November is the month for the national exams for both primary and secondary school education.
More than 1.6 million candidates will sit the national examinations in 2018, with 1,060,703 for KCPE and 664,585 doing KCSE.
This is a time when parents, teachers, students, government officials and most of us get into the “exam mood” with anxiety, looking forward to transition in education.
It is with great concern that the month also sees police deployed to ensure that candidates do not cheat in exams.
Education Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed said just before the examinations began that measures were in place to curb cheating, adding that 70,000 security personnel would be deployed.
This led to an uproar over the “militarisation of exams” because of having police at exam centres. When did the rain start beating us?
Many things come to mind as contributing the increased exam cheating.
As a society, we have glorified exam performance as the only gateway to success in life, putting a lot of pressure on the students, parents, and teachers. Parents go to great lengths to get the exam papers for their children. They do not see their role in planting seeds of corruption and a generation that believes that the end justifies the means. Students see their parents and teachers, whom they respect, going to great lengths to fraudulently get them exam papers. What seed does this plant in their young minds? That “a little cheating is okay” as the seed germinates and grows to the vices we’re struggling with such as corruption.
A teacher’s performance is measured by the number of students who score highly in national exams.
This also contributes to exam cheating because they, just like everyone else, would like to thrive in their careers. With this kind of pressure, what else do we expect of a teacher who “badly” needs to be celebrated as the best?
The government is doing its best in militarising the exams as well as having senior government officials supervise them. However, this will not solve the problem at hand. The problem is deep-rooted. It started by “simple exam cheating” and “simple bribing” and has become the big challenge called corruption. The issue is beyond “exam cartels” because our children are a reflection of our society. They did not just wake up and plan to cheat. They see these things.
We need to reflect on and ask key questions and not rush to blame anyone. Competence-based learning might be the way to go.
But if the vice of exam cheating is not tackled, we will find ourselves with a new curriculum with the same old problems.
We need to instil values in our children; values of honesty, and integrity. We need to change our value systems and perspective of life.
We need to acknowledge that not everyone will be an “A”. However, all can excel if their capacities, interests and abilities are built and nurtured.
Ms Mwende is a social scientist who comments on topical issues. [email protected]