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14.03.2006 General News

On-line offer of WAEC services has problems


Accra, March 14, GNA - The recent introduction of on-line checking of examination centres and results by the West African Examinations Council (WAEC), has brought in its wake quality assurance problems, including computer errors and difficulty in accessing the website. The computer errors and problems occurred if persons working in computer rooms and the people to whom the examination services were provided, were not vigilant or meticulous, said Prof Ivan Addae-Mensah, Former Vice Chancellor of the University of Ghana.

Prof Addae-Mensah made the observation when he delivered the 11th Annual Endowment Fund Lecture of the WAEC in Accra on Monday, on the theme "Quality Assurance in Public Examinations." The Annual Endowment Fund Lecture, instituted in 1996, provides a platform for eminent scholars from Member Countries of the WAEC, to share ideas and generate discussions on topical issues. Prof Addae-Mensah, who had been Chief Examiner of WAEC, said a recent visit to the WAEC Computer Centre in Accra, confirmed that in spite of the great effort put in by the staff of the Council, to ensure that every registration form was thoroughly checked, most of the problems came form candidates and school heads. He said candidates made a lot of mistakes in filling their scan-able forms, each of which had to be checked individually and item by item by staff of the computer centre.

When detected errors are sent back to the schools for verification and correction, some of the forms are returned to the Council duly signed by the school heads, still containing the errors. Prof Addae-Mensah said many of the errors could be reduced to the barest minimum if candidates and heads would be a little more careful. The Don spoke of other issues that affected the quality of WAEC examinations such as pressure on the staff of the Council, late arrival and unavailability of Chief Examiners' Report for study to improve on subject and teaching areas in later years, and low remuneration of examiners which make the task unattractive. He debunked the notion that the Council was deliberately was penalising candidates and that no examiner ever went out of his way deliberately to penalise a candidate depending on his mood at the time.

Prof Addae-Mensah said the provision existed for the Council to receive complaints and requests for review of results through heads of schools and that individuals too could take such initiatives. However, most students and some school heads are afraid to take advantage of the provision for fear of future victimisation. School heads are also very careful about selecting cases for review to avoid the Council being inundated with frivolous and vexatious petitions. Prof Addae-Mensah said a survey he recently conducted in four regions among university teachers, students in the University of Cape Coast, University of Ghana and the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, as well as secondary school students and pupils in the junior secondary schools, in the Central, Greater Accra, Ashanti and Eastern Regions, did not give "very good perception on the integrity and accuracy in marking of scripts."

He suggested that the examining body and candidates be made aware of those aspects that went into the process of examining, to serve as means of generating some confidence in students in the fairness of the examinations. The WAEC must also assert its capacity to prevent examination malpractices and build a more positive public image. The WAEC had not scored a positive image because of the occasional high profile cases of malpractices in the past - and also because the Council had not engaged the public effectively to make it to understand the nature of its work.

The Former Vice Chancellor suggested that the Council should urgently set up a quality assurance unit to go beyond its research reports, most of which only covered examination content, and ignored other processes involved in public examinations. He also underscored regular training of examiners, saying the current on-the-job training was not the most ideal for the maintenance of high quality standards.

WAEC conducts both international and national examinations in Ghana, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, The Gambia and Liberia. These include secondary school leaving certificate examination, primary/basic school certificate examinations and technical school leaving certificates in some of the countries. The Council also conducts examinations in collaboration with other local and international examining bodies. In recent times, the Council has come under public criticism following reported leakage and other malpractices in some of its examinations, especially at the Basic and Secondary levels.

Prof Addae-Mensah reiterated that the role of examiners, team leaders and chief examiners was what determined the fate of candidates, and that any examiner, who was only interested in monetary gains, had no business being involved in public examinations. He called for extra vigilance in all aspects of an examination, stating that persons working in computer data processing centres must be meticulous.