Atranscript contains one important message—one’s performance over a study period.
However, taking into consideration frequent examination cheating and leakages, some have wondered whether all Malawi School Certificate of Education (MSCE) holders’ transcripts are a true reflection of their performance.
For the past decade, MSCE examinations papers have been leaking almost yearly. Of course some leakages have been confirmed by the Malawi National Examinations Board (Maneb). For example, since 2000 the other worst leakage was in 2007. Maneb had no choice other than to re-administer some examination papers.
Over the years the extent of the malpractice has been reflected by the disqualification figures that Maneb releases every year. For instance, in 2012 Maneb disqualified as many as 2 335 MSCE students were disqualified for various malpractices.
Maneb executive director, Roy Hauya, bemoaned the increased malpractices in MSCE examinations.
“We have recorded a number of types and forms of malpractices. The most common include candidates copying from each other’s work word for word and bringing into the examination room unauthorised reference materials. In some cases, you also get candidates submitting two scripts with the same examination number,” said Hauya.
He said in 2012, Maneb had a unique case where one candidate wrote a practical science paper twice.
“In a related case, a teacher made arrangements for a few students to rewrite a whole paper hoping to substitute the scripts at some opportune time,” said Hauya.
He added that the worst his office has witnessed over the years is candidates getting access to examination materials prior to the date of examination.
But what does Maneb think is the contributing factor?
“Research conducted by Maneb and from other parts of Africa points that Malawi has a harshly competitive model of education and this contest becomes intensely stiff when a student moves up into another level of education. Of the two levels, primary and secondary, MSCE at Form Four is the most competitive and this is because it is the currency for higher education in a country with the lowest university enrolment in this part of Africa,” explains Hauya.
He says the brutal competition is worsened by declining quality of teaching and learning attributed to the shortage of appropriately qualified teachers, inadequate teaching and learning materials; inadequate supervision of teaching and school management, and indiscipline of today’s youth.
He adds that students find themselves in pressure to pass from family, community and school are so intense and yet they are ill prepared and sometimes not at all motivated.
A combination of ambition to pass, family and school pressure tempts students to use unorthodox means to increase their chances of doing well.
A lecturer in educational psychology guidance and counselling at Chancellor College, Symon Ernest Chiziwa, agrees that the low chances of getting admitted into the university incite the curiosity for students to cheat to pass very well.
He says there is a lot to be appreciated on student’s preparation for the examinations.
On the part of teachers, school committees and leaders, Chiziwa says they also aid cheating because they want to boost the image of their schools. He also faulted the Maneb system of using teachers to form examinations for their own students.
“I am not surprised that schools where examiners are stationed perform well in concerned subjects. Common sense will show that such examiners drill their students for possible national examination questions. This is cheating,” says Chiziwa, adding that he wants to see examiners being independent from schools and without any teaching responsibility.
As part of the solution to deal with cheating and improve MSCE pass rates, Chiziwa advises Maneb to change its examination style and dwell on questions that demand application of knowledge and skills, analysis and synthesis of information and evaluation of content rather than simply regurgitating information.
He finally calls for a strict focus on the quality of education by government. He says unless students have access to quality education and are drilled to the required standards, cheating will not be a priority to them.
Concurring with him is education specialist Dr. Steve Sharra, who says the contributing factors to malpractices in examinations are the poor quality of education and an educational system that emphasises examinations over teaching and learning.
“Examination leakages and cheating are more common in educational systems whose conditions are not optimum and conducive for effective teaching and learning. Schools that have conditions that inspire and motivate students to learn and apply their knowledge towards a better understanding of their community do not experience problems of leakages and cheating,”
“The first line of attack is improving the quality of education so students have confidence they can pass without recourse to unorthodox means,” he says.
Schools must re-dedicate themselves to teaching the full curriculum; to train children in the right values and attitudes; to hate deception and dishonesty.
The second is parents and members of community must train and counsel the young generation to derive satisfaction from hard earned success,” he says.