By Andrew Saukani:
Education is central to any country’s progress. The Tonse Alliance government seems to be placing a lot of emphasis on providing high-quality, sustainable and development-oriented education at all levels.
Innovativeness and competence of graduates in effectively responding to the country’s development needs are some measures on the quality and relevance of an education system. If these are not there, an education system becomes useless.
Debate on quality education should also zero in on how examinations are conducted to genuinely reflect the calibre of the graduates in addressing challenges facing the nation.
Although passing an examination with flying colours remains every candidate’s dream, that on its own is not inspiring if the performance in the corporate world in not productive.
Stories are told of students who pass with good grades at high school but are withdrawn from public universities on academic grounds. In workplaces, some employees despite having good credentials fail to perform up to the billing to an extent of not being confirmed or being denied contract renewal.
These are some of the unfortunate incidences which manifest a corrupt examination system. At the end, the nation becomes the biggest loser as resources are spent on incompetent graduates.
It is important for any country to have a credible and leakage-proof education system that rewards merit and excellence.
This year, Malawi witnessed one of the most embarrassing examination scandals in recent memory. It all started with speculations that some subject papers in the 2020 Malawi School Certificate of Education (MSCE) examinations had leaked and were being shared on social media.
Candidates kept confirming that the papers were indeed those that they would later take in examination rooms. Tech-savvy and lazy learners took advantage of the leakage to rummage through their notes according to what was in the upcoming papers.
They were obviously anticipating better grades—than what they actually deserved— which would spur their passage to the university.
If such expectations were realised, they would have ‘illicitly’ occupied space in public and other universities which would have otherwise gone to hardworking and deserving students.
Even though it is costly, the decision by the government to cancel this year’s MSCE examinations was worthwhile. Such decisions were also made in 2000 and 2007 when MSCE examinations got leaked too.
Essentially, examination is the measurement of proficiency or knowledge, skills, orally or in written form, and judging the adequacy of these properties possessed by candidates, by evaluation. This is the pivot around which the whole system of education evolves.
We need to realise that examination malpractice involves some form of cheating committed by candidates single-handedly or in collaboration with others before, during or after in order to have undue advantage over others.
Technically, this act contravenes rules and regulations of an examination body and this is not only immoral and illegal but also undermines the credibility of the country’s education system.
Some common sources of examination leakage are teachers, printers and examination moderators who have access to the questions or marking schemes.
During examinations, common cheating tactics include impersonation – where someone takes an examination on behalf of another candidate; smuggling of reference notes through smartphones; and writing on sheets of paper or handkerchiefs.
When invigilators and security personnel are corrupted on duty, candidates can exchange answers, communicate orally and gesture for answers or sit strategically in order to be easily aided with answers.
Examination cheating also occurs after sitting where officials handling the papers collude to replace original answered scripts with new ones which might have been answered elsewhere. This too is very unfortunate.
This clearly demonstrates the existence of loopholes in the way examinations are carried out. There is need to continuously identify existing and upcoming cheating malpractices and taking drastic measures to curtail this menace.
As the 2020 MSCE examinations are being retaken, the Malawi National Examinations Board should be applauded for incorporating members of the Malawi Defence Force in providing security before, during and after the exercise.
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