Examination malpractice is an act and, to borrow the words of former President J. A. Kuffour, it is also as old as Adam. From the very onset of each child’s educational life, examinations are conducted to test two basic things: i) The child’s comprehension level of everything that has been taught within a period; and ii) teacher’s performance in the said period.
There are other things examinations seek to assess but the above are the two major things that it checks. Greater chunk of these exams that prepare the child towards the final exams of the child’s education (reference to basic and second cycle education) is conducted by the teacher who teaches this child and this is fair enough as this enables the teacher to assess the student per what he or she has learnt. Such exams are often characterized by the teacher setting questions to suit what he has taught and in effect, it’s actually an assessment of the teacher’s performance and not of the pupil. There are a lot of lapses in how our educational system is being skewed here and there, but that will be a discussion for another day.
Examinations in our schools are a test of competence, as may be seen, and the final exams are test of readiness for the outside world but in my view, we may be overlooking one very important factor when it comes to final examinations and even internal examinations. Examinations are actually tests of morality and the eschewing of corrupt thinking. We shall expound.
Here in our part of the world, our exams are conducted by the West African Examinations Council (WAEC) which oversees the writing of external exams in Nigeria, Ghana, Sierra Leone, the Gambia and Liberia. The will to “sail through” examinations is a great temptation for everyone who understands how important exams are and most often than not, the fear of failing a particular paper in exams can cause a student the urge to urinate and ‘pee in his or her pants’. From primary school through to the university, the temptation to cheat your way through is eminent as no one wishes to fail in any examination and have setbacks. But let’s shift our focus to external exams conducted by WAEC and how the very moral fabric tailors of society (teachers) use it to further deepen mental decadence.
It is now a trend, with the advent of social media, for teachers to willingly and unashamedly request for pre-answered questions so they can hand over to their students on the day of exams and surprisingly, they do get. In some examination centers, you see teachers running helter-skelter to answer exams questions for their students and find ways to “smuggle” them into the centers with the aid of police officers and invigilators present. Some go to the extent of asking their students, before start of the exams, to pay some amounts of monies to be given to the invigilator so he/she (the invigilator) would allow them to freely copy each other and use the foreign materials which he/she (the teacher) will smuggle into the exams hall. Some schools also careless and go to extent of “buying” examination questions just that their students can write their papers. It’s seen as a normal trend and there is no denying of any fact, as it’s not something that needs evidence to prove. You tend to ask yourself:
- “Is it the teacher who ill-prepared the students for the exams or it was the students who are ill prepared?”
- “Are there special favors awaiting the teacher, whose students pass his/her exams?”
- “Are the schools eyeing a special award?”
Teachers are seen as the greatest role models students could ever have in the world and as such whatever they do matters to the student. Like the saying goes for every growing student, “My teacher is always right”. Examination malpractices engineered by teachers is the greatest form of corruption in education that defeats the very purpose for which the child is trained and very essence of education the teacher has given the child from day one. The student leaves with one perception, “Provided you can pass or have your way, whichever means you choose to have your way is right.” These are the same people teachers groom to enter into the world to make choices for the nation. A friend once said “Teachers are a powerful tool. Because a morally upright teacher imparting knowledge into forty students is likely to produce forty morally upright individuals. When these forty all turn out to be teachers handling forty students each, then the society now becomes a better place.” Check the vice versa and you will understand it’s dangerous for a teacher to be morally un-upright.
Teachers who engineer such examination malpractices are worse than corrupt national leaders because they actually climax the education they have given their students with education on how to be corrupt, how to bribe your way out of every situation and how to relax the brains and wait for final favors for a task you must be well prepared for. These children grow up seeing bribery and corruption as normal trends because even their teachers promoted it when they were about completing school. It now becomes the most important moral picture they carry and it takes years of education to correct that, because so much harm would have already been done right from the very foundation.
Teachers need to start preparing their students from day one of their many encounters prior to writing their final external exams. It makes no sense for a teacher to train and prepare a student for three solid years and still goes ahead to try to provide answers for such student on the day of final assessment. Students who see competent and morally upright teacher learn a lot from them. They learn the act of thorough preparation for life and the need to seek what you want the right way. The fact that a teacher wants his/her school to be named among the best school or his/her subject the most passed in the school should not lead him/her to destroy the years of preparation and the moral values taught the students throughout the periods spent at school.
WAEC has a lot of questions to answer with regards to how questions leave their outfit and why they fail to thoroughly prosecute and jail persons found culpable of these examination malpractices because these practices contribute greatly to corruption and defeats the fight for a better society where people use their brains for the right things and not cutting corners to achieve what they want. In my view, WAEC is a relaxed entity with no proper coordinative structures in place to ensure sanity in our exams and further see to upholding the integrity and nobility of the institution they preside. What background checks do they make, in collaboration with the Ghana Education Service, to ascertain the competence of internal and external exams officers in the examinations they conduct? Today, conmen freely sell “upgraded WAEC results” online and WAEC has not taken pains to ensure these acts are stopped and punitive actions taken against these culprits. These kind of laxity actions all contribute to destroying the moral fabrics of our societies and decaying the brains of our growing school children which lead to corrupt individuals and leaders in the future, breeding bad and underdeveloped societies because we end up having people who pay their way out and cut corners to reach the top without having the necessary required qualifications.
WAEC needs to employ mechanisms to seal all loopholes and leakages that cause many of these and more, starting from their homes through a massive clean-up. The issue of WAEC will be thoroughly addressed in the next edition of this write-up to assess why their previous attempts at addressing some of these issues are feeble and what they need to more to do to ensure our future hopes, generation and leaders are not morally decayed and corrupt.
The dream of a better society is not for a few group of people but by understanding that our small occupied roles in society if not properly and honestly executed can go a long way to harm everyone now and tomorrow. A better society begins with me, it begins with you, it begins with us all!
Yankson Bismark Kobina Ebo, Director of Education and Schools Outreach, Centre for Better Society Advocacy and Research – Africa