Conventionally, examinations are regarded as a method of assessment of students who have gone through one level of education or another at the end of a term, semester or academic year.
However, among other disturbing developments which the industry is experiencing in the country nowadays, the incidence of examination malpractices in the Nigerian educational system is a cardinal one that is fast assuming a level of national and international embarrassment and dangerous dimension. It is a damaging epidemic, which if not cured soon, may destroy the nation's all-important education sector.
Examination malpractices are generally described as wrongdoings before, during or after examinations. And, without mincing words, these are having telling, negative effects on the nation's quality of education, just as many school leavers and graduates can no longer defend their certificates. As sinister as this endemic trend may appear, urgent measures need to be adopted for the cankerworm not to destroy the nation's future completely before long: it's too critical to be neglected. And, this is certainly, another cogent reason Nigeria needs moral renaissance and value regeneration in all aspects of its national life.
How does one describe what an examination malpractice is? According to Nwana (2000), examination malpractice is described as the "massive and unprecedented abuse of rules and regulations pertaining to internal and public examinations, beginning from the setting of such examinations through the taking of the examinations, their marking and grading, to the release of the results and the issuance of certificates."
In a similar vein, an academic has attempted another description of this unbridled phenomenon as "the act of omission or commission intended to make a student pass examination without relying absolutely on his/her independent ability or resources."
Certain research findings, conclusions, instructive and informed submissions of educationalists, academics, and other top stakeholders in this special sector of the nation's economy, however, have indicated that there had been one form of examination malpractice or the other before since in the early 1970s when "mass cheating was first perpetrated in WAEC" (West African Examinations Council).
Perhaps, this realisation jolted the examination body at the secondary school level to examine critically, various manifestations and extent of this retrogressive inclination. It reportedly, categorised the different forms of examination malpractice as including bringing in foreign materials to exam halls, irregular activities inside and outside examination halls, collusion, impersonation, leakage, mass cheating and insult/assault on supervisors during exams.
Other forms of exam malpractices identified by WAEC include assistance of candidates by invigilators to answer or have clue to difficult concepts, while some invigilators also go to the extent of answering some parts of the question for candidates, aside from other forms as "giraffing, contraband, bullet, super print, escort, missiles, and pregnant biros."
Nonetheless, what has happened to the survival of the country's education system from that time till this day? Unfortunately, in the continued 21st Century, examination malpractices of varying sorts, forms and manifestations, incontrovertibly, have worsened and become a national problem. The unbecoming tendency voraciously, continues to eat deep into the social fabric, right from primary schools to tertiary institutions of learning across the Nigerian Federation. It is no wonder then, that the Nigerian Union of Teachers (NUT), of recent, passionately asked the National Assembly to declare a state of emergency in the education sector so as to consciously revamp the lost glory of the once thriving industry.
While many stakeholders in the sector yet, believe that the prevalent malaise the education sector is not only perpetrated by the students alone, but also with the active connivance of other stakeholders, including teachers, security agents, exam invigilators, printers, supervisors, and the like, exam malpractices have equally been described by some in the know of the pervasiveness of the disheartening trend as "perennial and institutionalised multibillion Naira business", on which some depraved individuals, groups and institutions feed fat in the country as of now.
But then, a pertinent question any honest-minded Nigerians ought to ask themselves at this juncture is: How did Nigeria get to this decadent state in its education industry? Just as some major stakeholders and experts severally, have expressed heartfelt concerns about the continual damage continual exam malpractices are wreaking on the nation, a number of factors have been advanced for this ugly development.
Among other reasons adduced for the astronomical increase in exam malpractices in recent years are that in certain cases, "questions are not related to the syllabus", and consequently, examination malpractices are encouraged. It's also, been alleged that subject syllabuses are overloaded and difficult for exam candidates, so they often times find it difficult to cope. But, are these tenable excuses for dubious candidates and their depraved collaborators to engage in exam irregularities? It's simply indefensible for candidates to resort to exam irregularities. It's believed that with determined, conscious efforts at succeeding in any worthwhile endeavour, including examinations, "where there is a will, there is a way."
Many students' rising lack of seriousness and preparedness to take on their future, as many believe that most learners these days are "not ready to learn". For instance, it's been observed that in most public schools in particular, students are seen roaming the streets, while some seen with home video cassettes and compact disks (CDs/DVDs) and others playing football during school hours.
Similarly, in a desperate attempt at freezing parents financially, there have been established instances in which exam live questions are hurriedly solved by school managements in collusion with hired exam writers, impersonators oftentimes in "private schools' principals' offices" in order to please the parents to the detriment of their children's future prospect. And, these key school officers are expected to be role models, paragons of forthrightness, honesty, and integrity to these young ones, aren't they?
It's been established that this anomaly is usually perpetrated simultaneously, as students write theirs in exam halls, after which copies of such exam solutions are made and distributed to their students for mass copying, thereby turning their schools into sanctuaries of exam malpractices at worst. Reports say examiners are, indeed, getting wiser in tracking such anomalies in exam answer scripts in recent times.
Certain concerned educationists, among others reasons, equally, have hinged the widespread exam malpractices at different levels of education in the Nigerian system to sloppy emphasis on paper qualifications, low moral standards in schools, '419' syndrome, candidates' lack of confidence in themselves, fear of failure due to insufficient preparations, outright laziness, declining societal value system resulting in all sorts of get-rich-quick arrangements, gradual loss of values such as industry and enterprise in achieving any sustainable personal success as well poor professional standards and inappropriate curricular for training of teachers.
