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

Reader's Comments

  1. Miss Loi | April 15th, 2008 at 9:47 pm

    You know, with the number of “Your exam papers from which schools one har? Got include X School, Y School?” enquiries I’ve received, I’m really tempted to be a sexy hip pirate.

  2. Tianhong | April 15th, 2008 at 9:49 pm

    yup its illegal but no one enforces it. it is down to each and individual school to enforce the law and justice they need. but obviously no sch care about such things

  3. eugene | April 15th, 2008 at 10:15 pm

    Soon, we’ll hear of police conducting raids on those shady shops, then there’ll be pictures in newspapers of aunties getting plasticuffed, with whimpering sch-uniformed kids in toll. No prizes for guessing what the illegal goods are~ 🙂

  4. Miss Loi | April 15th, 2008 at 10:21 pm

    Ok to add to what’s been said, from my understanding there’s actually some sort of shared network run by MOE where school teachers can login to retrieve exam papers from participating schools.

    The network’s pretty huge but I believe that most of the independent schools are not part of it.

    So it’s probably safe to assume that consent is implied if teachers are distributing these papers to their students – but I’ll have to check with my teacher friends on this though.

  5. piper | April 16th, 2008 at 11:00 am

    We usually share exam papers with other schools – after all, exam paper setting is incredibly time consumming and we have better things to do than set mock exam papers – so that in itself is probably not illegal. In fact, it is fairly acceptable practice. My school collects and gives our cluster schools our papers every year. The students do not have access to these papers though. They only get what their teachers decide to give them.

    On the other hand, hawking them for profit is probably morally wrong, if not illegal, especially since I doubt the poor teachers who set the papers actually see any of the profit. 😀

  6. Chin Yong | April 16th, 2008 at 11:39 am

    Question here: Test papers are done by teachers. And Teachers are paid by the schools and the schools are funded by tax-payers.

    Indirectly the text/exam papers are commissioned by the public. Hence can parents who pay tax ask to have access to such material?

  7. paul | April 17th, 2008 at 8:53 am


  8. Boon Leong | April 17th, 2008 at 4:12 pm

    I like to offer an alternative perspective.

    Parents want it. Students need it. So there are enterprizing parties willing to meet this demand. It’s not like there is a legal way to obtain these papers. The schools wouldn’t sell them. If schools want to help, they could just publish them on their website. Or if they think they should be compensated for their work, then charge a fee for them. I’m leaning on believing there is a demand for legally obtained past exam papers.

  9. SGDaily Roundup: Week 16 « The Singapore Daily | April 21st, 2008 at 12:16 pm

    […] education – the boy who knew too much: The Best Student in the Class – Simply Jean: Be hip. Say no to exam paper piracy! – The Anti Neo-Democracy Theorist: Home School Education and The Reach of the […]

  10. Boon Leong | May 5th, 2008 at 2:30 pm

    Today I was told of a website that is already taking advantage of the opportunity to fill this need. The tutors list looks like some dating agency. Haha.

  11. Boon Leong | May 5th, 2008 at 2:31 pm

    I forgot to let you know the site I was referring to is http://www.misskoh.net.

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