Examination malpractice in Nigerian educational system has been widely discussed and viewed as a major challenge not only to examination bodies but to school administrators, the entire education system, the government and the society at large. Many of these irregularities or misconducts surround examination and it came to an alarming rate in the last three decades.
The hues and cries about examination malpractice taking place at all levels of the Nigerian educational system is nothing but a reflection of the decay in the value system of the society. The Nigerian society is that which celebrates mediocrity and views cheating as being smart. The society does not want to know how an individual achieves success. The important thing is the success. In fact, in Nigeria the end justifies the means instead of the means justifying the end. In actual fact examination malpractice is a variant of the wrongs and corruption in the society. The politicians employ rigging at elections and enjoy enviable political offices and so do students cheat from primary to tertiary institutions to move from one level of education to another. All sorts of misconducts take place in and around examination venues to take undue advantage of the process and achieve “success”. To make matter worse, it is not only students that are involved, “Business and miracle centres” inside or around schools, parents, teachers, school heads, and examination officers all collude with students to perpetrate this misconduct. For Example, it is common during Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB) examination, to see up to 5000 persons in examination centre that has 500 candidates. The other persons who are not writing the examination come around to crowd the venue as aids to those writing the examination. The collusion between two or more of these agents makes it more difficult to combat. Even the penalties stipulated in the Act ranging from cancellation of results to 21 years jail- term has failed to achieve any significant shift from the cheating culture due to the effect of collusion.
The university system evaluates the achievement of students’ learning by administering two major types of examinations. Each course is evaluated by continuous assessment test (C.A. Test) and semester examination. These two types of examination are not spared of malpractices or irregularities of one type or the other.
It is the intention of this paper to discuss the effect of examination malpractices. To achieve this aim, it will be apposite to first discuss what exams and exams malpractice mean. The types or forms of malpractices will also be discussed including the position of our laws. Lastly, recommendations on measures aim at stopping or reducing the ugly trend will be proffered.
Examination is a word that is common to not only those that have entered the four walls of a school, it is known by even those who haven’t. While it may not have generally accepted meaning, one can define it as spoken or practical test at school or college especially an important one that you need to do in order to get a qualification. It is an assessment intended to measure a test takers knowledge or skill, aptitude, physical fitness or classification in many other topics (e.g. beliefs). A test may be administered orally, on a paper, on a computer or in confirmed area that requires a test taker to physically perform a set of skills. Examination is an organized assessment technique which presents individuals with a series of questions or tasks geared towards ascertaining the individual acquired knowledge and skills.
1.3 Meaning of examination malpractice
Examination malpractice is defined as any deliberate act of wrong doing, contrary to the rules of examinations designed to give a candidate an undue advantage. Examination malpractice, also known as cheating, is the illegal action that students take during their examinations to try to make good grades by cutting corners. Examination malpractice is an act or irregular manner of testing candidates which contravenes the rules and conventions guiding the conduct of examinations. It is any irregular behaviour or act exhibited by candidates or anybody charged with the responsibility of conducting examination in or outside the examination hall, before, during or after such examination with the aim of taking undue advantage.
1.4 What the law says about examination malpractice
Section 19 of The Examination Malpractice Act defines Examination malpractice as an act which constitutes an offence under this act. But simply put, as the phrase implies, it means a deliberate wrong doing contrary to official examination rules designed to place a candidate at unfair advantage or disadvantage. Thus, the following constitutes examination malpractice under the Act
1.4.1 Cheating at examination:
This is clearly enunciated by section 1 of The Act. When a person who, in anticipation of, before or at any examination, is by any fraudulent trick or device or in abuse of his office or with intent to unjustly enrich himself or any other person procures any question paper produced or intended for use at any examination of persons, whether or not the question paper concerned is proved to be false, not genuine or not related to the examination in question is said to have cheated in the examination and hence, liable to imprisonment not exceeding three years, or fine of #100,000, or to both fine and imprisonment, for any offender under the age of eighteen years, see action 1(2)(a) of The Examination Malpractice Act. But, if the accused happens to be a principal, teacher, an invigilator, a supervisor, an examiner, or an agent or employee of the examination body concerned with the conduct of an examination, he shall be liable for imprisonment of four years without the option of fine.
