The Kenya National Examinations Council has cancelled the results of some 1,200 candidates found to have cheated in last year’s Form Four tests. This is quite uncharacteristic of the examiner.
Traditionally, cases of cancellations due to cheating are announced simultaneously with the results. But the Knec has done things differently this time round, arguably for a good reason: It wanted to double-check its facts before making a determination and avert backlash, including litigations that have become common place.
But this is an administrative matter that cannot be over-emphasised. The more substantive point is the determination that some candidates actually cheated and were, consequently, penalised. Numerically, the number is comparatively insignificant and serves to demonstrate that cheating has materially been minimised.
Tight rules introduced in 2016 have gone a long way to reduce cheating and restore sanity to national testing. At one point, cheating became so rampant that grades lost value and the whole business of testing nearly rendered worthless. We have since turned the corner.
Ideally, any examination should be leakage-free. This is why we are concerned about the few cases. Cheating is, first and foremost, a crime and should be dealt with ruthlessly; those found culpable must face the law.
Second, it exposes rot in society, where people seek short-cuts to succeed, irrespective of the risks. This is the culture that we must fight, more so when it is being introduced to youngsters who ought to be taught the virtues of honesty and hard work.
Third, and as we have argued before, time has come to review the whole concept of exams and values associated with them. Relying on a single (end of cycle) exams to determine the future and destiny of candidates is an idiosyncrasy we have lived with for generations.
Emphasising exams opens doors for malpractices that undermine their very objective. This is the reason plans to re-engineer the education system to focus on competencies and de-emphasise exams are vital.
For now, the challenge remains tightening systems to lock out cheats and severely punish the culprits.