In my capacity as one who has completed the first leg of Ghana’s education system, I dare say the WAEC examinations are grossly overrated. As far as tests and examinations go, it has way too much riding on it. The only reason why questions leak annually is that there is ready market for it and consumers are willing to pay any price for it.
Let me begin my argument with the value of a WASSCE certificate in Ghana, and by extension the value of secondary education. As things stand now, secondary education is only useful for gaining entrance into a tertiary institution since it does not equip students with any employable skills apart from the abstract theories they learnt by rote. So if your secondary certificate is not good enough to enable you gain admission into a tertiary institution, you are doomed to spend the next couple of years trying to get a better certificate or doing something that you secondary education did not prepare you for.
Apart from the value of secondary education being virtually worthless, the only thing of any worth as far as those three years are concerned is the certificate at the end. Call me whatever but I am a strong subscriber to the maxim that says “examination favors the fool”. Anyone who has passed through the system knows that those examination results are not a true representation of a student’s academic standing and yet so many people’s lives are tethered to it. This is why in my opinion, questions wont stop leaking
Let me begin with students. For some fantastic reason, it is expected that students will cram three years worth of theoretical knowledge in their heads and reproduce the right answers at a 3 hour sitting. Somehow that is not too much to ask of a teenager; after all it is only chew-and-pour. Now couple that with the burden of knowing that whatever their ink registers within those three hours will determine the course of the rest of their lives because sincerely there are few to zero decent opportunities for people who fail their WASSCE. Now is it unthinkable that a child under so much pressure will go to lengths to cheat during the exams or procure prior knowledge of the questions that his/her future rides on? Regardless of how prepared a candidate is, it will be hard to resist the temptation to cheat the system that has been pre-programmed to frustrate them.
Till date, there is no effective method to measure the quality of teaching and learning that goes on in classrooms. By extension there is no way to determine who the overall best teacher in a given school is, without WASSCE results playing a major role. Once again, someone’s entire career, promotion and salary raise rests on students going to write an examination and trusting them to reproduce what they have been taught. What stops the teacher from going the extra mile to secure questions in order to further ensure he gets the desired outcome? After all, the system teaches us that the end justifies the means
At the end of every academic year, a list is released of the top schools in the country. It is this list that determines which school is class A, B, C or D. School heads are expected to tether the reputation and credibility of their institution on the outcome of WASSCE that teenage students are sitting. Once again if they have it within their means, they will take matters in their hands and influence the outcome of the examinations not for the sake of the students but for their own sakes and their institution’s.
Parents by their nature will do whatever it takes to ensure that their wards are better placed in life. They better than anyone else know the struggles of failing examinations and will go any length to protect their wards from going through those struggles, even if it means securing leaked questions.
This article is not meant to justify cheating in examinations. It is only an exposition on the number of potential buyers for every leaked question paper and what lengths they will go to, to secure it. Now the WAEC employee with access to the questions is going to be pressured from many sides to betray his morals and sell the questions. Regardless of how much we like to deny it, I am of the view that everybody has a price, and the questions will leak inevitably. It is basic economics, this much demand will shoot price so high that anyone in possession of the commodity will cave in and sell.
The solution is not tighter security and stricter prison terms for offenders or cancelling of papers. Those measures have so far only worsened the status quo. Maybe we shouldn’t let so much ride on one examination, we shouldn’t make WASSCE a do or die affair and we shouldn’t make a WASSCE certificate the most valuable product of our educational system.