Education think tank Africa Education Watch (Eduwatch) has engaged Parliament on issues of question leakages and malpractices in the just ended West African Senior School Certificate Examinations (WASSCE) organised by the West African Examinations Council (WAEC), to find lasting solutions to the perennial leakages. The team responded to an invitation by the Parliamentary Select Committee on Education to present and discuss its yet to be published research into the 2021 WASSCE Examinations question leakages and malpractices, gathered through a two-month long monitoring exercise with support from OXFAM International.
The Honourable Deputy Minister of Education, the leadership of the Ghana Education Service (GES) and WAEC, the Conference of Heads of Assisted Secondary School (CHASS) and the Ghana Police were duly represented as stakeholders discussed the findings and recommendations of Eduwatch’s WASSCE Monitoring Report for 2021.
Addressing the House, Director General of GES indicated that the issue of examination malpractices and question leakages is an enormous one and a big business which cannot be tackled singlehandedly. He called for stakeholder support in addressing the challenge.
WAEC in their presentation stated unequivocally that, students had fore knowledge of the English Language 1&2 and Elective Mathematics 1&2 papers, while confirming the existence of institutionalized cheating through collusion between school authorities, invigilators, supervisors, and security officials in some schools. This was in tandem with earlier reports by Eduwatch that the said questions leaked over nine (9) hours before the scheduled time for the paper. WAEC further cited activities of rogue websites and social media question marketers as one major challenge faced during the 2021 WASSCE and indicated that they [WAEC] had set up National and International Committees to Investigate all incidences that occurred during the exams. The Council also hinted its intensions to employ the use of private investigating agencies to track down rogue websites and perpetrators of examination malpractice.
Eduwatch presented findings from its 2021 WASSCE Monitoring Report, emphasizing the immediate need for WAEC to strengthen its questions security and digitize the questions value chain to curb leakages. Eduwatch provided irrefutable evidence of leakages of eleven (11) papers in the 2021 WASSCE which included three (3) of the four (4) core subjects [namely English Language 2, Core Mathematics 1&2 and Integrated Science 1&2]. According to findings in the unpublished report, questions leaked between four (4) days to one (1) hour before the paper. The major sources of these leaks according to the organisation were Telegram and WhatsApp platforms.
The education policy advocacy organization indicated that 500 students interviewed from 50 schools monitored also attested to having prior knowledge to the questions before sitting to answer them, and attributed the leakages to a fundamental issue of increased demand for the questions due to the high stakes nature of WASSCE and a fertile security loophole in the questions supply chain out of which a multi-million-cedi business has emerged and blossomed. Eduwatch recommended digitizing the questions distribution so that questions would be transmitted through an end-to-end encrypted email thereby removing the human involvement in printing, packaging, transportation and storage to ensure enhanced security.
Eduwatch also recommended an immediate independent inquiry into this year’s examinations fraud to ascertain the actual source of leakages, and the introduction of a regulator of assessments to regulate the operations of all assessment bodies in Ghana, including WAEC. This according to Eduwatch would enhance accountability of WAEC to its responsibilities, since under the current legal and policy architecture, WAEC sets its own standards and self-appraises itself within a virtual monopoly.
The representatives of CHASS questioned the security of the examination questions and indicated that contrary to WAEC’s constant claim of question papers leaking at examination centres, immediately before the commencement of papers, questions actually leaked before they reached the depots. CHASS further questioned the lack of prosecution of WAEC Officials implicated in various examination malpractices annually, especially while other culprits face stiff punishments. The Association emphasized the need to enforce the ban on use of mobile phones in schools as a way of reducing the demand for questions and curbing their leakages.
Stakeholders expressed worry about the presentation of Eduwatch and WAEC, especially on issues related to the perennial questions leakages, institutionalized cheating, collusion between students, invigilators and supervisors to permit the use of mobile phones to transmit and intercept solved questions in exams rooms among others, and agreed on the need for collaborative efforts, commitments and political will to curb examinations questions leakages and minimize examination malpractices to the barest minimum to improve the credibility of Ghana’s assessment system.
The Chairman of the Parliamentary Select Committee on Education who Chaired the session expressed gratitude to Eduwatch and partners for their lead role in monitoring the conduct of WASSCE over the years and raising critical issues that require the attention of government and stakeholders to improve the credibility of Ghana’s pre-tertiary education assessment system. He reiterated Parliament’s commitment to exercise effective oversight in the education sector to improve quality, especially working with WAEC and the Ministry of Education to resolve the perineal questions leakages at WAEC.