Exam Cheating: Kenya is an Exam Crazy Country

Kenya is an “exam crazy country” to be precise. Everything seems to revolve around exams. At a summative level, these exams are highly competitive as they are highly relied upon to measure learners’ achievement. They provide a final judgment of who goes where and gets what educationally, occupationally and promotion wise. This has made excelling in summative school exams a fierce survival of the fittest battle. Students and teachers go to extraordinary strengths trying to make sure they excel in these exams. They have no choice.

Performance, apart from being largely dependent on the amount of knowledge a student brings to the exam, is also greatly influenced by how the student is able to manage and confront its challenges. Difficult exam items, memory let downs, fluctuations in motivational and attention levels, mental fatigue and lack of understanding of specific test items may impede performance.

It is against this backdrop that many school administrators resort to uncanny methods that will see them be regarded as the crème de la crème. Cheating comes in handy.

That is why irrefutable reports by some sections of the Kenyan media of rampant cheating in this year`s KCSE do not come as a surprise. This is in spite of the constant assurances by the Kenya National Examination Council (KNEC) that the genie of examination cheating had finally been put back in the bottle. Because of the fear of reprisals from their schools, TSC and KNEC honest classroom teachers will opt to remain silent even though they are fully aware of the prevalence of such malpractices in their schools. Indeed, many schools have accessed the national examination papers at least two hours before candidates sit for that exam.

Most of the papers affected are those done in the afternoon. Unlike previously where officers manning the strong rooms in the police stations were compromised, it is now the supervisors in the examination centers colluding with school administrators to open these exams between two to eight hours before the scheduled time and allow their most trusted teachers and students’ humble time to reproduce answers. Schools` administrators collude with corrupt KNEC officials to obtain substitute polythene envelopes in which the exam papers are packed in. They thus in cahoots with dishonest supervisors open the envelopes, take an exam paper, destroy the original envelope and re-pack the remaining papers in the substitute envelope and then reseal it. This is just but one of the many loopholes that have seriously dented KNEC`s credibility.

I have previously argued that cheating stretches all the way to the time that the setting of the examination takes place. This is because KNEC relies heavily on teachers from select schools to provide it with examination data bank for various examinable disciplines.

Coincidentally, schools privileged to have examination setters in particular subjects perform quite well in the same subjects. Much as one may argue that the excellent performance is a reflection of the competencies of such examination setters, it is also probable that such unscrupulous setters may collude to expose their students to replicas of prospective national exams.

There are also insinuations that unethical senior officers from KNEC establish call centres to mint money from desperate school administrators.

In lieu of the above concerns, it is doubtable whether KNEC`s policy not administer examinations beyond 2pm will significantly minimize cheating. The way forward is for the Ministry and KNEC to device water tight measures both in examination setting and administration. Most importantly is for the ministry to review the policy of using a single examination in a four year period to measure performance.

Tome Francis,


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