Investigation ongoing to fix accountability for question paper leak

BCSEA: Bhutan Council for School Examination and Assessment (BCSEA) started evaluating the class XII English II answer sheets yesterday following the prime minister’s approval of its board’s decision.

Some 40 English teachers were recalled to evaluate the paper at the College of Science and Technology (CST) and will complete it in a week.

The council’s press release stated the board “recommended that BCSEA evaluate English II paper and award marks accordingly, but impose severe penalties on those responsible for the paper leakage.”

Following a huge public outcry, the Cabinet requested BCSEA to reconsider its earlier decision, and take some time to study the situation carefully and resolve the problem with more suitable options.

The board met again on January 7 and decided to revoke the earlier decision of validating the English examination results based on the marks obtained in English paper I.  The decision comes exactly a month after word went around that the English II paper had leaked.

Council officials said although this decision may not guarantee complete fairness and acceptability by all, the board felt it was comparatively a better decision as it would “ensure timely declaration and fairer examination results, since the penalty will be meted out only to individuals involved in the paper leakage.”

The experienced evaluators, officials said, could identify students, who had access to the questions, by judging the style or wording of the students’ answers.

Besides, BCSEA could verify the students’ performance in the trial examination or the English II paper.  However, they would not base their decisions entirely on it.

BCSEA’s initial investigation found that nine students of a school in Paro had access to the whole question paper set on the eve of the examination and were the primary source of the leak.  Others received a few questions much later that night or just before sitting for the examination the next day.

The students, who were responsible for leaking the questions, would be barred from appearing examinations for the next five years, according to examination rules and regulations for malpractice.

Officials said since students got parts of the question not long before the examination, could mean that they had very little time to prepare.

The board ruled out re-examination because of financial implications for students and parents, logistical and physical difficulties both for the government and the students, difficulty in accessing study materials and cause delay in admission to colleges and for scholarships, among others.

“Above all, there’s no guarantee that all students would be present at the re-examination,” a BCSEA official said.

As the evaluation of the paper has been delayed, the declaration of the results would also be delayed by a week, according to officials.

“So, the results would be declared along with class X results,” the official said.

The prime minister recently at the meet the press session said the government would trace every student, teacher or government official involved in leaking the class XII English II paper and penalise them.

Lyonchhoen Tshering Tobgay had said that, regardless of the decision the BCSEA board takes, the government is determined to find out the person responsible for distributing the questions. “Otherwise the credibility of our examination system is at stake.”

The government would also support the board’s decision as long as the decision was well considered.

Meanwhile, BCSEA is also asked to complete the investigation at the earliest possible and establish measures to prevent similar incidents in the future.

“We’ve done what we could within the mandate of our organisation and have sought further help from relevant agencies in the investigation,” BCSEA official said. “They’ve been supportive.”

Right after the English II paper examination was over, the last paper last year on December 13, word went around of the paper being leaked and the council received a report through the supervisor of Drukgyel HSS, Paro.

The Council’s investigation began immediately.  It covered Paro, Thimphu, Chukha, Bumthang, and Samdrupjongkhar before confirming the leak on December 19.

About 11,000 students appeared the class XII board examinations last year.

By Tshering Palden