Stop the cheats before they take over exam system again

Last week’s reports from the Kenya National Examinations Council (Knec) that the ogre of exam cheating might be making a comeback were depressing. The news comes at a time when Kenyans are still breathing a collective sigh of relief following the purge on exam cartels by Fred Matiang’i, the former Education Cabinet secretary, and his team from Knec.

Kenyans had come to believe that all was well and that the cartels had been dismantled for good. Stakeholders in the Ministry of Education must deploy whatever it takes to ensure that the integrity of national exams is protected.

The shameless spectre of exam cheating should be uprooted. As often noted by this newspaper, a bad exam system is bad for the country. Indeed, a system that churns out candidates with questionable academic credentials erodes the standing of any country.

News that students from a certain boys’ secondary school rioted, leading to the closure of their school after their demand to be allowed to cheat in examinations was denied by the school principal, and a report showing that a great number of teachers in primary schools cannot speak English are alarming to say the least.

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We stand to lose a lot of the ground that had been recovered in the spirited fight to restore faith in our exams and the damage cheating caused to the education system. That should not be allowed.  All the stakeholders in the education system should ensure that setting, sitting and marking of exams is foolproof against the cartels out to make money from parents eager to see their children score high marks.

No system is 100 per cent safe unless deliberate and sustainable measures are taken. More importantly, the latest reports underscore the importance of building institutions that outlive individuals, as opposed to relying on one person to get things moving.

It was hoped that the switch from the 8-4-4 to the 2-6-3-3-3 system of education would reduce the premium attached to exams. Hopefully, that vision will stand the test of time. But where that fails, all stakeholders should endeavour to ensure that a culture of honesty is inculcated in our young ones. Simply put: children should be encouraged to believe that hard work pays and cutting corners is self-defeatist.

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