Indian police arrest schoolgirl over exam cheating scandal

NEW DELHI (AFP) - Police have arrested a schoolgirl in north-east India for allegedly cheating during pressure-packed exams that saw her come top in the state in a growing scandal, a senior officer said on Sunday (June 26).

Authorities in the impoverished state of Bihar have come under intense pressure to crack down on cheating this year during crucial school-leaving exams sat by hundreds of thousands of students.

Teachers and state education officials were left red-faced last year after television footage showed scores of desperate parents and others scaling outer walls of buildings to pass books and pieces of paper to students inside taking exams.

Police on Saturday arrested the 17-year-old, who gained the highest results in the state for year 12 in humanities, after issuing warrants for a string of exam-topping students.

Authorities became suspicious after the girl, when quizzed by a TV reporter this month, failed to correctly spell "political science", which she had been studying. She added that she thought the subject involved cooking.

"We have now arrested a total of 18 people including (the girl)," senior superintendent of Bihar police Manu Maharaj told AFP.

She was arrested soon after she attempted to take a special re-test and interview ordered by the Bihar School Examination Board in the wake of the scandal.

Students, especially millions from poor families, are under huge pressure to pass school-leaving exams which are seen as crucial to their chances of a successful career.

Dozens of police, other officials and parents were arrested in the crackdown last year but the fresh scandal has again embarrassed Bihar education authorities.

Local media on Sunday quoted investigators as saying that school and other officials were allegedly charging large sums of money this year in return for giving students better exam results.