What you need to know:
- Getting admission to university, a competitive degree programme, career or job is not, in itself, success.
- The main function of exams is to determine how well students have learnt.
Last week, the principal secretary for Early Learning and Basic Education, Dr Julius Jwan, brought up an important dimension to the examination cheating: It messes up the careers and lives of the students.
The immediate result of cheating, he added, was that the students get marks or grades that they have not earned and some of them drop out of university programmes.
Getting admission to university, a competitive degree programme, career or job is not, in itself, success. The opportunities are attainable only when one has had quality educational experience, demonstrated through a credible assessment of the knowledge, skills, attitudes and values that go with them.
Implied in cheating are assumptions that some schools don’t adequately deliver the curriculum to the learners; students or candidates don’t have the requisite intellectual furniture and discipline to sit competitive exams such as KCPE or KCSE; and hence don’t have the requisite capacity to undertake the rigours of further education or training or complex tasks, assignments or jobs.
All students have innate potential in ability, aptitudes and talent. The mandates of national education systems is to develop, to the fullest possible extent, the potential of every learner.
Development of the ability, aptitudes and talent of learners is done through teaching and learning, exposing them to what a former president of Tanzania termed “the accumulated wisdom and knowledge of the society” with a view to preparing the young people “for their future membership of the society and their active participation in its maintenance or development”.
The main function of exams is to determine how well students have learnt, in the light of the quantum of knowledge, skills, aptitudes that the curriculum embodies, and whether and how well the educational experience has shaped their critical thinking and analytical skills, problem-solving and power to make conclusions from a set of situations.
Those who mastermind the cheating fail to appreciate the role of formal schooling. The school is, according to British educational sociologist Michael Young, a place where young people acquire the knowledge that, for most of them, cannot be acquired at home or in the community.
Prof Young called this powerful knowledge. It opens up things – opportunities, further knowledge and transcendence – every day to those who acquire it.
It is the knowledge, skills and aptitudes inherent in the prescribed curriculum that enable educated people at different levels to perform different tasks of corresponding complexity. It is from the pool of these educated people that society picks individuals to manage institutions, tasks, issues, challenges, problems and, ultimately, crises that arise.
Knowledge is power
Now, when the school system has not adequately prepared a person and, somehow, connives to help them to get undeserved marks or grades, the person gets exposed to opportunities that they are ill-prepared to handle. The result is frustration and cheating or — which happens in highly competitive institutions — sacking or exclusion.
Knowledge is power. It gives those who possess it power to control and manage the environment: Ability to think through and solve problems — managerial, technical or otherwise. Knowledge — whose rudiments the basic education curriculum embody — makes the person more powerful by giving them mental and moral rigour.
It is not just about cognitive skills but also skills that develop character, integrity, resilience, courage and tenacity that education imparts to learners.
Temptation to cheat implies that schools may not have thoroughly exposed learners to the curriculum; not properly prepared them for the challenges and vicissitudes of life; those that try to cheat have wasted the opportunity to develop the innate abilities children have; and have failed the country.
That shouldn’t happen. Our school system has the wherewithal to impart knowledge, skills and aptitudes. They have well-educated and trained teachers. They have been given the instructional materials to do this.
Mr Buhere is a communications officer at Ministry of Education. email@example.com.