1.4.2 Stealing, etc…, of The question paper
A candidate who, at any examination, by any fraudulent trick or device or with intent to cheat or secure an unfair advantage for himself or any other person, steals or otherwise appropriates or takes a question paper, an answer sheet or a script of any other candidate commits, an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine of #100,000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years or to both such fine and imprisonment.
If a person falsely represents himself as a candidate and he sits for an examination, or he attempts to write a paper in the name of some other person, whether that name is the name of a person living or dead, is guilty of an offence which attracts three to four years’ imprisonment or a fine of N100,000, or both such fine and imprisonment. See section 3 of the Act.
1.4.4 Orderliness at examinations
Section 4 of the Act revolves around the maintenance of orderliness in the examination venue during the course of writing an examination. By the dint of Section 4(1), a candidate who leaves the examination venue and mixed up with other students, with the motive of involving in the commission of acts perceived as examination malpractice, commits an offence and is liable to conviction to a term of not exceeding 3 years or an option of fine not exceeding N50,000. It must be noted that offenders will not be allowed entry into the examination venue again. It’s also prohibited for the candidates to seek unlawful excuses, with ulterior motives.
1.4.5 Disturbances at examinations
Section 5 of the act prohibits disturbances during the course of writing an examination: an individual who, is located in a place that has a close proximity with the exam venue, and possesses harmful weapons, or instigates individuals into the perpetuation of activities aimed at disorganizing the examination hall/ making the examination to culminate in a pandemonium, if found guilty, will be punished with the imposition of a fine of N100,000, or imprisonment for a reasonable amount of time.
1.4.6 Conducts at examinations
Section 6 of the aforesaid act, seeks to ensure tranquility in the conduct of exams. According to section 6, any person (s) who is reluctant to obey law enforcement agents, disobedience of exam officials, unruly behavior, etc, commits an offence and as such. Is liable to a fine of 50,000, imprisonment for a period of 3 years, or both. It’s also stated further that violators risks removal from the examination venue.
1.4.7 Obstruction of supervisors, e.t.c
According to S.7 of the act, any person(s) who decides to willfully obstruct officials whose presence are sacrosanct for the conduct of the examination commits an offence and is liable to imprisonment and the option of a fine, if found guilty.
1.4.8 Forgery of result slips
The Act provides that any person who forges; or fraudulently or without lawful order, alters or in any other way tampers with, the scores of a candidate as contained on a result slip or certificate duly issued by an examination body, commits an offence and as such, is liable to imprisonment for a term of not exceeding three years or an option of fine of N100,000 or both.
1.4.9 Breach of duty
The Act elucidates on the breach of duty. It provides that official who fails woefully in the performance of his or her duty, commits an offence, and if convicted is liable to imprisonment for a term of four years without the option of a fine. On the part of an individual who is vested with the responsibility of handling or making question papers available, if he or she reveals the sensitive information on the newspaper illegally to anyone, is liable to imprisonment for a term of five years.
1.4.10 Conspiracy, aiding
Conversely, section 10 of the act nullifies conspiracy. If an individual cooperates or incites another individual into committing the offence tagged as examination Malpractice by the act, he is liable, upon conviction to imprisonment and fine, as embedded in the act.
1.4.11 Conviction for alternative offence
Section 11 of the act revolves around the fact that anyone who attempts the commission of acts nullified by the examination malpractice act, invariably, commits the act and as such, the appropriate punishment that will be meted out to someone caught in the act, will also be imposed upon him.
1.4.12. Offences by bodies corporate
Where an offence under the Act which has been committed by a body corporate is proved to have been committed on the instigation or with the connivance of; or be attributable to any neglect on the part of, a director, manager, secretary or other similar officer of the body corporate, or any person purporting to act in any such capacity, he, as well as the body corporate, where practicable, shall be deemed to have committed that offence and shall be liable to be proceeded against and punished accordingly.
