The Niccolo Machiavelli saying ‘the end justifies the means’ is one phrase that has been used to satisfy divergent purposes. It has largely been interpreted to mean that the process doesn’t matter in the attainment of a desired ending.
It has largely had negative connotations in politics and business where it is used to justify underhand methods.
Using whatever process to achieve a desired end could mean cheating, lying or treating people unfairly. But there is also a morally right process to attain a desired ending. This is what any civilised society ought to aspire for and hold its members accountable to.
This newspaper in its September 5 issue ran article entitled, “Officials meet over exam malpractice.” It was about a meeting by educators and stakeholders in the Eastern Province.
High on the agenda: ending examination malpractice in the province.
A number of cases of examination malpractice have been reported in the past involving teachers and students. The 2012 cancellation of results for 574 A-level candidates caused widespread alarm in the education sector sparking a blame game on who should be held accountable for the mess.
Cheating could be defined as claiming or appropriating more than one has a right to achieve in an examination. It could be done in a number of ways; collusion, impersonation or through smuggling of unauthorised materials into examination rooms.
Cheating has now become more sophisticated through the use of mobile phones and other gadgets.
In a system where examination results are the major determinants of access into the job market, the temptation to cheat the process to attain the desired end is often strong. This is why stringent measures have to be put in place to curb the vice.
To allow cheating to thrive defeats the whole essence of examinations; which is to grade candidates according to their abilities. Failure to do this will mean having people who are often incompetent in positions that they don’t deserve.
Cheating erodes honesty, an important value in any society that aspires to promote fairness and equality. Our examination system should promote objectivity and fairness; this is the only sustainable way if we are to create a society that follows due process, not just a process but a morally and legally acceptable way to achieve the desired end.
Curbing examination malpractice should not only be seen at the level of national examinations. Candidates do not begin cheating during the final examinations. In most cases it is a habit that they develop early on in the education cycle.
The values of honesty and integrity should be inculcated in the students at an early age. The role of parents and teachers cannot be overemphasised.
Through mentoring, and guidance and counselling, students should be made aware of the ramifications of engaging in the vice. Schools need to strengthen their internal systems in regard to supervision and invigilation.
In 2010, at the former National University of Rwanda, a shocking case of examination malpractice was unearthed. It was found out that for four years a student had been sitting examinations on behalf of his friend.
Authorities took long to detect the vice because the two were in the same year and sat in the same examination room. It was a case of exchanging examination scripts.
The repercussions were dire; the duo was discontinued indefinitely while in their final year.
The University administration, then headed by the current Minister of Education, Prof. Silas Lwakabamba, was lauded for taking a strong stance on examination malpractice. I hope he can replicate this at the national level.
The writer is a Foreign Resident Correspondent in Beijing, China.