The issue of cheating in the BECE will stay with us for a very long time. Many of the supposed solutions that are supposed to curb this unfortunate practice rather seem to be the means through which students cheat 'effectively'.
Some of the solutions are that the papers must be brought from one location and transported to wherever in the country. Another is that they need a security personnel to travel with the WAEC officers to the exams centres and hope that the 'sealed' papers are not torn deliberately or intentionally. Another is that the papers should be delivered few hours to the centre and must be torn open in the exams room after which the students are put under strict investigation of human invigilators.
So there lies the problem. Too many human boundaries are put in place to control the leakage of exams questions and to also act as an impermeable membrane to the very profitable demand for questions. This is what of course has led to the black market supplying very authentic questions — they even tell you which is question 1 with the rest in their right order.
The flaw with the human boundaries setup by WAEC is this: there will always be leakage at each point, always. No human boundary is perfect. By printing the papers at one location, humans who arrange it, get to peep.
Now as security personnel and WAEC personnel travel the route to their destination, should there be any understanding to which both agree to do what they should not, we are also likely to have an act that will not be laudable. Invigilators also are capable of allowing students to have their way. Of course that has to come with proper compensation.
But then a solution to this malpractices has been with us for a while and we are not taking advantage of it. The solution can be implemented more effectively when the call to reduce the number of subjects to four is adhered to. The basic level needs a reform that will make JHS students more competitive with their colleagues in the West.
The concentration should be on English, Math, Science and ICT. This does not mean that the other subjects should not be taught. Rather, instead of loading a student from Primary One with 10 subjects, he could rather be picking and dropping them on the way up to JHS 3 [In order to make sure students appreciate what is being taught them, the other subjects can be taught using evidence-based teachings and making students have presentations on them as End-of-Term examination. This will also present them with certain vital skills from the beginning.
The solution to the perennial BECE malpractices could be cured, or mitigated extremely, by 'borrowing' the system setup by other professional examination bodies in the world such as the organisers of GRE, TOEFL, etc., but with a little modification.
Theirs have to do with using a computerised system for students to undertake the exams. There is almost no supervision, only when one requires technical assistance from the invigilator present. What they use are cameras and the duration for each exam is on a countdown, so when the time is up, you are logged out. This would mean that WAEC can employ less people to supervise and then only have to request a video where a malpractice has been alleged to have occurred and then investigations can begin.
In fact, in adopting such practices, WAEC will need large halls to cater for a large number of students. In modifying it, they could have a large bank of questions from which the questions will be selected.
This would mean that students will be required to take objective-based questions which also makes it possible for students to have their score immediately they are done.
With respect to the essay in English questions, they could obviously type it in a window on the screen. By doing this, a computer program can be used to shuffle the questions so that the questions student A gets is different from that of student B. In effect, it will be a waste of time even for students and invigilators to try and figure out which question each student is answering and then assist them.
Furthermore, for the success of this model, it will be important for the students to write in batches. Since it is the same syllabi, it is expected that the students must have learnt the same thing and this should not be a problem if GES have done their supervisory role in making sure all things have been taught.
This could help WAEC change the questions with almost no sweat for students to answer as there is already a question bank from a well-guarded computer server with multiple layers of protection. This could even help the student write the exams over a longer duration, which must be reasonable and take the stress off them. Assuming an exam for the four subjects is slated every other day from the next, it should take students, two weeks to complete the entire BECE.
In summary, by reducing the number of subjects and adopting a computerised system of writing exams, we will most certainly solve this perennial problem of exams malpractice.
My name is Kotey and I believe in Ghana.