It's time for Kenya to revise exam format

Cheating in examinations has become the norm in Kenya. Every year, innumerable cases are reported across the country. Thousands of incidents probably go undetected. Do these occurrences speak volumes about our school evaluation system? They do!

Traditionally, the national examination has served as an elimination tool. With this knowledge, parents and teachers go to any lengths to ensure that their candidates are not eliminated!

And candidates, of course, go along to participate in the dishonest operation. Undoubtedly, they are the beneficiaries of the deceitful process!

Should we say that this problem is unstoppable? Is it something we have to live with as a society? Certainly not! We need to go back to the drawing board.

Indisputably, our examinations have always focused on testing the recall aspect of knowledge. This, to say the least, is surface knowledge. That is why we keep experiencing these leakages year-in year-out. Consequently, the system does not equip the candidates adequately for the labour market.

Why emphasise the recall aspect alone? It is high time our educational experts revised the format our examinations.

In an effective examination, no matter what textbooks or notes a candidate carries into the exam room, he or she should find them of no purpose in answering the questions.

As we think about the educational reforms to undertake, let's purpose to make our examinations a more useful experience for the candidates and the country as a whole.

The learning and examination process should focus on developing and testing problem-solving capacities. The examination questions set should elicit responses that require the candidate to apply knowledge, rather than recall the content taught.

The examination should give the candidate an opportunity to demonstrate mastery and application of the concepts learnt. In this way, the examination will be intended to deepen the candidate's knowledge, skills and attitudes to resolve issues in real-life situations.

Let's take an example. If an examination question gives the candidate a scenario to analyse and consequently propose solutions to a problem, there would be no right or wrong answers.

The effectiveness of the solution that the candidate proposes would earn him or her the deserved mark. In this way, the examination would allow the candidate various ways of answering the questions and obtaining full marks.

If our examinations were to take this format, it would be possible for the Kenya National Examination Council (KNEC) to administer take-home national examinations!

Candidates could be allowed time to research a given set of questions, and suggest solutions that could take this country forward. And who knows? Some candidates could end up patenting their homegrown solutions and earning handsomely in the process.

One more thing! The final examination should not be the only opportunity presented for a candidate to pass an examination. All assignments given in school during the learning period should contribute to the final mark.

And the assignments should test varied competencies that emphasise the ability to do, rather than to know.

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