Rigging test? Son of exam board member comes out on topCIAA had taken over the entrance examination of KU School of Medicine after suspecting a question leak
In a chequered examination process at the Kathmandu University that saw the anti-corruption commission take over the exams process on suspicion of foul play, the son of a faculty administering the exam, who according to several testimonies was an average student, came out on top.
The incident has not only called into question the integrity of the exams conducted by a reputed university of the country, it has also raised questions about the role of the Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority.
The CIAA took over the entrance examination of the KU School of Medicine on May 28 after suspecting a question leak. Two days prior to the entrance for a post-graduate course, they had brought along experts who selected questions from the same question bank that they thought had leaked, raising doubts over the actual intention of the corruption watchdog.
In this entire process, Dr Bhagwat Nepal, professor of ophthalmology at the KU, was involved as a representative from the institution while his son Dr Sahit was sitting for the exam. There was clearly a conflict of interest.
When the results were announced, Dr Sahit topped the test securing 81 marks—further entrenching the perception that Sahit had undue advantage given that his father had not only sat on the results committee, he had also prepared the test paper.
One of the doctors involved in the process said they had picked a majority of the questions from the collection while some more were prepared by them.
KU officials said they were unaware of the conflict of interest prior to the results were announced. KU Registrar Dr Bhola Thapa said they do not have a declaration system. “It remains a moral issue although we are planning to introduce such declaration,” said Dr Thapa. “Nobody knew that his son was taking the examination or at least he could have told us to avoid such blunder. Still we have full trust that there has not been any …”
However, such sweeping statement from Dr Thapa contradicts the KU entrance process. Each student should give the details of the parents in the form they submit to the university to be eligible for the test.
According to international and national ethical practices, no parents or guardians are allowed to be part of the examination and the result committee when their children or close relatives are taking any sorts of examination.
Responding to a writ, Judge Kashi Raj Dahal of the Administrative Court had ruled on May 30, 2013 that no one is allowed to hold examination if there is a conflict of interest and in such a case the examination should be annulled. The ruling came in the case of Tika Ram Dhakal, superintendent of the Public Service Commission examination for the Minbhawan centre, who had transferred his wife there from Sinamangal.
Also, apart from the conflict of interest, a background check conducted by the Post of Dr Sahit in his previous academic performance found that he was an average student. Dr Sahit had failed in two subjects, Pharmacology and Physiology, in his first year board examination in 2010 while he passed the MBBS with 63.54 percent. He was enrolled in the Kathmandu Medical College in August 2009. Teachers at the KMC said Dr Sahit was an average student.
Dr Bhagwat said he did not have any role to play as the CIAA had entirely taken over the test and the results. “Just because I am his father does not mean he cannot sit for the examination,” said Dr Bhagwat. “I have no involvement in the examination process. It’s been easier since the CIAA took it over. They prepared the questions and the answer key and published the results too. I was only present on behalf of the KU.”
If he had been involved, he claimed, it would have been in the examination of Basic Sciences and Dental, not in Clinical where his son was taking the test.
Apart from being a part of the exam committee, Dr Bhagwat was appointed by the dean’s office of the School of Medicine for preparing the question bank for this year. The question bank is a set of questions prepared by experts across the country.
The CIAA team, during an investigation in the KU, had found the question bank in two desktop computers. The CIAA had seized the computer of Dr Bhagwat and Dr Narendra Jung Rana, the dean. Dr Thapa admitted that there had been some technical blunders of the question formation committee when the questions were transferred from one computer to others through pen drives.
Krishna Hari Pushkar, spokesperson for the CIAA, claimed that they had just looked into the examination procedure following numerous complaints. “We made sure that there was fairness in the examination,” he said. He denied having conducted the test. Regarding the investigation of the officials, Pushkar did not comment.