Although Education Testing Service, organisers of graduate record examination and test of English for foreign learners cite security concerns as reason for suspending their conduct in Nigeria, their main reason is that the integrity of the tests is compromised by exam malpractices
| By Vincent Nzemeke | Dec. 2, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT
WHEN Ruth Egwe walked into the premises of Government College, Garki, Abuja, to write the unified tertiary matriculation examination, UTME, in April, she was optimistic about scoring enough marks to make her dreams of securing admission into a university a reality. As a first timer, she had spent months preparing for the examination by reviewing past question papers and also enrolling at a tutorial centre in her neighborhood. On the day of the examination, Egwe walked into the hall confident that she would perform well.
Moments after the examination began, Egwe’s confidence began to wane. She doubted her ability to pass the examination as everyone around her started dipping hands into their pockets to bring out prepared answers to the subjects’ questionnaire. She was also surprised that the three invigilators in the hall who had threatened to hand over anyone caught cheating to the police before the examination started, turned a blind eye to the massive cheating that was taking place in the hall.
“I was surprised because it was my first time of writing an examination outside my school. Everyone around me seemed prepared as they all had answers written on tiny pieces of papers in their pockets. I thought the invigilators would complain, but they didn’t. It was later that I discovered that the venue was a special centre and that everyone in the hall had paid some money before he or she came in.”
In a similar scenario, Emmanuel Ojete, a youth corps member at Sharon Rose secondary school in Oyo State, was surprised when the proprietor of the school ordered him and some other teachers in the school to solve examination questions for students writing the senior secondary school certificate examination, SCCE, in May 2013. Ojete, who teaches English and literature in the school, said the proprietor constantly reminded teachers that they must “ensure that the students pass well” in order to attract more customers to the school.
“I was very surprised. I knew malpractice was commonplace in Nigeria but I never imagined that it had degenerated that much. In the presence of the external invigilators, we solved questions on the board for the students to copy. The proprietor always reminded us that the school was a business centre and that students must pass well to enable the school attract more people.”
To anyone who has not heard or witnessed it, the experiences of Egwe and Ojete might sound like an exaggeration but it is not. It is in fact a vivid picture of what examinations in Nigeria, especially those conducted by external bodies such as the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board, JAMB, National Examination Council, NECO and West African examination council, WAEC have become.
Examination malpractice has become part and parcel of examinations in Nigeria to the point that there is hardly any part of the country where examinations are written without cases of widespread malpractice. As the trend continues to spread like a wild fire, efforts by governments at all levels and stakeholders in the educational sector to curtail the trend seem not to be yielding much.
From students copying each other’s work, using note books, textbooks and methods, examination malpractice in Nigeria has grown into a more sophisticated venture. These days there are ‘examination consultants’ who specialise in assisting candidates who want to engage in malpractice. Such consultants are the ones who connive with invigilators at examination centres, send answers to candidate and sometimes buy question papers from corrupt officials in banks where they are kept.
It also appears that many private schools in various parts of the country are guilty of aiding examination malpractice. Chidiebere Okafor, a teacher in a private school in Abuja, told Realnews that private school owners do encourage malpractice to get good results for their schools in order to attract more customers. “For many of these private schools, a good result is what attracts parents and that’s why they do everything to make sure their students pass. Some of them connive with officials of the respective examination bodies posted to their school because they know that when students pass examinations in their school, they will get more customers.”
The increased rate of examination malpractice cases in Nigeria has led to the cancellation or with-holding of results in recent times. For instance in June 2013, WAEC withheld the results of 112,865 out the 1,671,268 candidates who sat for the examination in connection with various cases of examination malpractice. It was similar to what happened when the results of the May/June 2011 WAEC examinations were released. Altogether, 81,573 candidates, representing 5.29 percent of the total population, had their results withheld for malpractice. For the November/December 2011 examination, there were 39,066 cases. The trend goes on and on. In the May/June 2010 examination, 77,168 results were withheld and 51,876 in the November/December examination.
It is also the same thing with JAMB. Even though the body has introduced several devices to curtail malpractice, not much has changed. In 2001, JAMB introduced variations in the numbering of questions for candidates sitting for its examination. The system appeared to be effective until some desperate examination syndicates devised a way of beating the innovation.
In the May 2013 UTME examination, the body withheld the results of about 80, 419 candidates for various offences relating to examination malpractice. Reacting to the development, Dibu Ojerinde, registrar of JAMB, lamented that candidates had changed their style of perpetrating examination malpractice from wearing ‘magic slippers,’ to wearing “long sleeve shirts that bore imprint of prepared answers.”
The menace of examination malpractice also affected the conduct of some international examinations in Nigeria. On November 8, educational testing service, ETS, announced that it had suspended indefinitely, the graduate record examination, GRE, and the Test of English for Foreign Learners, TOEFL, in Nigeria due to security concerns. But some ETS agents recently revealed that large-scale examination malpractice and decay of infrastructure at testing centres were the real reasons behind the suspension.
Solomon Ekong, an employee of E-Global International Education, an ETS approved testing centre in Lagos, said: “The reason they gave was that there were large-scale examination malpractices. As a Nigerian, exam malpractice cannot be totally ruled out just like the local exams we have in Nigeria.”
The effects of examination malpractice are multi-dimensional. It is one of the factors responsible for the high turnover of incompetent graduates from various institutions in the country. Patience Ozeh, a mass communication lecturer, Delta State University, Abraka, says students who engage in examination malpractice find it difficult to cope when they eventually get admitted into higher institutions.
“You don’t need a seer to tell you that some of these students cheated to get here. We have lots of them here. They write examinations and cannot even express themselves properly.”