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Cheating Scandal Rocks India

Parents of students in Bihar, India, are arrested after climbing a school wall to help their kids cheat on tests

By Sean Price

Dozens of parents in India were caught helping their 10th-graders cheat on standardized tests. Image credit Europics /Newscom.

Students in Bihar, where many live in poverty, are under enormous pressure to pass the exams that could get them into college. Image credit Jim McMahon.







A lot of parents help their kids do homework and study for school. But the parents of some students in India have taken helping their kids to a new level.

A photographer in India’s Bihar state snapped a photo of dozens of parents risking their lives to help their 10th-graders cheat on tests. The parents climbed the walls of a four-story school to throw cheat sheets through the window for their children.

The massive cheating outbreak did not go unpunished. About 600 students were expelled from the school. And police have detained (held in jail) more than 1,000 people connected with the scandal.


The tests the Bihar students were taking are called board exams. These exams help determine who will be considered the top students in each class. India’s best universities will take only students with a 95 percent score or better. As a result, students throughout the country are under enormous pressure to do well on the tests.

Students who make it into India’s top universities have a much better chance of being hired for well-paying jobs. They can help their families by becoming doctors or engineers. Many of the students who don’t pursue these kinds of careers have a much more difficult time making money.

India has a high poverty rate. About 30 percent of its citizens are considered poor. In many parts of the country, a family of five might struggle to survive on as little as $80 a month. For students who do well, the exams can be a life-changing event for their families.


Cheating on board exams is widespread in India and goes far beyond Bihar. At wealthier schools in the country, some students get answers transmitted to them electronically. Teachers, police, and other officials may even be bribed to ignore students’ cheating.

“The exam season could well be called cheating season,” writes Mridula Chari, an Indian journalist.

Government officials have tried to crack down on cheating. They have put cameras in examination halls and punished officials who allow cheating. In Bihar, the photos showing parents climbing the building were a huge embarrassment.

But few believe the Bihar incident will stop people from cheating on exams. Many students assume that because others are cheating, they also have to cheat to keep up. This cycle has proved very difficult to break.

Officials believe that new laws and policies will help only so much. To stop cheating, they say, people need to change their attitudes toward it. “The government cannot stop cheating in exams,” says Bihar’s education minister, P.K. Shahi. “It is also the responsibility of the society to ensure a cheating-free exam.”




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