The case of a school in Tiruvannamalai abetting malpractice by students illustrates this unhealthy competition. There are strict rules, both formal and unwritten, to avoid incidents of students engaging in malpractices during exams. Students are prevented from wearing belts and shoes to the exam hall.
"These are not put down in black and white, but are left to the discretion of the exam centre or hall superintendent. The government arranges for flying squads and surprise inspections by officials, but at the end of the day it boils down to the moral responsibility of the invigilator or school correspondent. And many slip, as too much depends on marks these days," said a private school correspondent, who declined to be named.
At a meeting of educational officers ahead of the exams, school education minister N R Sivapathi urged them to ensure that cases of malpractice that had happened earlier were not repeated. Still, observers say, some schools know ways to ensure officials turn a blind eye to questionable practices adopted by them.
The evaluation of Class 12 board exam answer scripts is on and education department officials are held up at these centres, grounding the flying squads and allowing some schools 'a free run'. A retired district educational officer said that usually Class 12 exams are given more importance as it is state policy to determine admission to a professional course based on a student's marks in the class 12 boards.
Soon after question hour in the assembly on Tuesday, an MLA wondered whether the department authorities were hand in glove with the school management. Some said the MLA was not far off the mark. Observers say this year's Class 10 results are of great importance to the government, as this is the first year of AIADMK government and it will be eager to get a better pass percentage than the previous government. Department officials disagree: "Any government would choose to conduct an event-free exam session over good results," said an official in the directorate of government examinations.
Responding to queries in the assembly, minister Sivapathi said seven individuals were suspended after Monday's incident and they were considering whether to take further action against the school. "There are 5.5 lakh teachers in the state. The government is taking action against the few who make such mistakes," he said.
Shocked at the manner in which marks are pursued, some academics say the attitude of parents has also changed. A few days ago, a school correspondent said, some parents told him their students were treated unfairly. Even as he was wondering whether his teachers were not carrying out their duties properly, the parents explained that while some schools in the area allowed their children to copy "ours didn't." "I was appalled that something like this should come from a parent. I was able to convince three of them that this was not the way to go. One remained unconvinced," the correspondent said.