The West African Secondary School Certificate Examinations (WASSCE) organised by WAEC is set as a standardized test. Standardized test are carefully constructed by tests expects with specific directions for administering and scoring the test. Specific instructions are provided for test administration and scoring. Directions are so precise and uniform that procedures are standard for different users of the test at different geographical locations. The test content is determined by curriculum and subject-matter expert and involves extensive investigations of existing syllabi, textbooks and programmes. Therefore the tests are based on agreed (by stakeholders) syllabi where students and teachers alike are aware of areas in a particular subject to expect questions. A test manual is available as a guide for test administration and scoring.
The results then should be accepted by all tertiary institutions in West Africa and beyond (not only universities) as evidence of a student having completed a specified period of education and it also shows his/her performance during that period. A certificate is thereby issued to candidates after this. This certificate can be used for job placement and making selection decisions.
Some questions that come to mind in considering the University Entrance Exams (UEE) as an alternative to WAEC's WASSCE are; what is the UEE going to be? Are the respective universities going to set it themselves? Are nurses training institutions, university colleges of educations, school of journalism and other tertiary institutions going to set their questions separately? Are they going to be written at the same time all over the country or universities, nursing training and teacher colleges will write at different times? Finally, are candidates going to be issued with a certificate that will be accepted by tertiary institutions all over the world and also to apply for jobs after the exams?
Additionally, some students usually buy more than one tertiary admission form, so if two institutions for e.g. nurses training institutions and university colleges of educations or school of journalism and any other tertiary institution decide to write it at the same date what will happen to students mostly will like to buy admission forms from KNUST, UCC, Nursing Training and Teacher training just to try his luck on where he will be admitted or given his preferred programme of study?
With WAEC results, a student can apply to any tertiary institution simultaneously and will have the liberty to go to the university that offers him his preferred programme of study. Should students be travelling all over the country writing different exams e.g. from UCC in cape coast to Teacher training college at Abetifi then to Kintampo for Nursing Training entrance exams
Regarding the issue of leakage and invigilation, the problem lies with the attitude of Ghanaians. The blame cannot be laid on WAEC alone. It is alleged that some teachers take monies from students to buy questions for them and it is Ghanaians working at WAEC who leak the questions. Recently, the maiden Teacher Promotion Exams allegedly leaked hours before teachers went to take the exams and this was not organised by WAEC. Has university internal exams not leaked before? If proper systems are not put in place to check this and also if the attitude of Ghanaians with examinations does not change, substituting WAEC’s WASSCE with UEE will not solve the problem of leakage.
Finally, WASSCE results are not only for pursuing further studies in Ghana but for the outside world and also for job applications and placements. It is not everyone who wants to or can continue their education after SHS yet such persons need WASSCE certificate to apply for jobs. There are thousands of SHS graduates who are working with their WASSCE certificate and this year’s batch of students should not be denied that entitlement.
By Solomon T. Ansong
The author is a teacher with interest in educational and national issues.