There was a time when students in Bangladesh used to deactivate their Facebook profiles whenever an exam was nearby. But time has changed. Nowadays, Facebook has become the ultimate book one needs to study in order to pass the exams, and with good grades.
The matter of exam questions leaking ahead of the exam is nothing new. Questions have been leaking for medical admission tests, board examinations and other tests like BCS. But all those times, the question leak was a secret event. Only students with connection to the right people would be able to get their hands on a question paper ahead of the exam. That too came with a cost. Usually ranging from BDT 10,000 to BDT 20,000 onwards, the question paper distributor would only accept money after the actual exam was held, and only if the questions were a match.
Students would team up with their buddies so that they could afford the price of the question paper. I have witnessed events where those questions were a match. Not all of them matched, but most of the time those did.
With Facebook comes convenience
Fast forward to the current ‘digital’ age, questions are available on the web; and in Bangladesh, for most people that means Facebook. Questions are no longer needed to be purchased from the right people. Anyone with an account on Facebook can access the many Pages and Groups that have been opened for the specific purpose of circulating question papers ahead of the exams.
One such Facebook Page is named “পরীক্ষার আগের রাতের প্রশ্ন নিন”, which translates to “Get the question paper the night before the exam” in Bangla, circulates exactly that. There are other Facebook Pages and groups such as “Bangladesh HSC Board 2014 Suggestion & Question Help Line/center,” which provides actual leaked question in the name of suggestions.
Media personalities, teachers, and concerned citizens in addition to a group of students from the prestigious institute Bangladesh University of Engineering Technology (BUET) have been protesting this for a very long time. Prominent writer and teacher of Shahjalal University of Science and Technology (SUST), Muhammed Zafar Iqbal, has penned a couple of times on the media with photographic evidence of how leaked questions match to the actual question paper and how devastating its consequence can be.
Authorities’ denial mode despite evidence
That’s not all. Some newspapers including The Daily Star, Daily Prothom Alo, and Dhaka Tribune, have reported that their correspondents have downloaded the leaked question papers from these sources on Facebook ahead of the exam and compared them after the exam was held. The leaked question papers have largely matched to the original question papers served in the examination. Dhaka Tribune, in particular, reported to have found a 95% similarity between the leaked question paper and the original one.
Despite all this, the authorities are acting as clueless. Both newspapers reported Intermediate and Secondary Education Board Chairman Taslima Begum denying the ‘fact’ that the leaked questions were a match to the original ones. Probe committees have been launched to investigate the issue but since none from the authority admits to the truth, there’s little hope that they will come up with anything to prevent this from happening.
Deadlier than death wish?
Facebook is a large source of information. Ever since the internet connectivity became mainstream and available to all sorts of people, there have been a burst of users on Facebook. Most people also have multiple accounts under fake names and genders. But all that does not make it hard for the authority find out a perpetrator where there is.
In 2012, a Facebook user was arrested rather quickly for posting his wish that the prime minister be dead. It was in response to a series of fatal road accidents which took the lives of important personalities. In his Facebook status, he wished “why the prime minister can’t face a similar fate.” Shortly thereafter, he was apprehended by the police and was sentenced to six months in jail.
That gives us clue that if the authority wants, it won’t be that difficult to find out who are behind these Facebook pages and groups that have been distributing the leaked question papers. These people make no effort to hiding their identity. In fact, they write their names on the question paper and pursue people to like other Facebook pages that they operate. If authorities want, they can apprehend those people and get to the bottom of it figuring out where they get these question papers in the first place and what is the source of the leak. There must be one, otherwise they wouldn’t be so similar.
What these Pages do might not be as violent as the death wish of the prime minister, but if you stop to think for a moment, its consequences are deadlier than that. We’re preparing a nation of youngsters who are taught and used to relying on the unfair means. The Higher School Certificate examination is one of the biggest and most important examinations for Bangladeshi students. Getting away with leaked question papers is not only unfortunate, but also discouraging for the students who actually study the whole book and prepare themselves for the examinations. Imagine how they would feel when those who relied only on leaked question papers on the night ahead of the exam outperform the real merit students. What impact it will have on them?
The Bangladesh Government must take immediate steps to stop this from happening. Instead of denying the ‘accusations’ and absolute evidence, the authority has to fix the situation, find out who are behind the leak, and bring them to justice. Otherwise, in the long run, the consequences of allowing more students to pass and obtain higher GPA by unfair means will have a deep impact on our very own society.