The Education PS recently released a circular warning trained examiners against giving talks to candidates as a major step towards stemming cheating in exams. It is quite in order for him to do this.
First, it is his duty to ensure quality education. Second, exams are approaching and just like when we expect visitors we must put our house in order; students should prepare in a proper way.
Thirdly, cheating has been a major concern in past years and nothing should be left to chance.
However, I am not convinced that the talks are in any way a cause of exam cheating. Even if they were it cannot be at this point in time. Let us consider the following facts.
First, major malpractices during exams have been linked to the opening of question papers before time, collusion during exams, and teachers assisting learners to answer questions.
In all these cases one who gives talks is hundreds of kilometres away. But even if he were close, it would not be possible for him to access students at that time and be useful to them unless he has question papers.
As for question papers, the PS is convinced that enough security measures have been put in place to avoid unauthorised person accessing them. This means that examiners have no luck in this, if they had intended to cheat that is. The circular does not also address activities outside school.
Considering that a big percentage of learners are day scholars, how will their activities outside school be restricted?
And who will control engagements of boarders once they are outside the confines of their school? Does it not mean that so long as it takes place outside school it doesn't count?
Should examiners be the key to passing, learners will still organise themselves, or their teachers will help them to do so, pay them and get the information they want.
It should also be noted that examiners are teachers, employed by the Teachers Service Commission, and are keen on performance. Thus, unless you are naive you cannot claim that they will not talk to their students and give them tips on the latest trends in setting exams and marking.
The circular may be informed by the Secrets Act, which reminds examiners about not making their identities known.
This has, however, been overtaken by other realities. The Kenya National Examinations Council gives certificates of service to examiners so it's no longer a secret.
The PS should also remember that talking about something shifts attention to it; the candidates will now be keener on examiners more than ever. The circular will therefore beat its own objectives.
If measures put in place earlier did not work then the PS’ new remedy will not work too. I had suggested that Knec creates exam centres and that learners be made to register at convenient points.
Contracted professionals should be trained and deployed by Knec to manage the exams. If possible, install CCTVs in all exam rooms and monitor them online. Also, reduce the number or contracted invigilators.
Finally, the PS should ensure that integrity and ethics are made part of the curriculum from nursery to university.
If we don't think outside the box we will have the same exam cheating stories to tell next time.
Tasma Saka,Homa Bay