The vice of examination malpractice is not peculiar to Kenya. It is a problem the world over. That our national exams are plagued with malpractice means that we will lose credibility in the long run, consequently losing a competitive edge on the global platform
In our context, and as is the case in many, many countries, exams are an instrument for decision-making, a sieve of sorts. This always creates fear and anxiety in candidates and other education stakeholders. Examination malpractice has a firm grip upon our educational system because of the various agents that are involved. These agents are not limited to the students; they include all educational stakeholders and even those in government agencies like Kenya National Examinations Council (KNEC).
In his 2006 work: Quality Assurance; A Practical Solution to Examination Malpractices in Nigerian Secondary Schools, Yekeen Fasasi, a chief lecturer at The University of Ibadan, opines that many candidates would want to pass examinations by all means. Also, many school authorities and parents would want to explore means of getting good grades for their students and children. Therefore, they resort to different forms of malpractices before, during and after examinations.
It is worth noting that agents of examination malpractices are not limited to the students and extend to parents and guardians all the way to government officials. The chain is long. Authentic assessments can scale down the amount of cheating going on. But there is more to curbing this vice than embracing authentic assessments.
Mr Kennedy Buhere, the Education ministry’s head of communications, argues that teachers can play a pivotal role in scaling down this vice. They can pretty much help, but the puzzle will still remain unsolved. It is important to stress that the fight against examination malpractice is not a one man show, no single individual or stakeholder can kick out this corrupt act out of our educational system.
Hence, to ensure total eradication of examination in the educational system of this nation, the onus is on all stakeholders to jointly fight against this putrid act. The government, security agents, examination body, examination officials, educationists, curriculum planners, ministries, school heads, lecturers, teachers, parents, employers of labour, media houses and religious leaders, should unanimously work together to combat this menace, because it is a tango. For instance, officials from KNEC releasing papers to the highest bidders - schools. And perhaps security officers watching by complicity, and parents being happy about it.
But what factors lead to cheating? Why are schools, school heads and teachers compelled to abet cheating? It’s arguable that teachers can play a pivotal role to reduce the vice. It’s a step forward. And so, what role do teachers and school heads play in abetting cheating? And what can the same players do eradicate it?
In Kenya, teachers and school heads are compelled to abet cheating due to various reasons. They include the culture of cheating in some schools, and desire by both students and institutions to be ranked highly. Further, institutional heads have been criticised for their students’ bad results. In order to save face and redeem their reputation, they resort to providing students with the required force to ‘protect their future’.
The situation of examination malpractice is further perpetuated by low calibre teachers, themselves being products of inferior teacher education colleges with mediocre training. These basic and second cycle teachers lack sufficient expertise in the disciplines they claim to teach, hence the lack the wherewithal to aid learners to perform well in their subjects.
Of equal prominence is the factor of the greedy nature of some teachers, school heads, and examination administrators among others in the system who strive to live above their legitimate incomes. It’s important to contend that decadence in societal values are equally to blame for perpetration of examination malpractices.
There are various actors in examination malpractices and each player employs a particular type of approach in line with the position they occupy. In the case of school authorities, they are able to acquire examination questions prior to examinations. The Kenya National Examination Council (KNEC) itself is not exempt from such fraudulent deeds because some corrupt insiders are able to leak examination questions. The students/candidates themselves are guilty of copying answers from other candidates; sneaking in materials into the examination room and communicating via electronic gadgets during examinations.
These illegal activities are made possible for the candidates through purchase and provision of snacks, conveniently served to invigilators by members of staff in a different room, to give space for collusion. Sometimes candidates fund-raise money for directly corrupting the supervisors and invigilators, to ‘take it easy’ during supervision.
The parents fund the purchase of examination papers; and facilitate the sneaking in of illegal materials into the examinations rooms. They are the ones that pay impersonators to write examinations for their children. The teachers have been found wanting by way of laxity in invigilation. The examination agents have been known to succumb to manipulation by the school administration; the security of examination papers in their custody also leaves much to be desired and they are also somewhat still manipulated by fraudsters.
To curb examination malpractice, the various examining bodies have enormous roles to play. All examining bodies should ensure that the remuneration package for examiners is encouraging. Examiners are beginning to lose interest in supervision, invigilation and marking exercises because the remuneration package does not commensurate with the work. More so, highly qualified and dedicated teachers against the menace should be appropriately recognised and rewarded by the examining bodies and the government.
Furthermore, examining bodies should ensure that invigilators and supervisors of proven integrity who are ready to ensure the conduct of free and fair conduct of examination are recruited and used. Any erring ad hoc and permanent staff caught abetting and aiding the committal of these crimes in the examination sub-sector of our economy should be sanctioned.
It is high time examining bodies should apply HARSHER consequences for examination fraud sponsors, syndicates and centres involved in both aiding and abetting examination fraud by students and whosoever profit from exam fraud.
Excessive value placed on paper qualification is the major contributing factor to examination malpractices. Admission to universities/high schools should be about more than just the final grades, important as they are. Equal focus should be placed more on the teaching and co-curricular activities as a way of moulding an all-round individual, as opposed to focusing on a few days summative assessment.
A law that places premium on competence/performance rather than certificate alone should be enacted. From experience, most graduates who obtained certificate through fictitious means could not prove the worth of their certificates. Thus, less emphasis should be placed on certificate. Rather, emphasis should be on the totality of learning outcomes. Each examinee should be able to prove their competence cognitively, affectively and psychomotor wise.
A 2008 study conducted Robyn Hulsart and Vikkie McCarthy, professors at the Austin Peay State University, aimed to shed light on the educators’ role in promoting academic integrity. According to the study, suggestions for dealing with student cheating have either focused on institutional policies such as codes of conduct, preventing cheating through more controlled teaching environments, and educating students on the policies and consequences of academic dishonesty.
While individual faculty members do not have direct control over institutional policy, they can control the learning environment.
Faculty can enhance the classroom or online course climate by explicitly stating expectations for academic integrity. The ethical climate of the classroom can be reinforced by using preventative measures regarding student cheating such as vigilance in monitoring exams. Being consistent and following through with consequences has been found to decrease instances of academic dishonesty.
Faculty must also redesign assignments and assessments in an effort to deter academic dishonesty. A current trend in higher education is to strengthen social networks to improve student retention. These social networks have, in turn, been cited as a factor in the increase in student cheating.
This does not infer it is necessary to discourage collaboration and student networking in the classroom but suggests a paradigm shift in instructional and assessment pedagogy is needed.
The fight against examination malpractice is not a one man show, it involves all stakeholders, who must perform their roles diligently to ensure total eradication of these vices from our nation. Hence, all hands must be on deck to combat this fraudulent practice.