O/L Exam mess puts Department of Examinations in soup!


There has been significant discussions surrounding the leaking of school term papers in the Western and Central Provinces as well

 

The Department of Examinations has failed to properly monitor even such a preliminary exam like the GCE O’ Levels

 

With regard to the science question paper containing questions outside the syllabus the Department of Examinations has maintaied that measures would be taken to prevent any injustice to the students
It is evident that education authorities seem to rely on temporary solutions to issues arising from question papers; the authorities often resorting to media appearances
The Ministry of Education stated that both the Ministry’s investigation units and the Criminal Investigation Department are conducting separate inquiries

 

The experience of sitting for an exam is competitive for a child. Having dedicated countless hours to studying, they approach the question paper provided by the Department of Examinations Sri Lanka with a multitude of hopes. Habouring for examinations and the attempts taken to clear hurdles like the Scholarship Exam, GCE Ordinary Level Exam and the GCE Advanced Level Exam are crucial in a child’s life. In this country, the Department of Examinations has failed to properly monitor even these preliminary exams, critics point out. 

Despite the prevalence of various laws or protective measures, the leaking of examination papers has become a common practice today. A classic example for this is the incident involving the leaking of the English question paper in the 2023/24 O/L Examination, along with two problematic questions in the science paper. The Commissioner General of Examinations Amith Jayasundara said that the Department of Examinations ensured fair treatment to students. Consequently, it was announced that two marks, one each, would be awarded to questions 9 and 39 of Part 1 of the Science paper. Moreover, there were allegations that this year’s science paper contained questions unrelated to the syllabus. Should this be confirmed, the Department of Examinations stated that measures would be taken to prevent any injustice to the students.  

Despite the pressing need to tackle issues such as paper leaking in examinations and other problems, it appears that responsible parties have not implemented an effective system to address them. Instead, it is evident that authorities seem to rely on temporary solutions; often resorting to media appearances.  

The Ministry of Education stated that both the Ministry’s investigation units and the Criminal Investigation Department are conducting separate inquiries to determine any potential connection between senior officials of the Examination Department and the leaking of the 2 Agriculture examination papers during the 2023 A-level examination last January. However, if such irregularities persist despite these investigations, it becomes a matter of accountability. If high-ranking officials in the examination and education sectors are implicated in the illicit release of question papers, it is imperative that the leadership within these departments take decisive action to curb such misconduct. Failure to do so risks eroding the trust of the nation’s youth in the integrity of exams that shape their futures.  


Loopholes in current laws

The education authorities have been unsuccessful in organizing not only main stream examinations, but also zonal examinations in a manner in which question papers are not leaked. There has been significant discussions surrounding the leaking of school term papers in the Western and Central Provinces as well. However, the issue lies not only in the occurrence of such leaks, but also in the inadequacy of punishments and the enforcement of existing laws. Effective penalties for those involved in such illicit activities could serve as a deterrent. Unfortunately, due to loopholes in current laws and the leniency of education authorities there have been instances of exam papers being leaked; such activities continuing to rise unchecked.  

In contrast to these committed educators, it is the tuition mafia in our country that capitalises on students who pass exams; often overshadowing the efforts of genuine teachers. These individuals have financial resources, surpassing even those of the Ministry of Education. Consequently, officials within the Ministry of Education and the Department of Examinations can be swayed by monetary incentives. Thus, it is not surprising that question papers may be leaked through such channels.

- Dr. Prabhath Ekanayake, Dean of the Faculty of Arts, University of Peradeniya

Dr. Prabhath Ekanayake, Dean of the Faculty of Arts at the University of Peradeniya, commented that the prevalence of examination paper leaks in Sri Lanka is a consequence of shortcomings within the existing examination system. “Given our education system, examinations are used only to measure a child’s talent. Today, rather than emphasising practical knowledge, there is a tendency towards memorization. While there are practical tests in subjects like dance and music, science subjects do not demand practical tests for the exam. Exams do not assess children’s abilities. Instead, three hours and forty-five minutes are allotted for the exam and the knowledge of the child is measured. There is a failed examination system in Sri Lanka.  

