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Think outside the box to end cheating in national exams

By Peter Kamuri | October 23rd 2015

NAIROBI: Information that some teachers and students have access to the on-going Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) examinations is the most disturbing news.

This will mean that hard work and honesty will be punished; deceit and dishonesty rewarded. Students who have worked tirelessly in ensuring that they do well in these exams will feel cheated as some candidates are likely to have undue advantage.

National examinations are used as a benchmark to measure individual’s abilities and capabilities. They also define who will become the doctor that will operate on you when you fall ill or be the teacher of your children a few years to come, as career progressions are defined by what one scores in these examinations.

So a nation that cheats in national examinations can only hope to produce incompetent imbeciles who would later be entrusted in tasks beyond their ability and comprehension. This can only lead to self-destruction, as nation.

Interestingly, these exam leakages come against the backdrop of stringent examination laws following the enactment of the Kenya National Examination Council (Knec) Act a few years ago. Everyone envisaged that cheating in national examinations would be a thing of the past.

For instance, the Act criminalises possession of copies of examination papers by unauthorised persons before or during exams. It also spells out stiff penalties for anyone who possesses any material or information purporting to relate to the contents of any paper or material for that examination unlawfully.

Cheating is progressively becoming a science. With the expansion in the use of mobile phones, ‘digital cheating’ has evolved. With the ingenuity involved, some invigilators and supervisors are finding it increasingly difficult to detect it by merely walking around the room.

Perhaps it is the use of social media platforms like WhatsApp that has heralded the beginning of hi-tech exam cheating. Technology has also chipped in with electronic calculators to the extent that programmable machines can store almost anything to make life easier during the exam.

Although candidates are allowed in the new syllabus to use calculators during exams, Knec disallows the use of any calculator that is programmable. Clueless invigilators can easily be beaten by crafty candidates.

Knec must now up the game to forestall this menace. Indeed, only a handful of people are entrusted in handling national exams. No ordinary Kenyan should have access to these exams beforehand and Knec should know better where it should strike.

Knec staff, police, education officials, headteachers, supervisors, invigilators and subject teachers are outrightly the first culprits. Without any collusion by these people, there is no possibility that the exam will leak.

To curb examination leakage, Knec should do a thorough audit and weed out officers who are responsible for proliferating this vice. At school level, it is important to ensure that only supervisors and invigilators of high integrity are engaged.

It is known that some schools heads release teachers who are under-performers for this important national exercise as they think it is “good riddance” to have them away from schools.

Most developed countries today are turning to the same technology that is fanning this vice while looking for solutions. Some of the suggestions on curbing use of mobile phones and other devices in examination cheating include insulating every exam hall from mobile communications by installing devices which disrupt the connections.

We also have some technologies that can detect mobile phone usage within a given radius. The device could enable supervisors and invigilators to pinpoint cheaters.

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