Malpractice: Examining the practice

This week the Examiner would like to discuss the issue of malpractice in education and examinations with a particular focus on our own society, beliefs and culture. The first question we would like to answer is ‘What is Examination Malpractice?’. With the June examinations fast approaching, we would like the community to understand malpractice; stay away from it and report incidents that they may come across so as to curb this vice.

Examination malpractice simply put the use of unethical methods (cheating) to achieve a desired pass mark. A scholastic definition is ‘Malpractice is defined as any deliberate act of wrong doing, contrary to the rules of examinations designed to give a candidate an unfair advantage or able frequently, to place a candidate at a disadvantage.’ ( It is an illegal act/ practice which is not authorized by the examining body helping or assisting the candidate to achieve an undeserved mark.

Contrary to our belief as Zimbabweans, examination malpractice is not at all peculiar to our beloved educational/ examination system. It is a vice which has penetrated and eaten away even the most established societies, associations and examining bodies. It has moved from being an ‘under the carpet’ activity to a major contributor to the ‘Black Economy’. Candidates have become less afraid of indulging in malpractice and would opt for this malice rather than staying up late to study, engaging in group discussions or going for extra tutoring in weak subjects. The degradation of societal ethics have contributed in creating a generation of candidates who wish to ‘bribe’ their way through the school system, so to speak. It is no longer shameful or taboo for a candidate to be caught cheating or soliciting for assistance to engage in examination fraud, a sure sign of an ailing society. Let us be clear minded in this discussion and note that ’the principal aim of examinations is to assess how much learning has taken place and to what extent the educational objectives and goals have been achieved’ (Adegoke, 2010).

There are different acts or practices which fall under examination malpractice. Most candidates claim ignorance when they are caught on the wrong side of the law.

  1. Premature access to exam papers- This is in two parts, what is generally referred to as paper leakage and when a responsible authority opens the wrong paper for an examination session. Let’s discuss the former. Premature access to exam papers is an evil peddled by candidates and solicited by adults. For a paper to be accessed prematurely there must be a breach in the supply chain before the set time the paper is meant to be sat. We have a group of criminal minded people, with no value for integrity who use their most trusted positions to create avenues for the papers to find their way on the streets before time. The Biblical saying ‘The love of money is the root of all evil’ rings truth in this situation, where one is willing to sell their should and that of the entire nation just to make a quick buck! This crime not only affects the perpetrators or the examinations system, it has effects that are being felt internationally by innocents who worked very hard to achieve good grades at any level. I can hear the murmurings, ‘there they go, shifting the blame’. Not at all! It’s not about shifting the blame, it’s about our collective effort and mindsets, what kind of people are we raising. Those who are competent enough to take the industry and commerce of the nation further, or those who will fumble to complete a sentence never mind a mathematical equation?
  2. Copying by an individual or Collusion between candidates to bring foreign objects into an examination hall. It is clearly stipulated that a candidate shall only enter into an examination hall with items which are permitted for the particular subject. Any materials which are written on or electrical gadgets such as phones, iPads etc are strictly prohibited. Whether or not they have relevant information, if found they are confiscated and the candidate risks being expelled from the examination room or penalized. Candidates have also been reported to copy each other in the examination room. This is an offence and is punishable by an absolute cancellation of results. Those who copy eachother may think it is not easy to be caught, however it is a simple crime to identify.
  3. Mass cheating: This involves the candidates, teachers and invigilators. There are centres which have been reported to have an invigilator write answers on the board for the candidates or shout them out to the candidates. The teacher is meant to desire to see the extent of the progress and success of their teaching methods through the success of the candidates and yet is more concerned about being the top class or school. In Nigeria it was reported in previous years of ‘ Miracle Colleges’. Parents enrolled their children as private candidates at very exorbitant prices, and were guaranteed of an exceptional pass mark. These unscrupulous colleges cost the educational system millions of Naira. Candidates in some private schools even reported being charged N500 to guarantee the submission of their examination papers by the invigilators. Unfortunately similar vices are now being witnessed locally. #saynotoexammalpractice

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