This position is consistent with trite principle of law that there is no vicariously liability in criminal law. A person who commits an offence cannot be heard to say that a company or organization be punished for it.
1.4.13. Trial of children and young persons
Where a person who is a child or a young person (within the meaning of the Children and Young Persons Act, that is, a person who has not attained the age of seventeen years) is charged with an offence under this Act, he shall be dealt with under the provisions of the Children and Young Persons Act.
As regards the court of competent jurisdiction, section 14 of the Act donates the power of trying offenders to the Federal High Court. The court of competent jurisdiction is also exemplified in the case of University of Uyo V. Essel where the court held that:…”Examination malpractice can only be tried by a competent criminal court…”
1.4.15. Power of the examination body
The act defines “examination body” to mean the West African Examinations Council, the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board, the National Teachers Institute, the National Business and Technical Education Board, the National Board for Educational Measurement and any other body established by the Government to conduct an examination.The implication is that private examination bodies are not contemplated here.
The Act empowers an examination body power to do the following:
• withhold, suspend or cancel the results of a candidate or ban or blacklist a candidate from taking its examinations if it is satisfied that the candidate has engaged in any form of examination malpractice;
• withdraw recognition, suspend, ban or blacklist or place on probation a school or an examination centre if it is satisfied that the school or examination centre is involved in any form of examination malpractice;
• remove the name of, or withhold payment to a supervisor or an invigilator or any other official employed in the conduct of an examination if it is satisfied that the supervisor or invigilator or official has contributed to an examination malpractice.
The Act further empowers examination body to circulate the name of an offending candidate, supervisor, invigilator, official, school or examination centre to other examination bodies which may impose similar punishment.
However, it’s pertinent to note that institutions can also discipline students on examination malpractice. The requirement that must be met by the university is that, there must be strict adherence to the twin principles of natural justice; the doctrines of Audi alteram partem and Nemo judex in causasua. See the case of Kobi V. UsmanuDanfodiyo University Sokoto. In this case a student of Usman Danfodio University was caught committing exams malpractice and for that reason was expelled. He challenged the expulsion on the ground that examination malpractice is a criminal offence so the school ought to have reported him to the police first before expulsion. His application was refused and his appeal was also dismissed. The Court held as follows:
“…it is important to state without further ado that over time, the law has been fairly well settled that a University and indeed all academic institutions have the powers to discipline erring students and most importantly in respect of infractions bordering on Examination Malpractices and for such other misconduct, Notwithstanding the element of criminality Inherent in them. “ (Underlined for emphasis)
Also, In the case of University of Calabar vs. Ugochukwu and Ors my noble Lord, NGWUTA, JCA (as he then was) held the view that an academic institution may discipline a student for infractions to University Rules and Regulations bordering on Examination Malpractices and Cultism, notwithstanding that these infractions also amount to serious criminal offences.
However, the position has somehow changed in the most recent Court of Appeal decision in Rashidat Suleiman vs. Ahmadu Bello University Zaria ( 2021) LPELR 55101 CA when it held that Universities have no powers to punish students in respect of examination malpractice cases. It is our humble view that this decision is faulty in many respect. One is that the provision of section 16 of the Act is very clear as it gives examination bodies the power to discipline students on various malpractice offences. Again, same Court of Appeal clearly and unambiguously held in Kobi (supra) that discipline students who engage examination irregularities is within the powers of the universities. This is in addition to the powers given to universities by the laws estabilishing them. It is similarly our position that this current decision of Court of Appeal is not only reached per incurium but will put students that are faced with cases of malpractice into disadvantaged position as the moment they are found guilty they will be referred to as “ex-convict”, the reference that can disqualify them from holding any office in Nigeria.
1.4.16 Power of search, etc.
The Act provides that if the Court is satisfied that there is a reasonable ground to suspect that there may be found in any building or other place whatsoever, any question paper, examination paper, score sheet or information in any other form whatsoever which, in its opinion, is or may be material to the subject-matter of any trial under the Act, it may issue a warrant authorising any police officer or any member of the armed forces or of any of the security agencies to enter, if necessary by force, the building or other place and every part of the building or place; and search for, seize and remove any question paper, examination paper, score sheet or information found in the building or place.
