By Anand Parthasarathy
February 16, 2023: As Class 10 and Class 12 examinations of the Central Board of Secondary Education, began India-wide yesterday, students were issued a new instruction:
"Mobile, ChatGPT and other electronic items will not be allowed in examination hall.”
It reiterates: “Students are not allowed to carry any electronic devices inside the exam centre. This includes using device to access ChatGPT so that unfair means is not used.”
Ignoring for the moment the fact that ChatGPT is not an electronic device, but a Web-based application, the reference is to the Artificial Intelligence-fuelled tool, freely available since it was launched worldwide by the makers OpenAI, in November 2022. This is a chatbot that any one can download on mobile phone, PC or laptop. It engages in human-like interaction and provides amazingly detailed answers, on the fly, to any question from the entire world of knowledge except current happenings.
Students have discovered that ChatGPT can be very useful -- answering all mathematics problems and generating essays, term papers – everything with good accuracy.
But to access ChatGPT you need a physical device with access to Internet. It could be small pieces of hardware like a mobile phone, even a smart watch with its own data connection to the Internet.
CBSE’s standing list of Barred Items In CBSE Board Exams 2023 already includes the following:
Mobiles, Tablets, Bluetooth, Airphone, Microphones, Pagers, Health bands, Cameras, etc., Calculator, Pen drives, Electronic pen/scanner. (The old analog-type wristwatches are allowed).
This list includes pretty much every device that can be used to access ChatGPT at the current state of technology. Banning ChatGPT in the exam hall is like saying “Use of Wikipedia will not be allowed in the examination hall”. It is a meaningless injunction when all current devices to access ChatGPT – or for the matter, anything on the Internet-- are already prohibited.
Noam Chomsky the US philosopher calls any use of ChatGPT, “high tech plagiarism” since it is recycling someone else’s thoughts and ideas. But the CBSE’s ‘protect my back’ notification only displays ignorance about how and where ChatGPT is really a challenge to the education system – outside the classroom.
Like so many academic institutions worldwide, the Board need to introvert over how to rework the entire system of credits for home assignments in schools, how online evaluation can be conducted, where there is no way to ensure what resources students can access in the privacy of home or hostel.
The controlled environment of the exam hall should be the least of their worries.
This report has appeared in Swarajya