Change ‘pass or perish’ system to address WASSCE fraud


The Africa Education Watch (Eduwatch) has maintained that to provide a lasting solution to issues of examination malpractice and fraud in the West African Senior School Certificate Examinations (WASSCE), a menace that has increased astronomically over the past few years, the current ‘pass or perish’ system must be scrubbed.

When students are aware that they have alternative means of still furthering their education or bettering their grades at lesser rates than the current private WASSCE examines charges, the desire to pass by hook or by crook, leading to desperate fraud mechanisms would stop, the Eduwatch stressed.

According to the policy think tank, the involvement of the National Intelligence Bureau (NIB) in the questions printing and monitoring system in collaboration with the West Africa Examination Council (WAEC), under the auspices of the Ministry of Education (MoE), led to minimal incidences of question leakages at the primary level. However, because of the ‘pass or perish’ system, incidents in and around examination centres were on the rise as candidates, and school management in some cases, try all means possible to cheat in the examination.

The Eduwatch, in its latest WASSCE Ghana Monitoring Report, 2022, explained that alternative means must be provided for students who did not make the passing grade in the WASSCE to further their education as a means to allay fears of failure that lead to the multiple malpractices in the exams.

“Ghana’s ‘pass or perish’ external assessment system, where a student must obtain an examination score of grades A1 – C6 or risk being tagged as a failure, with no formal pathway for formal career progression, is a major driver of the demand for exam fraud. The system has created an environment of anxiety, stress, desperation and fraud since candidates must pass at all costs or become ‘useless’.

The increased demand for exam fraud will continue so far as many students (supported by parents) cannot imagine staying at home for years after SHS because of a D7 or an E8, bearing in mind the high cost of remedial schooling, which averages more than twice the per unit cost of free SHS. In their minds, they must pass at all costs,” Eduwatch stated.

The policy think tank recommended that the MoE must explore the possibility of providing access to market-led, pre-university distance programmes for candidates who score at least E8 in all subjects and improve and pursue other careers. This would ensure WASSCE candidates who do not score F9 in their core or electives are supported to upgrade, thereby reducing the ‘pass or perish’ culture driving exam fraud.

The Eduwatch reiterated that Ghana must initiate a conversation on reforming her assessment system, and facilitate similar conversations within the WAEC Community.

Sources of examination fraud

There are two sources of examination fraud; primary and secondary. Primary takes the form of question leakage, which usually occurs the night or dawn before a paper. Secondary takes place in and around the examination centre, and is characterised by supervised cheating, candidates copying answers from papers, WhatsApp platforms and on whiteboards.

All sources constitute a big business to school authorities, teachers, supervisors and agents involved. On average, a candidate pays GH₵300, meaning an average SHS can easily make Gh₵300,000 from WASSCE fraud.

The Eduwatch mentioned in the report that there was the collection of cash ranging from GH₵300 to GH₵3,000 from candidates by some school authorities, usually led by the Assistant Headmaster (Academic) in return for supervised cheating. In some schools, questions were solved and transmitted through WhatsApp platforms or written on whiteboards for candidates to copy. Both practices are pervasive.

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