Every exam should be an opportunity to curb cheating

As you read this, many school going children have started their end of term examinations already. This period marks the end of normal teaching but not quite a rest period for the teachers. Anyone who has had the chance to stand teach will be quick to confirm that marking student’s examination scripts is one of the most boring times of the year.
Allan Brian Ssenyonga
Allan Brian Ssenyonga

As you read this, many school going children have started their end of term examinations already. This period marks the end of normal teaching but not quite a rest period for the teachers. Anyone who has had the chance to stand teach will be quick to confirm that marking student’s examination scripts is one of the most boring times of the year.

On the students’ part, it is time to jog their memories to recall what was taught in order to respond adequately to what is being asked of them in the exams. Common to human nature, the temptation to find short cuts around any challenge is most profound during the examination periods.

Cheating in exams is a well known vice in schools and occurs at all levels. I have seen students cheating or attempting to cheat throughout my school life and even during my teaching career. I have also read several times in the media about adults, some of whom hold huge public offices, being caught cheating at the university.

This is a vice that is here with us and yet it has the potential to destroy our society if not dealt with squarely. Cheating in exams is often done by those students who are never in class and therefore fail to understand what was taught even when they read before an exam. They resort to cheating in order to deal with the challenge before them.

Others cheat simply because they are not confident enough to rely on their heads while in an examination room. They attend lessons and read their books but use cheating to enhance their performance. However, all forms of cheating are criminal since they present an unfair edge in what is supposed to be a levelled competition to test academic ability.

Teachers have a duty to fight this vice at every given opportunity. Even a small class test of only ten numbers should not be used as a training exercise for the culprits. Any examination centre should make it difficult for cheating to occur. Preventive and punitive measures should be severe enough to deter the habit.

I know this because of the enrolment numbers and the limited facilities it is no longer easy to have the students spaced enough to deter a student from peering at the neighbour’s work. However, where possible the sitting arrangement should be designed to make it hard for students to cheat. You can for example mix the students so that a S.1 student is next to one from a higher class.

Personally, I prefer the punitive approach where those caught cheating are severely punished to deter others from doing the same in future. I have therefore never been an advocate of ‘soft’ measures like the deduction of some marks from a student caught cheating.

If a students is caught cheating and only 10 marks are deducted from him or her then it means that one can choose to cheat enough not to need the 10 marks. If one scored 90 percent out of cheating and 10 marks are deducted, I am sure he will still have cheated successfully.

We should not wait for the national exams to put these measures to use. A student caught cheating should have not gain any marks in that exam or test since it is not easy to determine where the cheating starts and ends.

Students should be stopped hence forth and awarded no marks for that examination. To curb a crime it is imperative to raise the risk of indulging in it. In my former school there was only one punishment for those caught cheating during an exam. They would be expelled that same day. Those who cheat in school are the future thieves and corrupt fellows in society. Now is the time to deal with them.

ssenyonga@gmail.com

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