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“Even bright students cheat because they see others doing the same. They also cheat if they find a subject boring or of no significance to their future,” observes Kashif Husnain, a teacher.

“When I asked a student what was the first question that he asked his class fellow after coming out of the examination hall. He said I usually want to know if my friend, too, had all the answers with him on his micro-copy,” he says.

Students these days see cheating as their fundamental right. There are a number of cases reported by the media, too, where teachers who tried imposing some discipline were mistreated and even manhandled.

Technological advancement has also contributed in making copying during exams easy. Previously there was a big risk of being caught red-handed as students had to cheat from a hard copy from any guide. But thanks to technology there is now a paper-free environment all around. If they have a blue tooth device they can also communicate with anyone outside the hall to get the exact answers.

Ehtesham, a student of matric, believes that teachers don’t teach as they should. “Most private school teachers are not paid very good salaries so bright people don’t even consider this profession for themselves. Meanwhile, in government schools, teachers don’t pay heed to the students’ needs despite being paid well. There is also no check from higher authorities regarding the poor attendance of teachers in government institutions,” he points out.

Sidra, a student of first year says that “It’s now routine for schools and colleges to close due to any strike or disturbance. Such unscheduled breaks contribute to not covering the entire syllabus, which by the way is also obsolete. Still the board officials don’t care and prepare exam papers as if everything was normal.”

Fatima, mother of two, says that her entire focus is on her children doing well in their studies. So she has arranged two teachers to give tuitions to them in the evening. She also has additional monthly expenses in the form of fuel for the generator during loadshedding when the kids have to study. She wants them to do well in their exams and never encourages them to cheat but they do so anyway.

There is no guidance for students to improve after reviewing their mistakes. There are no past papers published or communication medium made by the board officials wherein they show the students how they solved the same paper.

How papers are checked and how marks are awarded is also a mystery. A student who fears his marks in the mathematics paper may be disappointing instead gets good marks in the subject and another who thinks he would top in physics has to sit for the supplementary exam. Normally, it is believed to be a matter of pure luck and dependant on the mood of the person checking the paper.

Another flaw in our education system compels students to learn the words in textbooks by heart and write them down the same way in their answer sheets. Students are discouraged from using their own reasoning capabilities.

Saud Sabir, a company brand manager in charge of recruiting, notes, “Job seekers come with good degrees and marks but they don’t even have knowledge of the basic concepts of engineering or of any other degree that they claim to have.”

He further states that he does not believe that all students cheat but it was obvious that they pay little attention to what they are learning. They just learn by heart and retain the information till the exams only, after which it is forgotten. But it’s the responsibility of educational institutions to excel in their teaching expertise. They are to feed knowledge in the students in interesting and practical ways so that it becomes interesting for the students to learn.

Teachers, too, were expected and required to undergo professional training before making teaching a career. Earlier, promotions were made on the basis of experience but now teacher training bears more weight. This is how you find a 19-year-old teaching students of matric. With there hardly being any age difference between the teachers and students these there is no longer any distance among them and they are more like friends. The problem arises when the students don’t see him as a teacher or someone they must respect. Who then do they listen to? Their own hearts most probably. Then the students are also aware that most teachers are low paid and that their own economical conditions are far better than the teacher’s.

Earlier, parents used to trust teachers completely and give them full control of their children. So the students also thought they had no choice but to listen to the teachers. But now the parents don’t tolerate teachers being strict with their students. They complain to the administration regarding their behavior and the administration always listens to the parents and can fire the teacher notwithstanding whether he or she was right or wrong in his or her actions.

This incompetence of the system is compensated through a bypass where students cheat, teachers facilitate and parents are happy that their kids are doing well.

Mohammad Moosa, a retired civil servant, observes, “Until the 1970s, the quality of education was satisfactory and there was no concept of tuitions let alone cheating to pass exams. In the 1980s teachers were hired not on the basis of their merit or willingness to be a teacher but on the basis of political affiliation, by sabotaging merit. It was like a punch in the face of our nation as it was a crucial responsibility given to those who really didn’t care or had any interest in educating students. Those people got their jobs and the politicians got their votes as education took a back seat.

That’s how cheating turns into an epidemic. And, ironically, it is we who are letting our own children get infected by the disease.