1.5 Effects of examination malpractice
The consequences of examination malpractice both to education and the society will be catastrophic in the long run candidates/students who would ordinarily be working hard to pass examination will now depend on quack arrangements since they believe so much in such arrangements that it rarely failed. Then the fraud or malpractice may eventually be seen as a way of academic exercise. The candidates produced in this manner will grow into adults and teachers or examinations officials who will not see anything wrong with such sophisticated and high class examination fraud thus defeating the goals of education by turning out certificated illiterates.
Examination malpractice increases lack of confidence among students. Students who would have ordinarily passed an examination feel disappointed and lose confidence when less intelligent ones perform better than them through cheating, thus leading to loss of confidence in themselves and in the examination and the system at large. Examinations malpractice may lure some students into other areas of misconducts such as prostitutions and or armed robbery, female students who lack money to sort or pay for scores may take prostitution while male may as well take stealing or armed robbery in a bid to make money to pay for scores
The products of examinations malpractice are square pegs in round holes. They lack the required knowledge and experience to carry out their assignment and professional duties effectively. Examinations malpractice produces candidates with low morale and academic values. The products of examination malpractice always end up with unfulfilled dreams in their chosen career, as the effect of examination malpractice is always a regret. At this juncture I find very relevant to quote my mentor and my English teacher (Malam Umar Hassan), who once said ‘’you can’t cheat on education that you don’t know, if you don’t, you just don’t know. So if you cheat, it will one day follow you, look for you, get you and finally deal with you’’
Examinations malpractice is a negative orientation for future leaders who may end up being fraudulent and corrupt in their various offices. Anyone who engages in examinations malpractice is building on a false foundation which can lead to serious professional errors.
Another effect is over reliance on exams malpractice. In other words, the more person relies on exams malpractice, the more he or she commits it. That is to say, he or she will rely on it all the time as the only way to pass exams. This can be seen in the 2021 JAMB result statistics. 14 per cent passed while 86 per cent failed.
at the just-concluded 2021 Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination, UTME, conducted by the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board, JAMB, divergent views have been expressed by stakeholders as to what led to the poor performance by the candidates.
Examination malpractice take place in all forms of examinations and it is almost a routine to cheat in these examinations. Everyone continues to decry this cankerworm in the Nigerian education system and all penalties put in place to stop it remains almost ineffective if not totally ineffective.
In the course of research some findings were made:
Non-implementation of the Act: Despite good provisions of the Act, there are very few cases in respect exams malpractice in court. This is because those that will report the cases are mostly the culprits.
The various forms and styles of examination malpractices include impersonation, disorderliness, cheating, giraffing, conspiracy and aiding, forging of results, machinery, microchips, smuggling of question papers out of examination venues, smuggling answer scripts into examination venues, sorting and rewriting can be done electronically
The factors responsible for examination malpractice in Nigeria includes: wrong value system, quest for certification instead of knowledge and skills, Laziness, lack of preparation or in-adequate preparation for examination, lack of self-confidence, poor school facilities, (Lack of or in-adequate examination hall) poor sitting arrangement, socio-economic factors, political- undertone, poor invigilation, weak parental function. e.t.c.
Factors identified as reasons why examination malpractices has not been eliminated or reduced are among others, the fact that, the penalties as stipulated in the Examination Malpractice has not been fully applied. Again, many cases in respect of examination malpractice failed as a result of delay in attending them. And justice delayed is seen as justice denied.
Current admission policy had made our public and private institutions not habitable for sound and qualitative education. It always gives room for examination malpractice as teachers find it difficult to ensure proper control students and exams ethics during examinations
Poor foundation from primary to secondary school have made student doll and vulnerable to examination malpractice
Aid and abet by some teachers, parents etc to student gave students the courage and morale to cheat in examination. As some parents not only aid abet abet students to pass exams dubiously but also proudly buy results or certificates for them
Based on the research findings, the following recommendations were made to curb examination malpractice.
