Has it ever occurred to you in your primary school days that your teacher could have been a pirate? No… no the Captain Hook kind of pirate, but rather pirates of exam papers from other schools. Remember the ad?

You wouldn’t steal a car. You wouldn’t steal a handbag. You wouldn’t steal a mobile phone. You wouldn’t steal an exam paper. Exam paper piracy is stealing. Stealing is against the law. Piracy. It’s a crime.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find the short clip, else I could link it here. Oh well.

Sorry, digressed.

Yes, it never once occurred to me in my primary school days that doing all the exam papers from other schools supported piracy. Of course, the ones that your teacher got it through friendly barter trading is probably alright. However, since I don’t exchange papers with other schools, I won’t know. Perhaps Miss Loi would know better? Is it illegal?

Pirated past exam papers now sold on CDs

FOR years, there has been a sizeable black market for old school exam papers, often a scholastic lifeline for students cramming for tests.

Now, the middlemen who illegally copy these papers have gone high-tech, offering their wares on CD for just a fraction of the hard-copy price.

Even though reproducing the papers amounts to copyright violation, these CDs are available in some bookshops and can also be ordered via e-mail, fax or SMS.

Despite warnings from the Education Ministry, some brazen sellers have even taken to passing out fliers touting these CDs that offer to ‘give your child a head start at school’ and help them ‘score’.

With competition in schools becoming increasingly fierce, this is a problem that some educators said is not likely to go away.

‘It is very difficult to bring these vendors to task as there are so many…out there,’ said Nanyang Primary vice-principal Loh Yuh Por. ‘Also, the demand for such papers is high, so there will always be vendors who will come in to fill the gap.’

Covering subjects such as English, Mathematics, Science and Chinese, the CDs contain 10 to 12 papers from prominent schools such as Raffles Girls’ Primary, Tao Nan and Ai Tong. Sellers said there was a ready supply of the papers, which usually come from students.

The CDs cost as little as $28 for four subjects, compared to $50 to $70 for the print versions, according to checks by The Straits Times. They are typically hand-delivered to the customer within two to three working days.

Most of the sellers contacted by The Straits Times declined to comment. However, many parents have been buying the CDs for their children.

Mrs Z. Chong, a secretary in her 40s, ordered a CD for her son – who is in Primary 4 – after receiving a flier in her mailbox.

Speaking in Mandarin, she said: ‘With the CD, we can print the papers again for more practice till he gets all the answers right.’

Another parent, Madam Noraidah S., 37, who received copies from a friend, said the CDs took up less space than the bulky print copies.

‘You don’t have to keep the whole stack of papers at home and you can print what you want,’ added the housewife, who has two daughters aged eight and 10.

A seller, who wanted to be known only as Mr Koh, said the CDs have become popular because an increasing number of Singaporeans were tech-savvy.

‘The world has changed, so we have to change,’ said Mr Koh.

Declining to reveal details, he said he sells ‘a few hundred copies’ of the CDs near exam periods.

The Ministry of Education said the sale of illegally copied exam papers was intellectual property theft.

Schools can take the necessary action to assert their copyright over their own exam papers, said the ministry.

However, some schools seem to be taking a hands-off approach.

The principal of Raffles Girls’ Primary, Ms Tan Siok Cheng, said pursuing copycats would cost time that was better spent on other things.

‘Although it is an infringement of copyright and intellectual property, if other children benefit from it, it’s okay,’ said Ms Tan. ‘I’m happy that our papers are recognised to be of good quality. It stretches our teachers to set better papers.’

Ms Tan said, however, that she was concerned about the authenticity and cost of the illegally copied exam papers.

She added that her school had been exchanging papers with many other schools, but people who photocopy them should seek permission before hawking these tests.

Article obtained from straitstimes.com on 15th April 2008

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