It's thus, no wonder that many parents and guardians who are beginning to understand the gimmicks of certain schools in "cooking" excellent results for their children and wards in order to please them. As a result of this widespread evil practice, many parents are becoming disillusioned by the day.
But, where have all these left the nation's educational system in recent times? The implications on the stakeholders in particular and the Nigerian society in general have been weighty and multifarious. One is the entrenched thinking that cheating in examinations pays, against the backdrop of the fact that societal values are fast on the decline.
However, many of these corrupt stakeholders who hitherto had been making much money from the irregularities, desperately, are finding it harder and more tasking than ever to disabuse the minds of these young ones, that examination frauds do not pay and will not take them far in life.
Exam irregularities, again, have instigated groundswell of criticisms from unusual quarters over the credibility of certificates award to school leavers and graduates from our institutions of higher learning. Stark incompetence, lack of basic employable and communication skills, declining national capacity-building, mindless official corruption in different sectors of the economy have become the obvious characteristics of the existing system.
A soul-searching question to ask all the stakeholders is this: Is it surprising in the least that many parents and guardians, irrespective of their financial capability, now seek admissions for their children and wards into tertiary institutions, whether registered or not, in neighbouring African countries as Benin Republic, Ghana and South Africa, not to mention those leaving Nigeria for the Americas, Europe and Asia to acquire education? Checks have revealed that a lot of them, including the nation's leadership seem to have lost confidence in the beleaguered education sector.
People who are still sceptical about the deepening adverse effects of exam malpractices in Nigerian schools, colleges and institutes need to listen to human capital recruitment professionals, HR experts and corporate trainers when they relate their frustrations over terrible experiences they do have with many job applicants' lack of employable cum simple communication skills, when faced with the task of selecting suitable hands from scores of job applicants for positions in both public and private sector organisations across the country.
Thus, "chances are that the average graduate we get today will not fit into any job because some of them cannot speak Basic English; some cannot write a simple letter. The quality is so bad that you spend a fortune training them without getting any result, because some things that should have happened earlier in their lives did not happen, Mrs. Ijeoma Rita Obu, a human capital development professional and CEO of Clement Ashley Consulting, once lamented in her chat with BusinessDay.
Many believe Nigeria cannot afford to overlook the obvious worsening, damaging effects of examination malpractices heartlessly crushing the soul of the education industry. Failure to address this growing negative drift sure would jeopardise any genuine efforts being intensified towards realising the needed capacity-building for the attainment of Vision 20-2020 economic objective.
Contrary to an express suggestion by the National Assembly that the Nigerian Universities should stop the conduct of post-Universities Matriculation Examinations (post-UME) tests being administered by these institutions, it is instructive that the concerned authorities need to improve on the internal mechanisms of the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) and operations of related exam bodies in Nigeria. The lawmakers, nonetheless, need to realise that if such inadequacies, including examination malpractices and candidates' poor preparations for the challenges of tertiary education had not been identified by these academics in the nation's Ivory Tower earlier, the idea of post-UME would not have arisen in the first place. One believes these institutions, either directly or indirectly, ought to be in involved in determining the quality of candidates to be admitted for various academic programmes.
Therefore, to revive the fortune of the nation's education industry, proper planning, efficient administration, supervision, adequate funding for the provision of teaching and learning facilities, and motivation of teachers, instructors, and other key stakeholders via timely payments of their salaries, commissions, and stipends are quite consequential, since the success of any educational system largely, depends on these measures.
Though JAMB, WAEC, National Examinations Council (NECO), National Business and Technical Examinations Board (NABTEB) and National Teachers Institute (NTI), among others are reportedly making efforts at blacklisting and derecognising some schools and exam centres over confirmed irregularities for certain periods of time, appropriate governmental authorities also, must complement their efforts by applying diligently, the provision of Examination Malpractice Act 33 of 1999, stipulating punishment ranging from a fine of N50, 000 to N100, 000 and imprisonment for a term of 3-4 years with or without option of fine, in order to serve as a deterrent to other internal and external examination fraudsters who yearly feed fat on these illegalities.
Save for the rising low moral standards in many schools, colleges and other institutions of learning these days, aside from parents and other upright individuals in the society, teachers and instructors naturally, should serve as role models to today's students but tomorrow's leaders. Some morally bankrupt teachers, instructors, school principals and proprietors/proprietresses who have continued to connive with hired examination writers to turn their schools into havens for exam malpractices, while deceiving many parents with cooked 'fantastic' examination results of their children and wards, should desist from this shameful act. Any of them caught in the act should be prosecuted by the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences commission (ICPC). What such ones do is nothing but economic sabotage, as they are destroying the nation's future today.
Government at all levels, as a matter of priority, should stop paying lip-service to the provision of required teaching and learning facilities in the schools, timely payment of staff salaries and fringe benefits in order to minimise corruption in the nation's educational system. The practice in which Government officials and politicians mindlessly, send their children and wards abroad on the bills of tax payers' money for better scholarship, just as Nigeria's school system rots away under the deadweight of avoidable problems will not help in restoring confidence in the system.
Therefore, all stakeholders within the nation's educational system should uphold the sanctity of examinations, so that quality may be restored to the failing system. Everyone is required to be committed to change and be part of this necessary change in which moral instruction, self-discipline could be employed to manage examination malpractices in Nigerian schools. Quality education remains an amazing instrument for sustainable national development.