“To tackle this predicament, both the education and examination systems in our country require reforms. Despite the considerable efforts taken by teachers and education authorities in preparing exam papers, the current system solely assesses children’s knowledge. However, within this competitive educational environment, there may still be instances of misconduct despite their dedication. One criticism is directed at the selection process applied for preparing exam papers and invigilation is the perceived favouritism based on personal connections. While such accusations cannot be ignored, it’s recognised that such incidents do occur. Although the Department of Examinations has implemented measures to address these issues, they have not proven entirely effective.  
“Teachers who dedicate years to guide students from grade one to twelve develop a deep understanding of each child’s learning style and subject absorption capacity. However, in contrast to these committed educators, it is the tuition mafia in our country that capitalises on students who pass exams; often overshadowing the efforts of genuine teachers. These individuals have financial resources, surpassing even those of the Ministry of Education.

Consequently, officials within the Ministry of Education and the Department of Examinations can be swayed by monetary incentives. Thus, it is not surprising that question papers may be leaked through such channels. This is a flaw in the whole system. In a country where there are individuals who have committed financial crimes like robbing the Central Bank, the release of exam papers may seem trivial by comparison. However, such occurrences should not be dismissed lightly. It is imperative to establish a system to prevent errors in question papers and from them being leaked. If such a system cannot be implemented, the fault lies with the Department of Examinations. While measures will be taken to mitigate the impact of leaked papers on students, this should not be the case. The entire country is faltering under the current education system. The Minister of Education lacks a coherent philosophy or systematic approach to improving on education. Their attempts to address issues are ineffective. Therefore, there is a pressing need to reinstate structures like the Education Commission, which was established in the 1990s to oversee education in the country. Failure to do so could result in the deterioration of education. Solving problems associated with education requires entrusting knowledgeable and wise individuals with the task,” he added.  

Commenting on this, General Secretary of the Sri Lanka Teachers’ Union, Joseph Stalin, stated, “Sri Lanka has an exam-oriented education system. This examination system determines the future of the child. 500,000 sit for O/Levels examination, and 300,000 for the A/Level Examination. Approximately 200,000 children discontinue studies after O/Levels. Therefore, these exams are crucial, and the Department of Examinations bears a significant responsibility.  

The Department of Examination’s handling of this situation is irresponsible and poses a significant problem. The mishap concerning the English paper has been handed over to the Criminal Investigation Department; this suggests an attempt to conceal the incident. Additionally, errors were made in preparing the Science paper.

- Joseph Stalin General Secretary Sri Lanka Teachers’ Union

“This year, a subject that was not applicable for the O/L Examination was mistakenly included; resulting in 11,000 applicants receiving examination admissions. The Department of Examinations attributes this to a data entry error. As a result, question papers were printed, hall facilities were prepared, and a considerable amount of money was wasted. But what if a similar error were to occur during result processing? The Department of Examination’s handling of this situation is irresponsible and poses a significant problem. 

The mishap concerning the English paper has been handed over to the Criminal Investigation Department; this suggests an attempt to conceal the incident. Additionally, errors were made in preparing the Science paper. The Department of Education claims to compensate grieved parties by awarding marks. This is not just about giving marks. By not providing the correct questions, a child proficient in science is denied the opportunity to demonstrate his or her abilities and progress accordingly. This whole episode amounts to deceiving the students.  

“Previously, both Part 1 and 2 of the A-L Agriculture Science paper were leaked, and this information came to light through social media channels. Those implicated in the incident have been granted bail. However, the report of the internal investigation conducted by the Department of Examinations is still pending and has been subject to delays. Following the leaking of examination papers in 2012, the Department of Examinations took measures to cease all question paper discussion seminars two weeks prior to the examinations. However, despite this measure being taken, examination papers continue to be leaked through social media platforms and the Examinations Department is yet to halt these activities.   

“The Examinations Department committed another error during this year’s O/L Examination where part 1 of the Geography paper wasn’t provided to 14 students who were sitting for the exam in Tamil medium in Negombo. Additionally, no maps were provided to these students. There was not a single representative at the examination centre who knew Tamil. This situation raises questions about accountability for the injustice faced by these 14 students. Now the exams are over. If examinations in Sri Lanka continue to face such challenges, it will jeopardize the future of the children.  

“Examinations in Sri Lanka are recognised and accepted by countries worldwide due to the confidence placed in their integrity. However, the persistent issues of irregularities and frauds in the examination system remain unresolved. Discussions were held with the Minister of Education urging the immediate appointment of an investigation board to thoroughly probe the examination irregularities and frauds that have persisted over time. The aim is to identify those responsible and mete out punishment without bias. When incidents occur, the Department of Examinations cannot clear itself simply by making statements,” Stalin added.   
Despite multiple attempts to engage Deputy Commissioner of the Department of Examinations, Lasika Samarakoon, and seek clarification on these matters, we failed to receive any response.

 



  Comments - 5


You May Also Like