I am analysing WASSSCE results released this year and I don’t think it can pass the test of credibility. From the pass rate of the core subjects (A1-C6), these are the breakdowns: Mathematics recorded 71% increase from last year performance; English language recorded 4% increase; whilst Integrated Science and Social Studies recorded 26 and 3% increase, respectively.
In 2018, these were the statistics: Mathematics recorded 10% drop (from 42% in 2017 to 38% in 2018), Integrated Science recorded 16% increase, Social Studies recorded 40% increase while English Language recorded 14% drop in the pass rate. Now the pass rate for Mathematics especially for the past five years has not come anywhere close to 50% and now we are getting 65% pass rate in this year’s results? In Ghana, the major problems our students have been facing are these two subjects, English and Mathematics, and over the years students haven’t performed so well in these subjects. So the question is, how can a subject like Mathematics which recorded a 10% drop in the pass rate just last year be recording a significant increase in pass rate of 71 per cent this year when English and Maths have been the major headaches for our students over the years? That’s is the question I will be answering in few minutes.
In recent years, there has been percentage drop in the pass rate in at least one of the core subjects but this year there has been an increase in the pass rate for all the core subjects and I am going to analyse the pass rates of the two of core subjects which happen to be the waterloo of our students over the years, to buttress the point that the massive exam leakages this year accounted for abnormal pass rate. Some say the leakages might be politically motivated which I don’t want to believe because there’s no evidence backing it. It is imperative for us to know that Mathematics has never taken the first position in recent years in terms of percentage increase in pass rate in the core subjects. But this year we are being told by Ghana Education Service that it is because of their interventions that led to this massive improvement. I want to treat this statement from GES with the contempt it deserves. If we don’t take serious measures to safeguard our education system, we are all going to suffer the consequences of it. In the just ended WASSSCE, various reports were made about possible leakages of exams papers but WAEC just kept mute on this.
When you take a closer look at English Language and Mathematics pass rates this year, you would observe that the difference in percentage increase in English Language and Mathematics is 4% and 71%, respectively. So what kind of interventions did the GES put in place that couldn’t reflect on the English language pass rate as well? Any good educationist would question this kind of statistics. This lends credence to one key thing: examination malpractices. Now let me break this down.
In this year’s exams, English Language was the first subject among the core subjects to be written so getting the questions leaked ahead of time becomes difficult as these corrupt exams officials always want to study the grounds and see how to go about their nefarious activities. So, mostly reports of leakages become rampant after the first paper has been written. Secondly even when one should get the English paper ahead of time, you cannot competently answer the questions since English Language has to do with how one could express himself or herself in terms of essay writing, which most of our students are unable to do so. Thus, a dumb student with foreknowledge of the question will not be able to pass well. But that’s not the case for Mathematics as anybody who has worked in the education sector over the years will attest to. This in my view accounted for huge disparity in the pass rate this year between English Language and Mathematics. We all want our education sector to be one of the best in the world but we can’t ride on the back of examination malpractices to be celebrating examination success.
Unproductive politicking and craze for schools to become the best are fuelling unhealthy competition in our examinations which we must all pay serious attention to as a nation in addressing before it becomes an albatross on our necks. The situation is even worse in our Basic School Certificate Examination (BECE). Anybody who has been following BECE knows the rot in the system. Some schools, teachers and directors of education are complicits in some of these malpractices. Some teachers go to the extent of negotiating with supervisors and send answers to the examination halls for their students. Supervisors and invigilators extort monies from pupils in the name of assisting them. Sometimes when reports are made to directors of Education, they become reluctant in dealing decisively with the culprits because these malpractices directly go to their benefits as various schools and districts are ranked to find out the best schools and districts and this has promoted unhealthy competition in our education sector.
Some educationists in supervisory role advice teachers not to waste their time completing all the topics in the syllabus but to study the trend of the WAEC questions over the years and teach their students accordingly. This makes you question whether we are teaching our students to gain knowledge to solve our problems or we are just teaching them how to pass examinations? It is a very worrying situation in our education sector and the earlier we took steps in addressing these critical issues the better it will be for us all.
In minimising these examination malpractices, I am proposing that we equipped every examination centre/hall with CCTV cameras to record uninterrupted coverage of our various exams, be it BECE or WASSSCE. Secondly WAEC should have its own independent supervisors and invigilators and stop teachers from playing this role as most of them indulge in the habit of teaching these students. Sometimes because they know these students personally, they don’t see anything wrong in helping them. WAEC has largely performed poorly over the years in its supervisory role on conduct of these exams. It has consistently trusted GES or employees of GES to play this role which they have also failed in doing. I am appealing to WAEC to collaborate with notable organisations or Think Tanks within the education sector and accredit them to serve as external independent observers in our various examination centres. Sometimes, we go to some of these centres as an organisation to observe how things are done but are mostly turned away by supervisors for not having accreditation to be at those centres. WAEC should take a second look at this and liaise with these organisations.
In conclusion, I am suggesting again that we decentralized the way we conduct our examinations. Even if it takes breaking the WAEC monopoly in conducting these exams, so be it. Due to the proliferation of mobile phones which have led to the increase in the leakages of the exams papers, I am proposing that we adopt the strategy of setting different set of standardized questions for various districts. We can start doing that with the BECE. So, at any point in time even if a student gets foreknowledge of a question through the social media, he or she may not readily be in a position to know which district is that particular question meant for. We must also take steps to put a stop to ranking of schools which has promoted some of these unhealthy competitions leading to these examination malpractices.
This article was authored by Eric Owusu Darlison. He is the Vice President of CEBSAR-AFRICA