Cheating in school tests is an old Indian problem.
But the malpractice literally scaled new heights this week in the eastern state of Bihar when relatives of 10th-grade students climbed the wall of a school building and perched precariously from windows of classrooms as they handed cheat sheets to children writing the tests inside.
Photographs and videos showing parents, friends and others scaling the school wall — Spiderman-style — went viral in India on Thursday. Police officers standing nearby watched helplessly.
Family values, some called it on Twitter. It does take a village, another said.
— Aditya Kalra (@adityakalra) March 19, 2015
@amitbjo That's true, but cheating in UP, Bihar has acquired cultural acceptance, those solving questions celebrated as Heroes in localities
— Chandra Bhan Prasad (@cbhanp) March 19, 2015
Videos also showed school inspectors slapping young girls as they pulled out cheat sheets from under their tables.
— NDTV (@ndtv) March 19, 2015
Cheating is common in schools in remote rural areas in India, where jobs and seats in college courses are few but competition is fierce. But the sight of parents risking their life and limbs to climb the walls shocked many Indians.
Under Bihar’s anti-cheating law, dozens of 12th-grade students were expelled and their parents detained last month in cases of cheating in tests.
Many students in India drop out of school because they fail to pass the tough standardized tests in their 10th and 12th grades.
Education experts say that cheating is just a symptom of the deeper problems that plague India's education system, such as teacher absenteeism, emphasis on rote learning and inadequate school infrastructure.
A recent study by the Pratham Education Foundation showed that only 48 percent of fifth-grade students could read a second-grade textbook.
“According to the reports we received, there have been complaints about cheating in many places, especially in rural areas,” P.K. Sahi, education minister of Bihar, told reporters on Thursday. “Is this just the responsibility of the government? Is it possible for the government to conduct fair tests without public support? You tell us what can the government do to stop cheating if parents and relatives are not ready to cooperate?”
Authorities expelled nearly 500 students from the tests, according to local media reports.