The Malawi National Examination Board (Maneb) will from this Wednesday start administering the 2013 national examinations. Our Reporter ALBERT SHARRA talks to Maneb executive director Roy Hauya who explains measures the institution has put in place to ensure the exercise runs smoothly.
Q:On Wednesday Maneb will starts administering the 2013 Primary School Leaving Certificate (PSLCE) examinations. How prepared are you?
A: We have done a lot of background work as we do annually. To date, we have held successful divisional meetings to review 2012 examination administration to draw lessons from that experience and to project plans and strategies for the 2013 examinations. These meetings afford education managers at division and district level and security personnel a platform for an honest postmortem of previous examinations and for developing ideas for improvement. Maneb has run a series of district level training sessions targeting invigilators, supervisors and security staff for all three examinations.
At the same time, a communication campaign has been initiated through use of the Maneb Drama Group, publication of a press statement and series of radio programmes presented by senior managers from Maneb. Interviews have also been held with stakeholders such as heads of schools and teachers regarding readiness to administer and monitor the examination.
Q: Last year, it was reported the some PSLCE papers leaked. Should we expect leakages this year?
Maneb is not aware of leakages at primary school level last year. There was no leakage. However, there were few cases of cheating during the writing of examination which we deal with almost routinely for every level. These are not serious matters. The culprits are identified and decisions are made on treatment of such regular cases of cheating.
Q: Reports of examination leakages appear every year, yet before every national examination Maneb assures the nation that there is tight security. Are you fighting a losing battle?
Leakage means prior access to examinations before time of writing. Cheating is everything else that aides the candidate and gives them an unfair advantage over others, for example bringing unauthorised materials into the examination room, writing for a candidate copying from another or teachers helping candidates with answers.
Leakages are common, but they do not happen every year. Historically, the worst memory of examination leakage occurred in 2000 when the entire MSCE examination was cancelled. This has never happened again and it attests to the gallant efforts made by Maneb and all stakeholders. Major developments after this event were the engagement of the police, use of identity cards, on the spot arrest of culprits and use of cluster centres to ease monitoring and supervision. From 2000, we had leakages in 2007, 2010 and recently in 2012. When you compare the scale, these come nowhere near what we had in 2000.
We are not fighting a losing battle, not at all. We are up against a complex national problem which calls for ongoing research to keep ahead of would-be cheats and saboteurs who leak examinations.
Q: Is there anything new Maneb is putting in place to curb the problem of examination malpractices once and for all?
Malawians should now look at examination malpractices as a case of corruption. Actually, examination malpractices are a form of corruption as much as they are a national education quality matter. Our situation must be likened to national security by the police whose challenges are always evolving. Realistically, in these areas of service, it is folly to talk of ‘once and for all’. Action must be an on-going process and it must be broad based with regard to participation.
Maneb is negotiating a number of policy shifts. The national conference we had in March this year served as a tool for creating greater awareness at higher levels regarding the depth of the problem in addition to providing a platform for national debate. We intend to make the conference a permanent annual event. The same conference proposed a number of policy shifts which will support improvements in examination administration.
First, Malawians must begin to see the examinations that Maneb develops as national examinations and not Maneb examinations.
Second, we are pushing for decentralisation of funding and administration of examinations to the district education managers with oversight given by the district commissioner. Education departments in the districts must develop institutional capacity for examination management as is the case in other countries in this region.
Third, we are working towards approaches that assure adequate logistical capacity. And in this regard, one option is to pool resources, notably vehicles and fuel in order to mount robust a monitoring system at district level.