By Caroline Mathews, International News Writer
On February 21st, officials in one of India’s poorest eastern states will prohibit the use of socks and shoes during examinations in attempt to edge out cheating. Officials hope to prevent the sneaking of cheat-sheets by searching students before admitting entrance to the exam hall, and those who plan to attend wearing shoes or socks will not be granted admittance. The students will also be monitored by video while taking the exam.
Notorious for cheating students, the Bihar state expelled more than 1600 students for cheating in school and detained 100 parents for aiding their children to cheat in 2013. In 2016, the state instated penalties including fines and jail terms for cheating in school exams; following the crackdown, Bihar’s pass rate fell steeply from 2014’s 70% to barely 50% in 2015.
Bihar’s “epidemic of cheating,” epitomizes the pressure thrust onto students by the Indian educational system. From a young age, Indian students have the necessity of excellence drilled into them, as education is a way out of poverty with promises of upward mobility into the middle class. Students hope to gain admittance to one of the 16 Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) and a pathway into prestigious careers. Enrollment for entrance exams has risen sharply—1.34 million students sat in on the exams in 2014, up from half a million in 2004—while only about 1% of them will make the cut. Utkarsh Malhotra, now an IIT alumni, was quoted by BBC saying he knew students “who changed their diets, who changed their sleeping patterns, who changed everything for [examinations,] IITs are like a pressure cooker situation.” Twinkle Aurora, an eighteen year-old, attended a private coaching institute and spent 13 hours a day, six days a week to study in hopes to pass the exam.
Acing school exams is of the utmost importance for success in India, and school enrollment has risen and reading levels have improved across the nation. However, the quality of teaching in most schools—especially less affluent ones—remains bleak.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, February 27th print edition.
Contact Caroline at