Uganda National Examination Board (Uneb) has withheld results of 2,220 candidates who sat for the 2020 Primary Leaving Examination (PLE). Accordingly, this number is higher than results withheld for the 2019 PLE candidates. In 2019, Uneb withheld results of 1,512 candidates meaning the number of withheld results has increased by 46.8 per cent.
Academic cheating can be defined as a dishonest action with the element of deceiving with the goal of obtaining benefits or superiority from other students or schools.
Of late, internet and social media as a vibrant communication channel has been largely used to circulate examination papers and questions across the country to learners. It is also alleged that some schools still have hidden examination rooms, which make it easy for them to cheat.
Uneb recommends schools to have their gates open during the examination period but some schools don’t. In such schools it is also alleged that some school owners and head teachers bribe the invigilators and scouts to allow malpractices at the examination center.
Previously, many writers have probably rightly accused school owners and head teachers of perpetrating the vice of cheating due to the pressure for excellent grades from parents. Indeed, our society seems to promote that you should do whatever it takes to win or succeed.
But students also cheat because of the pressure to succeed. They also cheat because they’ve seen it modeled by their parents and other would be role models in society like politicians. They cheat because cheating is so common that they don’t even think of it as cheating anymore. They don’t even think it’s wrong.
The examination system that also values letter grades or a test scores far more than they value actual learning is also to blame. Students unfortunately have grown up in this educational system and now are disengaged, disillusioned, and overwhelmed due to the pressures that surround it.
Recently, Parliament passed the Uneb bill with very clear and tough punishments on those who cheat exams or abet cheating. But that may not be enough. While Uneb catches some cheaters, there are very many who don’t get caught. We must devise other means to eliminate cheating.
As parents, we talk to our kids about drinking, drugs, sex, and anything else we think we need to in order keep them safe and healthy. But how many of us talk to our kids about cheating? If we aren’t, we should be. Cheating is an epidemic in our schools and universities. And the consequences of cheating are severe.
It will most definitely take the efforts, not only of the students themselves, but also of every adult who cares about children to break the chain of cheating. Parents need to teach their children from a very early age that cheating is wrong.
We need to teach it in the same way we teach them about drugs and smoking. Teachers must teach students what constitutes academic dishonesty and be more vigilant about catching cheaters. Parents also need to be honest with themselves about whether they might be putting too much pressure on their children to succeed at school. They can explain to their kids that while ambition is fine, honesty and integrity are more important than academic success achieved through deceit.
Reports that government is planning to overhaul exams system is good news that should be supported by all education loving citizens in Uganda. According to the media reports, the Ministry of Education and Sports has embarked on developing a policy that will see major changes in curriculum, assessment from pre-primary up to the higher levels of secondary education.
Hopefully the new policy proposals on assessment will recommend the blended system – where national examinations results can be complemented with classroom assessment information, teachers’ views, student personal statements, interviews and extracurricular activities to determine educational pathways into upper secondary and tertiary education.
At the moment Uganda is lagging behind other countries in academics. Our nation will continue not be regionally and globally competitive if we raise a generation of undereducated cheaters.
Mesharch Katusiimeh (PhD) is the Dean, Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences & Associate Professor – Department of Governance, Kabale University.