New dimensions of examination malpractice

By Moses Akarhan

Examination has been generally accepted as the best means of assessment. It is a formal test of knowledge or ability. In fact, in a school setting, examination is a means of evaluating the quantity of knowledge a student has acquired within a specific period of time. It is an instrument used for the assessment of individual skills and knowledge-content, both in general and specific area of study. Teaching and learning become more effective when the students are subjected to an examination process to determine the extent to which the students have assimilated the content of the instruction given and the teacher can also access himself from the performance of the students.

Unfortunately, this all important means of assessing students has become ineffective as all forms of malpractice have been introduced into the system.

Examination malpractice can simply be defined as academic dishonesty or academic fraud. In fact, both of these notions can be used interchangeably. It refers to any type of cheating during the examination process. It is an improper and dishonest act associated with examination with a view to obtaining an unmerited advantage. It is misconduct or an improper practice in any examination with a view to obtaining good results through fraudulent action. It can also be described as an irregular behaviour exhibited by candidates or anybody charged with the conduct of examination in or outside the examination hall before, during, or after such examinations. This problem has no educational boundaries. It extends from primary to the tertiary levels of education and it does not only refer to students but to staff too.

There are different types of examination malpractice but the most general ones are: Plagiarism, which is the reproduction of someone’s work without any sort of attribution or references to the original author; Fabrication, which is the falsification of data, information or reference sources; Lying, giving wrong information to the educational staff; Cheating, an attempt to take in helpful material for the examination but in a way that the instructor or the examiner does not know about it, including the use of cheat sheets; Bribery, getting the right answers or marks for money; Sabotage, an attempt to prevent others from passing the examinations. This includes, among other things, tearing pages from their books, deliberate damage to someone else’s work among others and Professor-teaching misconduct, deliberately giving incorrect grade to the student’s work or encouraging academic fraud. Some types of examination malpractice could be complex. In fact, it all depends on the swindler’s imagination.

Examination malpractice is not a new phenomenon in the education sector but it is today assuming new dimensions and sophistications. It is thus, the most recurring problem in Nigerian educational system. It ranks as one of the most dangerous problems in any society.

Ironically, despite the several attempts made by school authorities, government agencies, parents and church leaders in trying to sensitize the Nigerian students on the evils of examination malpractice, this menace is still on the increase in the various schools. There is the need to find out the causes of examination malpractice in Nigerian schools.

Students nowadays are no longer hard working and dedicated towards their academic endeavours. They are characterized by a desire for success and wealth without a corresponding emphasis on legitimate means and avenues to be used positively in achieving success. The desire to pass at all cost is responsible for examination malpractice.

Nigeria’s education system is largely certificate and good grades oriented. Students, parents, school management and others tend to push harder on wards to get the certificate and good grades by all means. As a result, much value and emphasis are placed on certificate instead of knowledge, skills and competence. Many school leavers and dropouts have certificates without knowledge, skills and the right attitude. This is why examination malpractices are increasing day after day for the rush to get paper qualification for jobs they possess or good grades to secure employment.

It is a fact that the school, like any other social institution, does not exist in a vacuum, rather it exists within a geopolitical and socio-milieu. Hence, behaviours are expected to conform and reflect the acceptable societal norms and ethos as regards various functional roles and the executions of duties and services. The society therefore, has its share of the blame for examination malpractice. In the circumstance, corrupt practices become the order of the day and the school as a micro-society must reflect the practices in the wider society. Examination malpractice is a product of a society that nurture cheats and mediocrity and turns them into celebrities. It is a reflection of the moral decadence of our country where we have pen robbers, armed robbers, smugglers and drug barons who are glorified by the grace of their ill-gotten wealth.

In Nigeria, students do not understand their self-concept any longer. This is as a result of parents or guardians who want to choose a course of study for their wards and not minding what that child is capable of doing in terms of ability and intelligence. If the parents choose a wrong course for their wards, they will probably not do well academically because that is not their area of interest. Furthermore, the parents will want their wards to pass that chosen course by all means. On the part of the wards, they will want to pass by all means so that they will not look as failures to their parents. This situation propels them into examination malpractices to satisfy the needs of their parents.

