21st-Century Cheating Methods And Pakistani Education

21st-Century Cheating Methods And Pakistani Education
With advancements in technology, cheating tactics used by students have been evolving accordingly. Students of 2023 use cheating techniques that their forefathers never thought about.

Earlier, the assistance of the invigilator was considered ‘cheating at its peak.’ A few years ago, as cheating evolved, those helpers who possessed a “cheating permit” could enter examination halls to assist the candidate. Lately, Chat GPT has replaced the former ways of cheating. Now what students do is simply take out a cell phone in the examination hall and start seeking help in cheating from Chat GPT.

Most of the time, we talk about the 22.8 million out-of-school children in the country. But in this piece, I shall talk about only those students who are enrolled in some school or college – and why they cheat.

In all methods of cheating, the invigilator has a primary role. The permission to cheat is in their hands, whatever the cheating technique may be. In addition, in some cases, parents connect both stakeholders – students and examiners – when it comes to the board examinations.

In the board’s intermediate examinations for 2023 in Balochistan, witnessing such stories was as easy as visiting an examination hall within walking distance. Similar stories are rampant in every part of Balochistan. Some centres were designated for specific students who could cheat freely, and nobody was allowed to stop the “VIP cheaters.”

Last month, I visited a government high school located thirty minutes from our village. Here, I was acquainted with the teaching standards and punctuality norms prevalent in government schools. Let me share some facts and figures.

The number of teachers in that government high school was only six. Out of those six, two teachers felt that they were not fit for teaching; therefore, they sent someone else to the school who could actually teach! The deal was that 12% of the salary would be given to the replacement – who, of course, was not the actual teacher appointed by the government. The strength of the school was 130 students approximately, and it was functional till grade six only.

In other government schools in villages, the story is no different. In fact, it is scarier. I also came to know that in other schools, the principal also has some percentage in the deal if a teacher feels that they are not fit to teach. To my surprise, the percentage varies from school to school.

I was shocked when I took a sample test of the students in the school. The students of grades two and three did not even know their total number of subjects, or the spelling of “mathematics” and “social studies.” For a moment, I felt that our out-of-school children were better than such enrolled students. What do you think? Is the future in safe hands?

According to a survey, 80% of the schools constructed between 2013 and 2018 in Balochistan are not functional. But the story that I related above is of a functional school. Even a layman can extrapolate the graph to know the situation of nonfunctional schools.

One can connect the dots between the standard of the schools and the environment in examination halls. It may not be out of place to mention that our teachers, parents, and Islamic scholars (ulema) have miserably failed in their duties. Their failure has led to the moral degradation of society. They do not even think cheating is illegitimate even when the practice of cheating is against the teachings of the Holy Quran. In the board examinations, aged teachers and professors are in touch with their children via WhatsApp. They feel it is a responsibility to ‘take care’ of children in such a manner. Nonetheless, parents must know that wrong is wrong even if everyone is doing it.

If teachers and parents continue their involvement in assisting students to use unfair means, they should not expect any skill from the ones they call the ‘future’ of the country. Unemployment in the near future is going to increase even more. While the developed nations talk about 21st-century skills, our students do not even possess 20th-century skills. Relating population with development, the former is alarmingly increasing at a rate of 2.4%, which is equivalent to the addition of 4 to 5 million in annual population. Although Balochistan is the least populated, the increase in the population has been the highest so far, according to the census in 2023.

If we really want to become part of the pool of developed societies, we must get rid of the menace of cheating. For this, the government must take the lead. The government should adopt a zero-tolerance policy towards cheating. They should also ensure the selection of teachers based on pure merit. Likewise, those in authority must leave no stone unturned in upgrading the standards of the teachers.

Moreover, Islamic scholars have an important responsibility to call a spade a spade. Since people hear and listen to them attentively, they must mention in their speeches that cheating is illegal. Citing Quranic verses is crucial in this context, as is the life of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) as an educator and a practical example for us to follow. How he taught and behaved with students is not followed by us today, unfortunately.

And so it is that instead of becoming smarter students, the inclination and shift of the students is towards becoming smarter cheaters.

There is no shortcut to success. It is we who support cheating, and it is we who should stop it.

The author can be reached via email here: dawoodkhan0666@gmail.com