India 'cheating' students expelled in Bihar

Cheating in Bihar
Image caption Parents were found throwing in answers through the classroom window

More than 1,600 students have been expelled for cheating in school examinations in the northern Indian state of Bihar, officials say.

At least 100 parents were also briefly detained for helping their children cheat in the senior school exams.

Over 1.3 million students from 4,000 schools sat the exams.

Cheating in exams is fairly common in Bihar, but the number of students and teachers caught this time is unprecedented.

Officials said improved vigilance by teachers, police and surprise visits by "flying squads" of officials headed by area magistrates to examination centres were the main reasons why such a large number of students and parents were caught cheating.

Bihar is one of India's poorest states with a 64% literacy rate, one of the lowest in the country. India's literacy rate is 74%.

The five-day examination, held by the Bihar School Examination Board (BSEB), ended on Monday.

'No leniency'

"Students have been expelled on charges of using unfair means or cheating in the examination halls," Lallan Jha, a senior BSEB official said.

He said the parents were detained for passing on answers and other "study material" at the examination centres.

Mr Jha said the expelled students could be barred from taking an examination for up to three years.

The students and parents can also be fined 2,000 rupees ($36; £24) or jailed for six months, or both, for the offence.

But such punishment has been rarely reported in the state.

Most of the incidents of cheating in the latest exam were reported from Chhapra, Motihari, Vaishali, Sheikhpura, Muzaffarpur, Darbhanga, Gaya, Bhagalpur and Jehanabad districts.

Officials say students smuggled in textbooks and notes into the examination centres despite tight security for "fair and peaceful examinations".

Some of their parents and relatives also threw into classrooms answers written on paper planes or "simply passed them on to other people walking in and out of the classrooms".

At some schools, parents helping their children cheat also clashed with the police, officials say.

In the past years, local newspapers have published photographs of students caught cheating and parents found to have been helping them in a bid to shame them. But this does not appear to have deterred those caught this year.

"What to do? It has been happening here for a long time. Everybody does it here," said Permeshwar Sharma, a resident of Motihari.

He said his young brother had passed on textbooks to his son who sat for the exam through a classroom window while standing on the perimeter wall of a school building.

In 2008, India's Supreme Court said students caught cheating during exams deserved "no leniency... and should be severely punished".

"If our country is to progress we must maintain high educational standards, and this is only possible if malpractices in examinations are curbed with an iron hand," the court said.

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