All stake holders, examination bodies, principal officers, family members and the entre Nigerian communities must come together to fight the menace of examination mal-practice
Teachers, parents, and examination bodies must work hand in hand to ensure that students are prevented from any electronic gadgets that is not officially authorized by schools. More so, the ban on the use of mobile cell phones, BBs and IPAD in examination halls should be enforced to check the new wave of e-cheating.
Change in value system, the situation where people place so much value on certificate does not augur well for our academics as it encourages examination malpractice. Sound educational policy should be put in place with de-emphasis on the supremacy of certificates over skills and professional competence.
The Act whose primary purposed is to prohibit and penalize all forms of exams malpractice should be fully applied by our courts and relevant authorities should report those cases as and when due
The universities should guide against indiscriminate admission of students so as not to overstretch the available facilities. The National Universities Commission (NUC) is waging war against over-crowding in universities. Universities should ensure they admit only qualified students and this should be based on available facilities as stipulated by NUC. Again,The Federal and State Government should continue to establish more universities to give opportunities to more candidates seeking admission in order not to over stretch facilities in existing universities. Considering the teeming population and the number of JAMBITES who meet the cut-off point every year, we recommend that every senatorial district should have a public university.
Students who engage in examination malpractice have been found to be academically weak. The weakness could be traced to faulty foundation in their educational ladder. It is therefore recommended that they should be improvement in the delivery of instruction especially at the foundation i.e primary and secondary levels.
Generally, the integrity of the teachers is important in curbing examination malpractice, teachers and supervisors should be persons of proven integrity. The invigilators should be very vigilant in the supervision of examination and should be fair to all. The question of double standard should not arise. Stakeholders should stop paying leap services to Examination malpractice. Religious and community leaders should be used to intervene on parents who insist on their children getting the best result without genuine efforts for it.
1. Examination Malpractice Act, Cap E15 LFN, 2004 (The Act)
2. Oduwaiye, R. O. (2014) Students‟ Perception of Factors and Solution to Examination Malpractices in Nigerian Universities: A case study of the University of Ilorin. www.academia.edu
3. The Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary (2018)
4. Oduwaiye, R. O. (2014) ibid
5. Oko, S. U (2016) ‘Examination Malpractice: Causes, Effects and Possible Ways of Curbing the Menace. A Study of Cross River University of Technology’ International Journal of Managerial Studies and Research (IJMSR)Volume 4, Issue 1, P. 59
7. Examination Malpractice Acts Cap E15, LFN 200
8. Ibid section 1(2)(b)
9. Ibid section 2
10. Ibid Section 8
11. Section 9
12. Section 13
13. (2006) ALL FWLR (Pt.315) 104 (CA)
14. Section 17 of the Act1
15. Section 16(1)
16. See section 18 of the Act which defines examination
17. (2018) LPELR-44665(CA
18. (No. 2) (2007) 17 NWLR (PT. 1063) 248 AT 266-267
19. Section 17 of the Act
20. He said this in our English class at Muslim Refrehhsher Course Programme, then Nurul Huda LEA Primary School, 2003
21. Onyechere, J. (2004). Consequences of Examination Malpractice. www.ajol.info/index Oxford advanced learners dictionary (2000); Adewale, G. (2014). Examination Malpractice: A Stigma on School Effectiveness in Nigeria. Https://www.unilorin.edu.ng and Uzoccukwu, Mike. (2015) Examination Malpractice and Causes. http://uzochukwumike.Hubpages.com June 16, 2015
22. Osayande, E. (2021), “Mass failure in 2021 UTME: Stakeholders, JAMB trade blames” available at https://www.vanguardngr.com/2021/07/mass-failure-in-2021-utme-stakeholders-jamb-trade-blames/ accessed August 14, 2021
ABOUT THE WRITER
Dr. Hassan Bala is a Law Lecturer at the Faculty of Law A.B.U Zaria and Principal Partner, Hassan Bala & Co. He can be reached via [email protected]