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14.09.2021 Opinion

WAEC and WASSCE: Solutions to the perennial examination leakages

By Counsellor Daniel Fenyi
WAEC and WASSCE: Solutions to the perennial examination leakages
LISTEN SEP 14, 2021

1. It is no secret that, every year, the West African Secondary School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) is bedeviled with allegations of leakages of the examination questions days, hours before the students sit the papers, with this year being no exception. Some years, like 2002, 2006 and 2009, have seen the West African Examination Council (WAEC) cancel all or some of the papers after these leakages have been alledged, investigated and confirmed, sometimes even days or weeks after the said subjects had been written. Other years like 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021 have seen WAEC turn a complete deaf ear to the leakages, denied same and have allowed the students to have a field day with the fraud.

2. It is also obvious, and, above all, worrying, that, all indications point to the fact that, after witnessing consistent leakages in the over 20 year period of WAEC-supervised WASSCE, these leakages seem not to be stopping anytime soon, especially with the current trend where WAEC has decided not to 'mind' the leakages, and sometimes actually come out to defend the act, like 2020's where they released a press statement that admitted that though there were leakages of the papers, the said leakages did not happen from their quarters. Thus, blame was shifted to the teachers, invigilators, education officers, etc who were believed to have handled the papers. This fraudulent act poses a huge dent on WAEC's certificates. It twitches the genuineness of the certificates and reduces the global weight and respect it has (or could have). Therefore, it is about time we, as a nation, discussed thoroughly how to deal with this examination albatross that hungs around our neck.

3. Drifting away from belabouring the problem, which has been the practice of (educational) critiques over the years, I proffer solutions to the canker. These two solutions, in my candid opinion, would help to drastically reduce the leakages, or it's import on the conduct of the examinations, if implemented.

4. First, WAEC, if they are indeed committed to battling the leakage issue, must shuffle the numbering of the examination questions. The numbering of the questions must not be one, same and universal. Mix up the questions. Let the numbering of the questions for the boy who sits on Table 1 be different from that of the girl on Table 2. In other words, let Ama's Question 1 be Kofi's Question 23. And let Kwesi's Question 14 be Lucy's Question 38. Same questions, Different numbering! This means, if a subject has, say, 50 questions, we would automatically have 50 different set of questions.

When this happens, two things will suffice

a. A student who gets "apor" would have to "chew" all the questions verbatim together with the answers before it can benefit him in the exam Hall, which practice will obviously be heinous and burdening for the student. With the current system, a student only needs to "chew" the answers, say, A, C, B, D, in that order knowing very well that the numbering will be the same as the paper he'll sit in the exam room.

b. In the exam room, a student on Table A cannot ask another student on Table B for an answer to a question. Because, their numbers are different. In the current system, a student can just ask a friend, in a low tone, answer to, say, question 5 knowing very well that both of them have the same question.

5. Second, WAEC must 'regionalize' the WASSCE. In other words, make the examination regional based, not national based as it currently is. The WASSCE is written among all the five English-speaking West African countries, i.e., Ghana, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Liberia and the Gambia. However, all these African subregions have their own peculiar set of 'standard' questions, apart from extremely few cases where aspects of some subjects are made common for these countries.

6. It is my fondest belief that the same 'peculiarisation' principle can be trickled down to the regional levels in Ghana where all the 16 regions would have their own set of 'standard' questions. With this, Central region students would have their own WASSCE questions different from those in the Greater Accra or Ashanti. Upper East students' papers will be different from Upper West or Brong Ahafo, etc. When this happens,

a. consequently, leakages of questions will be regional and easy to deal with. There will no longer be 'national' leakages of questions, where in cases of cancellation, the entire paper for the nation would be affected. If Central region papers leak and it's cancelled, students in the Eastern or Savannah regions will not be affected.

b. The cost of reprinting and re-conducting of cancelled subjects will reduce. Currently, when a paper leaks and it's cancelled, WAEC has to reprint all the papers for the entire nation and bear the 're-invigilation' cost, etc. But, if the examination is limited to the region, these costs will be drastically reduced. It'll be only the region (s) whose papers leaked that will suffer the cancellation.

6. I would conclude on the rather refreshing notes that, these two suggestions can actually be implemented concurrently and do not need rocket science to implement. They only need a non-partisan examination body which is committed to conducting honest, genuine and fair examinations whose certificates are respected across the globe.

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