With the recent release of the 2015 Kenya Certificate of Secondary Examination results, a lot of questions have been raised about the integrity of those tests and whether Kenya National Examinations Council has sufficiently discharged its obligations to ensure that they are a true reflection of the efforts by students.
Coupled with the question of the integrity of the examination, is the finding by Knec on the grand scale of cheating.
Whereas Knec has a statutory duty to administer and have custody of these examinations, in cases where there are leaks, it is the students who are subjected to the serious punitive decision of cancellation of results.
The question that beckons is, what is the basis of punishing students for an offence that Knec also, through its officers/agents, is the main perpetrators?
Is this not a classical case where Knec is being the judge, witness, prosecutor and the accused person in its own case?
It is common knowledge that agents within Knec aid in the commission of the offences, resulting in cheating and it is not clear why only the parents and students suffer the consequences while the main perpetrators in Knec walk away scot-free.
Ordinarily, as a parent, you have the responsibility to pay school fees and trust that your child is adequately prepared for the examinations.
Come examination time, the students do not leave the precincts of the school to look for exam leaks but the same (leaks) are delivered to schools by merchants acting on behalf of agents within Knec.
Most of the exams leaks to the schools and students stumble upon them unknowingly as part of their revision exercises.
SAME PATTERN ANSWERS
To the students, it only occurs to them that this was in fact a leak when they get to the exam room and notice the questions they are tackling are similar to those they were exposed to disguised as revision questions.
In these kind of circumstances what would stop the students from having the same pattern of answers if these questions were already tackled by them earlier? Can the same pattern of answers be a clear basis that a student was involved in cheating to validate cancellation of results?
Can Knec provide evidence that while the students had been exposed to the leak disguised as revision questions, they had prior knowledge that this was to be the real exam? Considering the harsh punishment that is visited on the students, the threshold to hold them culpable must be that they were alive to the fact that they were being exposed to an exam leak and made no effort to raise the red flag.
It saddens students, parents and various stakeholders in the education sector when results of a whole school are cancelled based on an arbitrary process that only Knec is privy to and does not adequately provide time for the students to challenge such decisions.
A few individuals have gone to court to challenge the decision of the examination council but most times, by the very nature of court proceedings and the time such cases take, students and parents do not have the luxury of waiting for these proceedings to be determined.
While waiting for cases to be determined, time will be elapsing and those supposed to be proceeding to colleges will be locked out. As a result, many parents and students take the easy option to repeat and/or re-sit the exams to avoid losing out on the timelines set for registration of subsequent tests administered by the council.
It is not in doubt that the credibility of Knec in administering national exams is facing serious doubts. There are those who express the views that the exams, and particularly KCPE and KCSE, are no longer an appropriate yardstick of determining the quality of minds required for the next level of training.
Universities and colleges, particularly those offering high skilled courses, will need to either administer their own pre-college/university exams as a basis for admission as students perceived as top performers on the basis of Knec exams such as KCSE might have attained top grades by accessing the exams before they are sat.
LOST TESTING CREDIBILITY
In other cases, the exams, have, over the years lost testing credibility due to the same pattern being followed for over three decades.
That, as a country we stand at a crossroads and may require a change in legislation insofar as the whole process of administering national exams is concerned, is not in doubt.
Knec cannot purport to cancel and punish students for examinations that are stolen and/or leaked by its own officers.
I dare say that, in fact, the numbers of cases of cheating published every year are conservative and that the cases that go undetected are far much more than those reported by the council.
The decision to cancel results should not be left to the sole discretion of Knec and must be interrogated with the involvement of the affected students.
Affected parties must be afforded an opportunity to be heard before such drastic decisions are made, bearing in mind that the hurdles placed to challenge the decisions reached by Knec do not favour parents and students.
The concerns raised here are real and if not well handled, may destroy the future of young people who are eternally condemned as cheats by public perception while at the same time Knec’s role will certainly go to the dogs.