Thursday, 21 May 2015

School For Scoundrels

Teachers cheating to get better results for their pupils is probably nothing new ... after all early in the Western tradition, teachers were often paid only on results.

In ancient Greek and Roman times, a teacher would often stand in a market or open area, and discourse on a subject, hoping to get a meagre payment from a collection at the end of the lesson. In many respects this was little different from story telling, from which it undoubtedly derived. If he could attract enough followers or pupils, he might open his own school of teaching, ranging from mathematics, oratory and public speaking, through to law, geography or philosophy. This new school may well have still be in the open air, but under a tree or shelter (lighting and summer heat being a big factor).
During the early middle ages in Europe, non religious teaching lost so much prestige as a profession, that travelling teachers would flock around centres of learning such as Paris and Oxford, looking for paying pupils .... it wasn't completely unknown for the paying pupil to chastise and beat the teacher if unhappy with their performance (although normally it was the other way around, with 'teachers' often stereotyped as a sadistic tyrants). The arrival of 'grammar schools' (such as those attended by a certain Mr Shakespeare) for craftsmen's children e.g. boys nicknamed "Carpenter's Children", set the teacher back on the road to respectability.

Gradually, in the West, teaching regained its role and prestige and by the high Victorian era teachers were respected and comparatively well paid members of society. It was a male role for male students in most 'public' (meaning private fee) schools, but with the factories needing literate workers for the machines, state schooling started to develop for workers children up until basic level (aged 14 at maximum), and this opened up the profession to women as well.

This led us into modern times, when certainly after 1945, schooling up until age 16 for both sexes was a legal requirement in most of North America, and Western and Central Europe, and this spread to all the colonies as well, certainly for the white settlers, and then for many of the natives as well. So that in modern times, again in the Western tradition, teacher probity around examinations was considered to be the absolute minimum standard required.

Schools For Scoundrels Are Not A New Concept

And that, would be that, for this posting, but recently there has been a phenomena of teachers cheating exams with their pupils ..... this seems to be driven, either by the all powerful need to meet school assessments, much of which are based upon examination results, or financial gain.
In the public school system in Atlanta Georgia in the US ('public' meaning not private fee paying), a large number of teachers and officials, have been imprisoned after courts heard about extensive evidence of cheating being uncovered at 44 schools, with nearly 180 officials involved. The motivation for this seems to have been bonuses paid to teachers and the officials, if the pupils (who were mostly from poor backgrounds), 'improved' their grading's. But its not just restricted to poor black areas, prestigious Dartmouth College in New Hampshire suspended 64 pupils for cheating, when some of the electronic hand-held clickers, registered to individual students to answer questions in class, fell into the wrong hands, enabling 64 students to cheat. Some faced a one-term suspensions.

In the UK, a number of teachers have been suspended and or sacked (stronger teachers unions in the UK), for helping pupils to cheat .... this time the motivations seem to have be school exam result grading's, rather than individual financial motivations (although this can't be ignored as being a factor).

I have no doubt that there are examples like this to be found across Europe, South America and Africa as well as the middle east and Caribbean ... In Cuba for example, money seems to have been the reason why eight people, five of them teachers, were arrested last year, accused of selling university entrance exams. Thousands of of secondary school pupils in Havana were obliged to re-sit their exams, according to reports in the official newspaper 'Granma' .....

...... but surely nothing matches the systematic and open cheating in some of the schools in India .... in Bihar state in particular, shocking scenes of exam abuse were filmed and photographed.

Cheating Is Open
About 1,000 people have been arrested, with more to follow, but no one doubts that this is the very thin tip, of a very large iceberg. How much the widespread abuses will be hushed up, so as not to damage 'national pride', or the Indian schooling system, is yet to be seen.

Epic Scenes Of Exam Cheating In Bihar In India

Its certainly a test of whether Indian justice can be trusted .... but when a former chief minister of Bihar responded to the crisis by saying that students should be allowed to take books in examination halls, and is backed up in this 'solution' by a former state minister, you have to suspect that this matter will not be handled very robustly.

In the US on the other hand, the State of Georgia has certainly sent out a robust message to exam cheats in the USA. When all the world is now a reporter or paparazzi via smart phones, many dark little shadows are being lit up and sent out to the world. This particular example brings a new meaning to the term 'BA Calcutta failed' doesn't it.


  1. I couldn't help thinking of The Life of Brian at the beginning of your article with the 'teachers' offering their wisdom to the crowds in the market place, some better than others!

  2. BBC 14/02/2017: India's Supreme Court has cancelled the licenses of 634 doctors embroiled in a medical school admissions scandal in central Madhya Pradesh state. Hundreds of candidates were found to have cheated to gain admission to medical colleges between 2008 and 2013


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