The level of knowledge and skills acquisition of students determines their involvement in examination malpractice. Majority of Nigerian students no longer consider knowledge and skills acquisition as necessary any more. The orientation they have received from their predecessors, parents and adult members of society is that of “success” without hard work. Thus, the students generally have a poor attitude toward their studies. They engage themselves in all sorts of crime, riots, secret cults and other forms of social activities and anti-social activities with little or no time devoted to serious academic pursuit. In the process, the students end up losing confidence as being unable to succeed through the legitimate means and hence, regard examination malpractice as much easier and faster means of achieving academic success. The teacher is the main focus of change and the anchor in the teaching-learning process. Teachers are like parents to children while they are in schools but they ought to engage the students in dynamic learning that is active, interactive and creative on sound moral and academic foundations. Teachers are out to produce students who are relevant, efficient, productive, competitive and excel in every endeavour in life positively. When teachers abandon their responsibilities in the academic field and if the teacher fails to implement the school curriculum as required, the students engage themselves in examination malpractices in order to pass their examination. Many teachers encourage examination malpractices because they lack the zeal to work but want to be praised for job not done.

Teachers are the main determinants of quality in the educational system. They therefore, have an important role to the success of any educational system. Indeed, the quality of the teacher is perhaps the most important determinant of educational standards. Good teaching makes learning more meaningful, interesting and understanding.

Unfortunately, however, the Nigerian teachers have not been so well catered for by government and society. The result is teacher’s development of nonchalant attitude and lukewarmness. The poor teaching and poor learning in our schools thus result in examination malpractices to pass examination. Again, the teacher who is poorly paid and undernourished, easily fall prey to bribery and financial inducement.

Examination malpractice has many effects on students, teachers, educational institutions, the educational system and the society as a whole. For example, students who engage in examination malpractice are more likely to be dishonest in other aspects of their life. Majority of them end up stealing or even cheating at work. Students are adversely affected even after graduation.

The school certificate is an important document in the labour market. Nigerian employers use it as a proof of student’s knowledge and abilities. However, due to examination malpractice, not everyone who has a diploma is smart or possesses the required skills. Due to the high rate of examination malpractice, employers cannot rely on the certificate to tell them who deserves the job and who doesn’t. That’s why a lot of them are afraid to pay new graduates the salary they deserve because they don’t believe in their skills. Consequently, academic dishonesty adversely affects everyone, even decent students.

Examination malpractice in Nigeria can also have a negative impact on the reputation of the institution. Institutions affected by scandals associated with deception may become less attractive to potential sponsors, prospective students and potential employers. Conversely, universities with a low level of examination malpractice can use their reputation to attract new students and employers.

To counteract cheating in examinations, students who indulge in the act should either be disqualified from taken the examination or awarded low marks or charged monetary fines (for example, in Oxford, a fine of £100 is imposed on fraudulent students).

In order to combat student fraud during examinations, a set of measures, both administrative and educational, is needed to increase interest in learning.
Ultimately, examination malpractice destroys the academic world. This destroys the main point of education — the gaining of knowledge and practical skills. This means students can obtain a certificate without gaining knowledge. This phenomenon makes the learning process unfair. As a result, even honest students and teachers feel its negative effect.

The high rate of examination malpractice is to a large extent evidence of the moral decadence and corruption prevalent in the society today.

The massive scale of the problem and the subsequent introduction of the post JAMB test in Nigerian tertiary education system have once again awakened our interest in this area. Many of the results given out by schools are no longer the representation of those abilities of students. The involvement of those who ordinarily should be relied upon to transmit basic ethical values has serious social, political and economic consequences for the nation and beyond hence, the need to wipe out examination malpractices in Nigerian schools through preventive measures.

The teacher remains the pivot of curbing examination malpractices. If lessons are effectively and efficiently delivered, the student is adequately prepared for the examination, the teacher ensures that examination is conducted in the right way, there is no form of assistance and students are adequately monitored by the teachers during examinations, then, the issue of examination malpractices is half solved. The government, parents, churches and many others may need to only play complementary roles.

The gospel of examination malpractices should be preached more to the teachers than even the students. Students in any public examination look unto the teacher or schools for assistance and where such help do not exist, malpractices will be minimized.

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