Monday, April 2, 2018

Michael Safi: India's 'cheating mafia' gets to work as school exam season hits

A few minutes into the final year maths exam at his Delhi high school, Raghav asked to use the bathroom. Inside, he texted pictures of the test paper he had secretly photographed to a phone number he was sent days before. Minutes later, answers materialised on the screen. “It isn’t cheating,” insists his mother Sunita, who paid 16,000 rupees (£175) for her son to obtain the phone number. “It’s a way out.”

India’s annual exam season has gripped the country in the last month, with tens of millions of students undertaking gruelling tests to qualify for the limited slots available at Indian universities – the best of them with admission rates about one-tenth those of Oxford and Cambridge. Also hard at work is the country’s so-called “cheating mafia”, the vast network aimed at profiting from the desperation of students and parents to get ahead in a country where, each year, an estimated 17 million people join a workforce adding only 5.5m jobs.

Last week, in the latest high-profile breach, the papers for two secondary exams were found to have been leaked on WhatsApp about 90 minutes before the tests. More than 2.8 million students in Delhi and the surrounding areas have been ordered to resit the exams later in April. “It is mental torture,” said Kirath Kaul, 15, an east Delhi student who will be forced to sit a new maths exam this month. “I was spending all day study [for the last one] and even getting up at night to prepare.”

Cheating on exams in India is endemic, organised and elaborate. In Bihar, one of the poorest states in the country, more than 1,000 students were expelled for cheating in February. Last year, the student who topped the state in one subject, arts, turned out to be a 42-year-old man. The student with the highest arts score in 2016 was stripped of her certificate after arousing suspicions, including by telling a TV interviewer she believed political science was the study of cooking... read more: