Big Boss is watching: 1.91 lakh cameras installed in UP to curb cheating in Board exams
The UP Secondary Education dept has introduced many firsts this year to curb the copying mafia. The most revolutionary step is the webcasting of the exams through a hi-tech control room in Lucknow.
LUCKNOW: Class XII examinees at a Barabanki college were writing their papers with rapt attention when suddenly an announcement broke the silence. It was a 'Big Boss' moment in the hall. One student in the second row was asked to sit straight and focus on his paper. At another examination centre in another district, one of the two invigilators was asked to come in front of the CCTV camera and wave to mark his presence.
The ‘Big Boss’ here is the control room at the Secondary Education Directorate in Lucknow for real-time monitoring and vigilance through ‘webcasting’ to deter students from indulging in the use of unfair means while taking the Class X and Class XII exams being conducted by the UP Board of Secondary Education. Moreover, it is also helping in keeping the ‘Munna Bhais’ away.
Around 56 lakh students of the UP Board are taking the high school and intermediate examinations which kicked off on February 18. While over 25.86 lakh students are appearing in the intermediate examination, over 30.25 lakh are writing the high school examinations.
The UP Secondary Education department has introduced many firsts this year not only to curb the thriving copying mafia but also to accord credibility to the exercise and uphold the sanctity of the examinations which were largely compromised earlier.
The most revolutionary step is the introduction of webcasting of examinations through a hi-tech control room set up in Lucknow. A multi-tier monitoring system has been put in place. This centralised control room with a huge camera wall is connected with each of the 7,784 examinations centres across 75 districts of state through a network of around 1.91 lakh CCTV cameras.
Besides, control rooms at district level have also been set up and all of them are connected to their respective desks in the central control room in Lucknow. “The arrangements for the webcasting of examinations have been made by the department using its own resources without any extra financial help from the state government. It is being done every day from 7 am to 5:30 pm covering both the shifts of the examinations,” says Principal Secretary, Secondary Education, Aradhana Shukla.
She adds that the exercise is being monitored by senior officials of the department in the state capital. Moreover, the officer says that all the district administrations across the state have been roped in to conduct the Board exams in a free and fair manner. At the district level, sector magistrates have been deputed at examination centres to ensure the smooth conduct of the examinations.
In the control room, there are separate division-wise desks -- like Mirzapur, Lucknow, Kanpur, Unnao, Azamgarh, Varanasi, Gorakhpur etc -- each having monitors to keep an eye on the activities in examination centres of their respective divisions. Even Deputy CM Dr Dinesh Sharma, who also holds the secondary and higher education portfolios, conducts a surprise inspection of the control room every now and then.
“The decision to have webcasting of board examinations was taken in January and it was a gargantuan task ahead of us to get CCTV cameras installed and connect all 7784 centres across the state with the control room in Lucknow. But we made it happen with the use of software, roping in the power department for uninterrupted supply and ensuring internet connectivity within a month,” says Rajesh Kumar, Special Secretary, Secondary Education.
“The intent to webcast the examinations had many pluses. First, it inculcates a sense of confidence among hard-working students that they would be getting a fair deal as cheating would be curbed. and cheaters would not impact the results. Secondly, this step is expected to come as a deterrent for those who depended on copying to sail through,” says the Principal Secretary. She adds that the tight vigil also keeps the invigilators alert and curbs malpractices on their part.
Other measures to minimise the chances of copying include coloured and stitched answer sheets. The UP Board has made provision of four different sets of coloured and stitched answer sheets in most sensitive centres identified across 18 districts where examinees are more likely to resort to unfair practices during the examination. The Board had identified 938 centres as ‘sensitive’ and 395 as ‘hyper-sensitive’ which means these centres are vulnerable to cheating.
The board has also introduced the compartment system for Class 12 (intermediate) examinees. This was already in place for high school examinees.
In fact, the Board had introduced NCERT syllabus and examination pattern last year and had done away with the two-paper system, leaving only one paper for students to pass in each subject.
However, despite so many measures being taken by the state government to stop copying, papers are still getting leaked, solved answer sheets are still being recovered and complicity of not only the examinees but teachers too is cropping up in different districts on a daily basis. But the magnitude of the problem is much lower now. Moreover, immediate action and criminal proceedings are being initiated against such elements.
Over and above all the initiatives taken by the state government, the state police system is also contributing in a major way. The Special Task Force is keeping a close vigil across the examination centres to check any attempt of copying. The impact of curbs on copying can be gauged from the fact that an unprecedented 2.39 lakh students did not turn up to write the UP Board high school and intermediate examinations on day one on February 18, skipping the Hindi paper which was compulsory for both high school and intermediate students.
As per official sources, around four lakh students of different streams have skipped the examinations. While the high school examination will get over in 12 working days on March 3, the intermediate exams will conclude in 15 days March 6, just a couple of days ahead of the festival of colours Holi.
Following a series of measures initiated by the Secondary Education department to check the use of unfair means, the number of instances of copying has come down from 3,233 in 2018 to 1,182 in the 2019 board exams.
Likewise, while in 2018, around 12.5 lakh examinees had skipped the exam midway, in 2019 the number came down to 6.69 lakh examinees.
Steps have also been taken to address the academic problems faced by students during the exams. An endeavour is being made to resolve the issues related to high stress levels of the students and keep the examination pressure at bay.
Two toll-free helpline numbers -- 1800-180-5310 and 1800-180-5312 -- have been launched by the department. This is enabling students to get replies to their queries and also overcome stress through counselling. The helpline numbers remain active from 8 am to 8 pm.
In addition to this, helpline numbers for the control room -- 1800 180 6607, 0522-2239198 -- and the e-mail id: firstname.lastname@example.org have also been launched for the students to share their problems with the assurance of redressal within 24 hours.
A new Twitter handle @upboardexam2020 for real-time speedy transmission of information has also been introduced.
Special buses for candidates
To facilitate hassle-free travel to the examination centres, the department has arranged for special buses for the first time in the state for students. As per the Principal Secretary, one bus runs from each depot, except Lucknow from where four buses run.
With UP having 115 depots, a total of 119 special buses are plying. “These buses cover the farthest route where normally buses do not ply. The idea is to ensure that no student skips the exam because of a lack of transport services,” she said.
Total students taking UP Board exams: 56 lakh
Students taking Class X exams: 30.25 lakh
Students taking Class XII exams: 25.86 lakh
Total examination centres across 75 districts of UP: 7,784
Total centres identified as ‘sensitive’: 938
Total centres identified as hypersensitive: 395
CCTV camera installed across all examination centres for webcasting: A network of
around 1.91 lakh CCTV cameras.
Central Control room set up in Lucknow connected to each examination centre across UP
Toll-free helpline numbers: 1800-180-5310 and 1800-180-5312 to respond to students' queries and counselling
Helpline numbers for the control room — 1800 180 6607, 0522-2239198
E-mail id: email@example.com to redress students’ exam related problems within 24 hours.
Dropouts so far: Around 4 lakh
Number of dropouts during exams in 2018: 12.5 lakh
Number of dropouts during exams in 2019: 6.69 lakh examinees.
Number of instances of copying in 2018: 3,233
Number of instances of copying in 2019: 1,182
Total instances of copying reported in 2020 so far: 193
Total FIRs lodged so far in 2020: 18 examinees & 77 others
High school exams to end in 12 working days on March 3
Intermediate exams to end in 15 working days on March 6