BY METHMALIE DISSANAYAKE (Ceylon Today)
There are a number of people who make fancy claims on examinations, saying that the examinations are just a part of life and that there is always a life beyond them. Sadly, Sri Lanka’s education system contradicts this notion. For the majority of Sri Lankans, two crucial examinations play a pivotal part in their chances of creating a better life. In a country like Sri Lanka education is the one and only solution for most people.
A 10-year-old child’s Grade 05 scholarship examination results can decide his or her future path for receiving quality secondary education while the GCE Advanced Level examination results can determine a career path for that person. In short, these examination results can change the destiny of a person.
Therefore, each and every mark matters, each and every point in the Z-score is crucial.
Because of this very reason, the Department of Examinations always takes strict steps against those who cheat in examinations.
There are a number of incidents in which the department halted the examination results of those who involved in cheating activities.
Banning the use of the face-veil
Banning the use of female students’ face-veil is the most recent step the department implemented to stop cheating in the examinations. This rule will apply for every examination from the 2017 GCE Advanced Level, the Examinations Department said.
On 8 August, Deputy Minister of Education Velusami Radhakrishnan said that the Education Ministry along with the Examinations Department has come to the decision of banning the use of face-veil during the Advanced Level Examination.
Giving a statement to ‘BBC Sinhala’ the Deputy Minister further said that this step had to be introduced due to the several complaints.
“For many months we received complaints that some female students who wear face-veils cheat during examinations by hiding small microphones and blue-tooth devices inside their headscarfs. After considering these complaints we decided to ban the use of face-veil so it would be fair for every examination candidate,” Radhakrishnan pointed out.
Apart from that, he said that the Ministry has also received complaints that using the face-veil imposters sit for the examinations instead of the real candidate.
Examination Commissioner’s statement
Speaking to Ceylon Today, Examination Commissioner W.J.N.T. Pushpakumara said that every candidate should reveal their identity before sitting the examination.
“If someone is unable to do so, the department has the power to halt their examination results after an investigation,” he said.
Therefore, the female students who wear face-veil should remove it in order to reveal their identity during the examination, he further maintained.
“In every examination hall, there are female examination invigilators. Therefore, the female students can lift their veils and show their faces to them so that the invigilators can ensure the identity of them,” the Commissioner pointed out.
Furthermore, he said that the examinations invigilators have the power to ask the female students to lift the veil even when the applicant is answering a question paper. This measure is introduced to prevent the possibility of someone else taking the place of the candidate after the candidate had initially, proved her identity, he added. Pushpakumara said that the department has received information that such incidents take place.
“Female students who refuse to show their faces and fail to remove the face-veil during the examination can still sit for the examination. However, according to the Examination Act we have the power to halt the results of such students after an investigation,” he elaborated.
Face-veil – A Cultural Symbol
Imposing a rule to have the removal of the face-veil of female students compulsory could be a very sensitive issue, as the face-veil represents a cultural and religious significance to some ethnic groups.
When asked about this, the Commissioner said that no one challenged this rule about the face-veil removal imposed by the department as yet.
“I believe they have understood as to why we imposed this rule. However, removing face-veils during an examination is the rule now. Everyone should obey it because this step is to ensure the quality and credibility of our examination system,” he said.
The Education Commissioner has taken a firm stand on this rule. “If the students want their results, then they should help us, by revealing their identity at the centres. Otherwise, they will not have their results. That is the final decision”, he added.
Responses of People
This decision of the Examination Department is receiving mixed responses from the citizenry. While some agree that this is a rule long overdue, others warn that this should be a carefully selected move.
However, they all convey their displeasure towards the media for not giving the attention to this important news as they should have.
“In this country, the media can find about very personal details of people by an instant. But they did not give the publicity to this news. People should know about things like this,” one woman pointed out, when asked about her opinion on the matter.
Dharani, an Undergraduate, said that the department’s decision is a good move.
A face-veil worn in public places also should be banned for security reasons.
“There is a risk that now they would not be allowed by their community and families to sit for exams, because their faces have to be revealed,” she said.
Charith, a Marketing Management professional also agreed with this rule. Everyone should respect the common law of the country despite of their cultural and religious norms, he argued. Otherwise, the very foundation of the society will collapse, he responded.
Maryam, who is a writer, blogger an avid instagram enthusiast is totally against the face-veil.
“Face-veils should be banned in all public places that require you to show your identity.
For an examination, it should be mandatory to show your face,” she pointed out.
Mohammed Sabry, a young journalist gave us a different angle on the story.
“I think the decision of banning the face-veil for examination is a fair one. I agree with the examination department with that. But the problem lies in communicating this decision to the examination centres,” he said.
According to Sabry, there are several incidents reported where the invigilators ordered to remove the scarf which some female students use to cover their heads, not the faces.
“This situation has occurred as a result of miscommunication. The headscarf covering does not hide the identity of these students.
So, ordering the removal of the headscarf will harm the mentality of the girls. So I think these things should be stopped from happening,” he explained.
Sesath, a student also agreed with the decision of the Examination Department. However, he had another angle about the matter.
“I personally like this decision. But at the same time I can see some disadvantages too. Sometimes, covering the face is not entirely a decision of the girl. In such kinds of situations, the girl will be in trouble because there is a possibility that the parents and the family of the girl would not send her to sit for the examination. We have heard stories similar to that from other countries as well.”
Elaborating further, Sesath said, “It is true that the decision like this should be taken in order to protect the fairness of an examination. But innocent children should not pay any price for such rules.”
Ceylon Today’s attempts to contact All Ceylon Jamiyyathul Ulama were unsuccessful.