Exam cheating an affront to national growth plans

Tuesday, November 19th, 2019 07:46 |

In the past few years, the government has managed to stifle cheating in national examinations, thanks to multi-agency efforts that have sealed  loopholes to tamper with administration of the tests.

Primary and secondary education is meant to develop literacy and numeracy skills which facilitate learning, or the acquisition of knowledge, skills, values, beliefs, and habits that have important implication for human capital development.

Educational institutions are established to ensure students learn to use their minds well so they may be prepared for responsible citizenship and productive employment to build Kenya’s modern economy.

Policy makers have accordingly mandated schools to provide students with the knowledge and core skills, and the habits of learning that enable them to learn continuously throughout their lives—even after formal schooling.

KCPE and KCSE examinations are largely aimed at assessing how much and how well students have learned. They also help test necessary qualities in life such as hard work, patience, creativity and leadership.

As I have indicated here before, education curricula emphasise moral values and ethics, in addition to strong discipline. Education systems are moulded in such a way as to promote desirable values—critical traits in building nationhood.

The curriculum also seeks to develop in the students certain skills that cut across all disciplines and careers. Examinations, therefore,  measure students’ grasp of these skills and how they can convey their thoughts, ideas and feelings about the world through writing. It is this writing that demonstrates polish in thinking and judgement.

The knowledge and skills, and abilities acquired in a course of study and which are accordingly measured or assessed in an examination are meant to help the student and the society to make decisions about further education, training or work.

Cheating in an examination distorts placement of students in academic, training and career pursuits.

A decision to cheat means a number of things: that the student doesn’t  have the mental abilities and skills to undertake the course of studies upon which the examination is based; that the student does not have the prescribed knowledge and skills on which the examinations are based; and maybe the student did not prepare for the exams.

Whatever the case, the student is not fit to sit for the exams. Honesty requires that such a students take the test or pulls out from the exam in advance. This is what the student will do in a political culture that values meritocracy and human capital.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development defines human capital as the “knowledge, skills, competencies and other attributes embodied in individuals or groups of individuals acquired during their life and used to produce goods, services or ideas in market circumstances”.

Promotion of economic growth, prosperity, and sustainable development cannot be founded on the kind of fraud those hell-bent on cheating in the exams want to promote. Cheating actually undermines economic growth, education policy, standards and curricula.

Undetected, it ejects into tertiary institutions and into the labour market men and women who have no capacity to follow a course of advanced education and training. This way, you get people into complex work situations with no capacity to discharge their duties.

Many may not know the importance of basic education in the life of an individual or society. Truth is, it’s the foundation stone of all the great scientific, technological and complex organisations that shape modern life. They require complex technical skills and abilities and soft skills to boot. A firm grasp of these skills depends on the quality of education one had in primary and secondary education.

The implications for teachers who abet cheating are more ominous. The assumption is that teachers abetting exam cheating don’t have the capacity to impart knowledge or facilitate its acquisition by learners. Such teachers, therefore, are a liability to the education system.

—The writer is the communications officer Ministry of Education

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