Education systems in the UK and Cameroon are at the heart of academic fraud. Academic integrity has been shaken to its core. The world examination system has come under fire.
Academic integrity is exposed as cheating scandals unfold in developing and developed countries alike. From the UK to Cameroon via France, Canada, Japan and the USA, there is a crisis of integrity in the world’s examination systems.
Meritocratic ethics at national qualification level are at stake following allegations over the use of high tech watches in the UK with specially programmed software designed for cheating in exams, skewing exam results at the Cameroon National School of Administration and Magistracy.
In terms of cheating statistics, Professor Donald McCabe, leading expert in academic integrity, recently wrote in The Canadian Journal of Higher Education that a study of over 4,500 high school students found the following:
“72% of students reported one or more instances of serious cheating on written work”.
McCabe is often referred to as the “founding father” of research in the area of academic integrity.
World examination fraud at glance
In March this year warnings over “cheating watches” for exams made the UK mainstream headlines: ‘Teachers have complained about “cheating watches” being purchase online for just £45 to enable students to achieve an unfair advantage in exams’.
“These digital watches include an “emergency button” to quickly switch from hidden text to a clock face”, said BBC education correspondent Sean Coughlan in his article entitled “Cheating watches’ warning for exams’.
In August this year, the Director General of (ENAM) the National School of Administration and Magistracy, Linus Toussaint Mendjana, allegedly signed a communique publishing the ENAM results of early August 2016 with blatant discrepancies. The name of a certain candidate, M. Atangana Joseph Yannick, allegedly appeared as passed on two different lists of two different specialisations.
But the discrepancy was that these two specialisations were written on the same day and at the same time, therefore it was impossible for the same student to have taken both exams test, given that both took place simultaneously.
The alleged candidate achieved a pass in Economics and Finance (name number 11 in that category), and in General Administration (name number 26 in that category).
The news took the world by storm and Cameroonians just like a swarm of bees were prompt to share the news on social media and mobile phones.
United State of America – Boston
According the U.S. Attorneys, District of Massachusetts News, a Suffolk University employee, Ashley Ciampa, 28, of Medford, pleaded guilty on Monday 20 June 2016 in U.S. District Court in Boston in connection with fraudulently obtaining over $40,000 in federal student loan funds by falsifying her own records to make it appear that she was a Suffolk University graduate student when in fact she was not.
In France, according to Reuters, the French Grand Rabbi resigned over plagiarism and academic fraud. This is another important European figure who quit his job after April 2013 after admitting to plagiarism in his books as well as claiming an academic title that he did not actually hold.
Kyoto University was prompt to outpace Britain by banning all watches during exams from December 2015, long before it raised concerns in Great Britain.
Kyoto University has become the first national university in Japan to ban all watches during exams, The Wall Street Journal reported in December 2015. Officials cited the proliferation of smartwatches and said that they couldn’t quickly determine which watches could be used for cheating and which could not.
Only a few days on since the start of the 2016 academic year and there are already concerns over whether or not regulation of England’s and the world’s education system is strong enough to cope with the rise of fraud.
Preventing examination malpractice: towards a culture of academic integrity
The roots of examination malpractice
The Oxford advanced learners online dictionary defined an exam as a formal written, spoken or practical test, especially at school or college, that one needs to do in order to gain a qualification.
High stakes of examinations and poverty are amongst the main reasons for academic fraud
In the UK, for instance, children feeling extremely pressurised to achieve outstanding results against the challenges of the new Schools White Paper.
In Cameroon, social class and academic achievement are inextricably linked. Academic results have a huge, immediate and long-term impact on a candidate’s life. In many developing countries such as Cameroon, Nigeria, Senegal and many others, graduation represents for low income students their ability to progress to higher social class and secure decent careers. Therefore it has become a ‘do or die’ situation: students, parents, poor or rich are increasingly tempted to cheat and thereby be guilty of academic corruption, either to achieve qualifications or to enter higher education training schools.
Consequences of examination malpractice
The issue of examination malpractice is an international emergency situation. No one is exonerated.
From education stakeholders, the students, as well as the national economy, could rightly be apportioned blame for the preponderance of this menace.
Anyone who engages in examination malpractice is building on a fragile foundation which can lead to very serious professional errors.
Three times out of four, examination malpractice leads to a corrupt society.
Those accustomed to cheating throughout their studies are likely to succumb to corruption and use bribery throughout their careers as well.
But examination malpractice almost always leads to a lack of competency and unaccomplished dreams in one’s chosen career path.
The consequences of examination malpractice both to education and society will be catastrophic in the long run for candidates, the schooling system, and for the development of a country as a whole.
Promoting academic integrity: a culture of academic ethics and values
The main goal of education is to ensure that every student has the opportunity to succeed in school and in life. Children’s success in school impacts on their achievements as adults, as well as the universities –if any– they attend and the professions they choose. How well they perform in their careers and help develop their country, their continent and thus the world, depend on the extent to which the academic ethics and values of integrity and honesty have been instilled into their mindsets.
Pressure on children to achieve outstanding results, and the negative effects of poverty remain some of the most critical obstacles to educational attainment.
Examination malpractice is not an inevitability; everything is not lost; there is a glimmer of hope for possible solutions:
Improve learning environments in nurseries, schools, high schools, training schools and universities.
Improve teachers’, lecturers’, invigilators’ and supervisors’ salaries. This will discourage attraction to bribery and most importantly will incentivise and enable the staff to deliver their jobs more efficiently and cover the required syllabuses before examination.
Educational policy should place more emphasise on the supremacy of certificates over skills and professional competence.