The recent spree of examination leakages at the University of Ghana and that of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology has awakened the questioning minds of many Ghanaians about the caliber of graduates coming out from our public universities. It will interest us to know that this practice is as old as the earliest history books and contemporary as the morning newspaper. Again we must understand that the examination leakages are not restricted to the universities alone. We cannot boast of clean hands when it comes to issues of examination transparency in Ghana. From A to Z no one can throw stone.
There are many times whereby West African Examination Council (WAEC) conducted exams had leaked. In 1996 some of the SSSCE papers conducted by WAEC leaked and had to be rewritten again. In 1999 the University Entrance Examination conducted by the four public universities had some of the questions leaked. The 2002 Basic Education Certificate Examination conducted by the same WAEC also registered massive leakages causing innocents pupils to rewrite some of the papers again. Last year's Colleges of Education (formally of teacher training college) exams conducted by the Institute of Education of the University of Cape Coast also leaked. I can go on and on. Even if kindergarten pupils are to write externally conducted exams for them to be selected into primary schools the questions would leak. This is in a nation which prides itself as the star of Africa. So are we the star of examination malpractices and leakages in Africa? If this is so then Ghana must bow its head in shame.
It is because of examination leakages that is why examination fees/charges in Ghana is too high compared to other West African states. This is because anytime they are determining the cost of the examination they make provision that should the first set of printed questions leak they should be able to print another set which has to be added to the cost of running the exams.
The main objective of university education is to furnish the student with the requisite knowledge and skills to enable them to contribute effectively to the national development effort. This training demands periodic assessment and evaluation in form of examinations in order to ascertain the level of knowledge and competence of students.
The universities inability to diversify its method of measurement and evaluation of students but rather stick to examinations to me is one of the main reasons why examination malpractices have increased exponentially. Although examinations are not the only instrument for assessing and evaluating knowledge, it has emerged as the major established yardstick and the most practical way of assessment in Ghana. I do not blame the universities alone. Imagine one lecturer taking a class of about three hundred students. How can one expect such a lecturer to give separate assignment to each student and supervise as we do in project work? So examination has become the only available tool available. And this has caused over-dependence on certificate as the key to employment has, however, led to a crazy rush by most people to try and acquire certificates either legitimately or illegitimately.
If something is not done hurriedly to stop this cancerous act that is eating into the vital part of our educational fabric then certificates awarded by Ghanaian academic institutions would wane both in the local and international level. Again and again, companies and firms would no longer respect such certificates/diplomas/degrees. I can foresee that in the near future if this does not stop companies and firms would contract the Ghana Institute for Management and Public Administration (GIMPA) and say KPMG to conduct selection exams degrees awarded in Ghana before such a person can be employed. This can happen! What caused the four universities in Ghana to conduct entrance exams for senior secondary school applicants applying into the four public universities can also happen to other body organizing selection exams to act as litmus test to verify one's degree.
It will not be fair if I only concern with the effects and leave the underlying causes untouched. Though the question: who caused the leakages is important? It is also important that we also ask the question: what caused the leakages? Once we are able to find answers to these questions it will not be like Adam blaming Eve and Eve also blaming the serpent.
A critical study into our educational system reveals that the system is much focused on examinations. If you fail end of semester examination but you can construct a miniature car that can move correctly as ordinary cars are doing they the university will dismiss you because you failed in exams. This means that students must pass exams by all available means. Students are committing things to memory just for the sake of exams. Even some lecturers do not want students to paraphrase lecture notes when it comes in the exams. They want it verbatim. And after a student has committed things into memory and you ask him to explain with his own words he will not be able to do it. Just after the exams everything goes off from his memory. It is like the computer's random access memory (RAM) which when it is shut down it looses everything inside it. I believe that at the tertiary level the system of education moves from academic training to professional training. To this end one must see the minimization of academic work and maximizations of professional training. But this is opposite. This is why we produce pharmacist with first class and they cannot even prepare simple trisilicate mixture. This not related to pharmacist alone. When students from our universities enter the job market they have to be retrained again. It would surprise you that first class students find themselves wanting when it comes to the practical delivery of the theory that they know. In the words of Dr Martin Luther King Jr that we have a high blood pressure of the theory but an anemia of practice. In other words their cognitive domain far outdistances their psychomotor domain.
THE WAY FORWARD
There must a clear demarcation between professional courses and academic courses at our institutions. At all if one can graduate from the Ghana Business School with his or her cumulative weighted average (CWA) so close to the boiling point of water and cannot prepare trial balance then it is unfortunate. Courses like BSc Physics, Mathematics, Chemistry, and BA English are all academic courses must be treated at such. When it comes to professional courses like Pharmacy, Dentistry, Human Biology, Engineering etc the emphasis should be on developing the practical understanding of students and not committing theories and formulas into memory which can do nothing.
Secondly, government should provide the universities with enough funds so that the universities can employ more lecturers and teaching assistances. The purpose here is to allow for each student to be given, say, in a semester a question or project work that will be different from others to prevent students from copying from their colleagues. Most of the time the reasons why lecturers do not give assignments to students are that when they are given students will copy from each other. In fact is true in every university in the country. Students are lazy of late and they are always trying to find someone's work to copy. When student is given a laboratory work the student will not perform the experiment but he/she will get something to present for assessment.
Apart from those engaged in examination malpractices been dismissed from our universities they must be made to face the full rigors of the PNDC Law 255. This will inject haemoglobin of decency into our educational and examinational system.
Appiah Kusi Adomako is a freelance writer and the president of the Ghana Chapter of Leaders of Tomorrow Foundation. He can be contacted through: Leaders of Tomorrow Foundation, P.O. BOX. KS 13640. Kumasi. Tel 027-740-2467 www.interconection.org/lotfound Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.