The Arresting Case of Pursuing Higher Education

Posted · Add Comment

(And the scandal of it all.)

“Dozens of people — said to be family members of the students — were seen climbing the walls of an exam center and flinging answer sheets into various rooms where their wards were writing the exam.”

This isn’t the opening shot of a summer blockbuster overlaying highly rhythmic, vibrant, musical undertones. This is what happened at a school in the northeastern state of Bihar’s western Vaishali district, as described by The Times of India, in March of this year.


Photo Cred. India Today

Photo Cred. India Today

Climb the walls of a building to cheat – because education is THAT serious.

Students scaled the outer walls of school buildings to pass cheat sheets, police were forced to “fire in the air and carry out a baton charge to disperse people.” A day that began with 10th-graders from across the country sitting for crucial examinations to decide their educational future, resulted in the arrest of reportedly 300 people, including 150 parents, the expulsion of 600 students, and photos of it all going viral in circulation casting a digital shadow seen around the world.Examinations and test assessments are a uniquely unifying experience shared across the globe. While increasingly notorious, as The Atlantic has described, “It’s a ritual that at its core doesn’t vary much: Students sit at a table or a computer desk , or sometimes on the floor, pencil and/or mouse in hand, the clock ticking away mercilessly.”

The massive cheating scandal in India centered around the 1.4 million, across more than 1,200 high schools, that were taking their Class 10 board examination; a determinate to whether they could continue their high education at all. It’s not at all unlike many high school standardized test, that in their simplest form express, if you cannot prove to grapple a strong enough aptitude in several specific outlined areas, then, you’re not worth wild enough to be taught other education-period. Regardless of the test’s inability to necessarily show what future types of education you may best be attuned to receive, and or how.

There is a scene in the movie Interstellar, when Matthew McConaughey’s character speaks to his daughter Murph’s teacher and the school’s principal. The conversation between the three is led with the issue of his son Tom, not being “smart enough”, according to a test score, to be worthy enough of the school’s limited resources to receive a continued education.

Interstellar – Murph School Scene

They praise the father for his multiple skills, and move forward to discuss the interest they have in shaping his daughter.

This underrated dialogue exchange illustrates a perfect example of what many education structures do not take into account: it’s one thing to present a test as a method to determine the best or most needed areas of improvement for how to teach a student. It’s an entirely different matter when that test score determines if you even get to continue learning.

Think about that. That’s the weight added to certain examinations and assessments.

Like in shirts and hats, one size rarely fits all.

I’m bad in math. Correction, I’m bad in certain types of math. In middle school the math assessment tests placed me in advance math classes. In college I dropped my double major in marketing because I struggled in my accounting classes. I nearly had to delay my graduation because I barely passed the exit exam for a remedial math class that I’d failed twice, and it took about a dozen attempts at that stupid exit exam to finally get out it. In my case, in every kind of math that I’ve needed to be good at in the real world, I have been, but math test results nearly kept me from two degrees, that do not have an emphasis on math. We’re taught, because of so many kinds of test that we take in primary and secondary education, the weight of sweeping conclusions based on a set of numbers on a page, and it messes with our own way of thinking about ourselves.

As told to Alia Wong at The Atlantic, in her article, One Size Doesn’t Fit All,

Randi Weingarten, president of the 1.6 million-member American Federation of Teachers, “We are trying to lift children; we are trying to open up their minds, and we are trying to engage them. That takes a lot of creativity. And yet the way we’re getting measured is by an old-fashioned, factory-mode measurement. When you think about it, it’s insulting and ridiculous to think that ‘test-and-sanction’ is going to work.”

This is a problem everywhere. Take for instance that NPR has reported, “the relentless focus on education and exams is often to blame” for suicide among teens in South Korea, the leading cause of death for that demographic.  And last year, Tony Little, the headmaster of the highly regarded Eton College in England described London’s standardized-exam system as “unimaginative” and “archaic.” That system obliges students to sit alone at their desks in preparation for a world in which, for much of the time, they will need to work collaboratively.”

On the popular question and answer website Quora, students regularly ask for advice for anything they can do to pass the tests will make or break their higher education opportunity. One answer giver, self-described as a proud Indian, Dharav Solanki, began his response with, “From your question and tone, it seems like you are hyper. Then you yourself have told that you are desperate. Being desperate, anxious, worrisome or in any other state of mind will just keep you from doing what you need to do to clear JEE – sit down, study, imagine, think, ask questions and practice solving numericals.”

And continues with, “In this sense of desperation, doing a lot of things here and there frantically, without sound fundamentals just does not work. If you will stay frantic, desperate, you will do whatever that will ease off your state of mind. Sometimes, this would be studying. Sometimes, this would be studying whatever you find easy. Sometimes, this would mean – like many people do – letting it all go to hell and doing whatever that catches your fancy.

In the case of the India’s recent massive cheating scandal, they were willing to risk a lot, to let it go to hell so to speak, to try the best solution they could muster.

In their case it was cheating.




1. Source:
NPR: Police In India Arrest Hundreds In 10th-Grade Cheating Scandal


Writer and curator of interesting12, Maggie is a DC based writer with a heart for nonprofits, a passion for complicated people, and lover of all things well designed and well said. This former longtime LA resident is a firm believer we should be challenging ourselves to discuss what affect us in this world and how. She’s opinionated, a teller of both sides of the story, and some say she’s clever.