Could these be the factors fueling academic cheating in our learning institutions

It has been reported locally and in the British press that Kenya has become a fertile ground in the promotion of academic cheating in British Universities. As a consequence, 40 British universities have come up with measures to deal with the problem.

Through the internet, Kenyans help lazy students in Britain with their assignments and dissertations. Kenyans who have gone through our education system will tell you that the menace is a regular feature in our institutions of higher learning.

Academic cheating is a product of many factors. What we must first tie academic cheating to is student laziness. Most cheats are generally indolent.

They do not want to toil in their pursuit of academic excellence. Those from humble backgrounds will make notes or use their phones. Those from rich backgrounds pay for services and have ingenious ways of circumventing the system. 

Kenya lacks stringent laws to deal with culprits found to have cheated to get the papers they purport to have earned. How many of our current leaders have been suspected to have used fake certificates to clear the electoral body’s nomination process?

How many have been arraigned? It is not a surprise to meet a Kenyan with a certificate from an institution of higher learning, but who cannot even construct a good sentence or write a simple statement in English. The wonder is that some are legislators. Can you then expect them to contribute to making laws to curb a crime that they themselves are guilty of?

Computer programmes

Many of our universities have strict rules against academic cheating. However, the processes involved in reporting and proving a case dissuade many lecturers from reporting such cases. What further complicates matters is lack of computer programmes to check plagiarisation in work presented for examination by students. This is compounded by lack of airtight scrutiny during the Viva Voce that every student is subjected to.

Today’s post-graduate student is in a mad rush to get the certificate. Some can even lift whole thesis or projects from the internet and change a few things and present the work as an original piece.

This is why many of our post-graduate students usually become wishy-washy during their Viva Voce. There are even cases of a hawk eyed supervisor coming across sentences in the work that points to academic cheating, but not doing much to stop it due to lack of mechanisms to turn the candidate’s defense on its head.

The way we set our examination items aids cheating. Most of our questions tend to test the lower order in the learning domain. This makes a candidate to easily use an unauthorised material in tackling the items.

If all those tasked with developing test items would follow the rules of testing and use a table of specifications, then this problem would be checked.

Unfortunately, we rarely spread the questions along all the levels in the cognitive domain as required. Things are made easy for cheats in assignments where a lecturer is known to give an identical task year in year out.

Inadequate infrastructure

There are also cases of limited personnel to administer examinations. This happens in cases of large classes. Invigilation in such cases becomes a challenge. Candidates have a field day comparing and exchanging answers as there is little invigilators can do.

Students have been known to say jokingly in such cases that they are not cheating but only confirming their responses with what their colleagues have.

The architecture of the examination environment should be conducive for the exercise. Unfortunately, most of our institutions have inadequate infrastructure. The physical facilities are poor and limited. This makes candidates to be crowded hence making invigilation challenging. Invigilators always find themselves on a wit’s end in such a situation.

We should also revisit the way we teach. Apart from completing the syllabus, we should make sure the methods of teaching we employ encourage deep learning.

Such methods should be learner-centred and besides guiding the learner through the teaching process, also encourage his or her moral development. This calls for regular use of the Heuristic approaches to teaching to enable the learner to develop the soft skills required in the world of work in today’s world.

Ultimately we will need to address the problem of academic cheating as a society. This calls for many measures. We should make the price of cheating costly by coming up with stringent laws and rules against culprits. Invest in personnel and physical facilities.

Change the way we teach and test and invest in computer packages to check plagiarisation in our students’ work. We should also join hands with other countries to fight the menace at the global level.  

Dr Ndaloh is a curriculum and teaching expert at Moi University. [email protected]

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