Board Exams: The Inside Scoop

A board exam is a formality arranged for the peasants of our social system, where their young ones walk in armed with knowledge and eventually walk out with the glorious titles of ‘Mettik pash’ or ‘Inter pash’ hung around their neck. Popular media will try to make you believe that this is all there is to it, that the cute little girls wearing blue and white (whose pictures are in the front page of every national newspaper on results day) represent everyone. Well they do, but not in the nice innocent way you’d expect. There’s a side to these girls and these exams that you can only understand if you’ve been inside them, and I am here to blow the lid.

Most Bangla medium students come from single-sex schools, and these board exams are the only time these boys and girls ever come within 10 feet of the opposite gender. By Bangla medium standards, the co-existence of this many girls and boys in one establishment is considered the real world equivalent of an orgy. (English medium students are more than familiar with what an orgy is, as we’ve pointed out previously).

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The sexual tension between these sexually frustrated teenagers is evident when they’re writing their papers. A boy might ask the girl sitting beside him the answer to a question. If the girl answers with a frown and a look of disgust at being asked to help in cheating, she is a filthy snob. If she decides to talk to that boy and acts all nice, she needs to be able to control her urges. If the girl is stupid (or in some cases, conniving) and gives the boy the wrong answer, he might not get a GPA 5 and then it becomes a story about a young man’s journey to drugs and death. There are huge things at stake in a board exam and not everything has to do with education.

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Seek out the HSC examinee in your family and give them a call the night before a major exam. Ask them about their preparation. There are only two ways this conversation can go:

a) You: Are you confident? Exam kemon hobe?
Them: Bhalo. Question paisi.
b) You: Are you confident? Exam kemon hobe?
Them: Kharap. Question pai nai.

Now, WAIT, don’t go all judgmental on the current state of education in our country. And don’t you dare say you and everybody else in your family are too honest to look at leaked questions. It’s absurd because something everyone does cannot be wrong, especially if it’s not hurting anybody. It’s actually helping everyone. Just last year, 142276 people got a GPA 5 in SSC. That translates roughly into 1 in 1000 Bangladeshis getting a GPA 5, which is the pinnacle of success for any board exam, in only 2014.
DO YOU UNDERSTAND WHAT THIS MEANS?
IN 10 YEARS 1 IN EVERY 100 BANGLADESHIS WILL BE A GENIUS BY OUR NATIONAL STANDARD.
ARE YOU TRYING TO TELL ME THIS IS NOT EDUCATIONAL DEVELOPMENT?
ARE YOU ASKING TO PUT A STOP TO WHATEVER IS CAUSING THIS?
ARE YOU FUCKING INSANE?
Leaked questions are a good thing, no matter what those English medium elitists try to tell you. They can talk when their system produces 1 genius out of every 100 Bangladeshis. It won’t, so they can shut up and get back to their group sex.

Board exams are like the Indian Premier League. They’ll tell you it’s a good thing for everyone involved (which it probably is) but if you’re riding a moral high horse you might have a problem with how things are done. The similarity points itself out with the amount of money that flies around during these exams. No, they don’t auction children during board exams for millions of dollars (however lucrative that may sound) but they do use the money for a number of other things. See, a lot of the subjects have two parts: a theory part and a practical part. While students can rely on cheating and leaked questions to ensure good marks for the theory part, they’re always genuinely terrified of the practical part. Even if the questions are leaked, they don’t actually know how to do the experiments, because they spent all those hours at the lab (if their school has a lab, which is rare) sniffing ammonia and thinking about that girl who sat beside them at Udvash. You know you’re into her but it’s sad because you look like Peter Pettigrew from the Harry Potter movies.

Getting back to the point, you don’t know how to do the experiments and neither do the millions of students across the country, so the normal thing to do is hand the mama at the laboratory a 50 taka note for chaa. Then just sit down, relax and resume thinking about Udvash girl as mama takes care of all your work. I am being serious when I tell you this is true. When one supervisor at an SSC centre warned students that they couldn’t do this anymore, the parents met that person and demanded that things be returned to how they were. There are at least five hundred to a couple thousand examinees in every centre and about 3000 centres across the country. I’m not sure if board exams in Bangladesh are morally right but what I am certain of is that every mama in every school lab can buy the mamis some nice things during exam season.

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But wait, that’s not all. One parent ruefully concedes that she has seen schools ask for extra money during board exam registration, and the purpose of that money is, again, for the chaa-nasta of the heads of the SSC centres. While the supervisors sip chaa-nasta and share it with the teachers, they will turn a blind eye, or in some cases, turn a good eye and assist students who try to use dishonest means to get their coveted GPA 5. In many cases this money buys the students a chance to meet their teachers in the middle of the test for on spot academic help, because they don’t get enough chance to do that in school. If this is starting to sound more and more like a 80s Hollywood movie with gangsters and paid-off cops, I’d like to say you’re not the only one. If this is starting to sound like something cool and makes you proud of our system, I’d like to say you’re not the only one either.

In some ways, board exams are like an erratic dictator. No matter how much money you pay the mamas and the invigilators and no matter how much you cheat, they do with you what they want. After all your honest and dishonest efforts to get an A+, it really is up to the board exam gods to decide if you are good enough. And the best part is (from what history has to suggest) board exam gods make drunk decisions. This is what a teacher once told me: “The difference between an A+ and an A is a cup of tea. If the missus gets me the tea before I check your copy, you’re good. If she’s late, you’re not.”
You know what this means, right? It’s an open and clear message. If you’re a student waiting for your SSC/HSC results, FUCK YOU.

P.S. I’m a student waiting for my SSC result. I am scared I have angered the board exam gods. Dowa chy.

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