely a coincidence. The “I” in this story is a fictional participant narrator.


{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

mangapati rao komaragiri March 4, 2014 at 11:17 am

Very nice Sahadev. This problem is existing in many institutions. It is difficult to fix the responsibility either with teachers or parents or students. But, my sincere feeling is that it should begin from the parents. They know the standard of their children. They should not force them to get very high ranks than what they can get. They should not compare them with other children who get good marks. Every body is not born with same IQ. They are different in their mind, knowledge and thoughts. The most important is the teachers fraternity. They should respect their profession very much. It is just not a JOB like any other one. They are the people who create the future generation/society of the Nation. They should not only teach but also behave in a manner so that the student take them as ideal leaders to mold their life. The teachers can make it and they should only do it.


Sahadev Komaragiri March 4, 2014 at 12:22 pm

Thank you for your detailed comments. I agree with your thoughts. I find it very difficult to convince teachers, parents and students that obtaining marks and passing examinations in flying colours is not what education is all about.


Sandeep Pothuri March 12, 2014 at 2:44 am

The concept of Exams in India and specifically the southern part of India is unfortunately not very conducive for practical thinking. Its about getting marks. Infact I just heard that EAMCET has changed its evaluation criteria. 50% from how many marks you get in intermediate and 50% from the CET. Each Educational Institute publicizes how many of their students qualified in EAMCET or IIT, but they dont say how many of the students have run away from these places because of their stringent rules and ways of making students mugging notes and other practices.


Sahadev Komaragiri March 12, 2014 at 3:08 am

I visited Kota in Rajasthan recently. I was stunned to note that there are many schools in which students are enrolled but they do not attend the classes. They all go to attend IIT JEE coaching. Many of the classes are mostly empty!


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