One out of every six examinees has abandoned the ongoing Class 10 and Class 12 examinations in UP after the government took decisive steps to prevent cheating. About 10.48 lakh of the total 66.36 lakh students enrolled for the exams (36.55 lakh for Class 10; 29.81 lakh for Class 12) that began on February 6, have dropped out.
During a videoconference on January 30, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath had warned District Magistrates and District Inspectors of Schools (DIOS) that they would be held responsible if unfair means were used at centres in their jurisdictions. Nearly 1.25 lakh CCTV cameras have been installed in 8,549 exam centres across the state.
The Allahabad-headquartered Board of High School and Intermediate Education Uttar Pradesh, which conducts Class 10 (High School) and Class 12 (Intermediate) exams in the state, is among the world’s largest in terms of the number of students.
The crackdown by Adityanath recalls similar steps taken by another BJP Chief Minister 27 years ago. In 1992, Kalyan Singh, now the Governor of Rajasthan, issued the so-called Nakal Adhyadesh, or anti-copying Ordinance, which made cheating a cognizable offence. Hundreds of students were detained after they were caught cheating, and the pass percentage crashed to 14.7% for Class 10 and 30.4% for Class 12, the lowest between 1991 and now.
The steps brought Kalyan and his Education Minister Rajnath Singh, now India’s Home Minister, praise from the educated sections, but made the BJP government unpopular. During the campaign for the 1993 Assembly elections, Mulayam Singh Yadav promised to repeal the Ordinance if the SP-BSP alliance was voted to power. Immediately after taking oath that December, Mulayam scrapped the Nakal Adhyadesh. Rajnath lost his Assembly seat in the elections.
After Kalyan returned to power 1997, the BJP-BSP government passed the Anuchit Saadhan Nivaran Adhiniyam, 1998, which gave exam centre in-charges the power to detain (and release) students. The pass percentage fell again that year — 28.1% for Class 10; 55.3% for Class 12.
The governments that followed — led by Ram Prakash Gupta, Rajnath, Mulayam, Mayawati and Akhilesh Yadav — made no special effort to check the menace of cheating for fear of becoming unpopular.
Class 10 and 12 education is imparted in 25,896 schools (called ‘Intermediate Colleges’ in UP), some 2,100 of which are state government-run, and nearly 5,300 are privately-run but are government-aided and funded. The rest are run by private persons, and are called unaided (or SFS, or Self Financing Scheme) colleges, but are, in fact, largely dependent on MP/MLA local area development funds and government social sector schemes.
The quality of teaching is poor, with unaided schools, especially, randomly appointing unqualified teachers for monthly salaries as low as Rs 2,000-5,000. An entire ecosystem of corruption has grown around cheating, and the posts of DIOS and Basic Shiksha Adhikaris (BSAs) are among the most lucrative in the districts. Senior officers mostly send their children to Lucknow or other major cities, where schools are better.
“We are determined to check all malpractices in Board examinations this year with the resolve of the state government,” Pradeep Kumar Singh, Additional Secretary of the Board of High School and Intermediate Education Uttar Pradesh, said.