I know in the previous piece, we discussed how teachers as educators have a moral obligation to uphold high ethical standards. Often have I heard people give excuses such as poor remuneration, low self-esteem, lack of recognition as reasons for making unholy compromises. And that is why this menace will continue to rise. While some of these reasons are regrettably true, one must ask if conscience no longer matters. After all, one day we will all answer to a higher being. In this piece, we want to look at our school owners. You may remember the friend I mentioned in my first article who is convinced that to remain in “Business” he must perpetuate and encourage exam malpractices.
Oftentimes when I see flyers and large billboards of schools whose greatest achievements are 100% pass in WASSCE, NECO and 290 and above high score in JAMB, I ask myself which amongst these schools can truthfully say their students can defend these results, if need be? Permit me to point out proudly that some of the schools that can be are Lagoon Secondary School, Whitesands School, Corona Secondary school. I am sure there are many more like them who have and still continue to distinguish themselves, knowing that these students will one day be leaders, who need to uphold a strong ethical standard. I can only mention schools that I know by virtue of work or association, so no offence to others. I am sure your teachers and parents can vouch for you too.
When education is first seen as a business, then almost anything and everything will be done to keep afloat. Some proprietors don’t have any business being in the education industry, but they have the money to build nice structures, employ teachers, provide state of the art facilities – science labs, workshops, music room, ICT labs, sporting facilities etc., just to get large school enrolment and keep the numbers. Parents are openly charged administrative fees (with the understanding that settlement is included) when paying for final exams registration to schools. I learnt that these fees also cover day before exams, “cronje” as we used to call it in our days (expo). We hear of how School owners will keep examiners entertained in the office, while things are going on in the examination hall, envelopes are given at the end also to further seal the deal. Shameful collaboration between teachers and school owners to ruin the future of our leaders of tomorrow. Indeed, we need a change and it must start now.
Then comes the issue of openly giving ultimatums and threats to teachers whose students don’t get 100% in examinations and rewarding teachers whose students excel, knowing fully well what transpired; thereby putting a stamp of approval on these atrocities.
Some schools go as far as rewarding such teachers with training, promotion and even cash gifts too. A teacher who hereby wants to uphold ethical standards is seen as an enemy of progress, uptight and mean, which might in extreme cases lead to termination of appointment using some flimsy excuse . With schools at every 4th house on a street, I wonder how and where we will start this cleansing exercise of our education system.
A while ago, I read an article where lecturers in the university were lamenting on how they had to practically teach new intakes elementary topics they should have mastered under the ordinary level curriculum. Are we teaching for knowledge and mastery or just to pass exams? I would rather prefer my child to have a ‘C’ he can defend, than an ‘A’ he has no clue about. As parents who send our children to these schools, knowing full well what happens there, we become accomplices in this crime against our children and educational system.
I strongly believe a child who has been properly taught in class, practised past questions – these days we have them in booklets for almost all subjects – can do well enough in any exam to get the minimum requirement. A student who was brought up with “padding” and getting help through exams from primary and secondary, will in the university look for ways to continue this trend as he/she feels there’s nothing bad about it. it has become a way of life. Then the cycle continues on their children as that was how they were brought up.
So, what is the way forward? I think we need to go back to the drawing board and begin to structure our curriculum to be relevant for the future. The number of subjects and the relevance to the child’s future vocation should be revisited. My son in senior secondary 1 took 13 subjects, in Senior secondary 2 it was reduced to 10 and in the final examination he took 8. Eventually he needed just 5 subjects to qualify for university admission. Imagine if from SS1-SS3 he had mastered these 5 relevant subjects (with proper career counselling and tests) and then was taught life skills as electives to improve his/her personality. Tell me, will there be any need to engage in exam malpractice? Thank God, degrees are fast becoming just a paper thing now as most international company interviewers are more interested in what value the applicant is bringing to the table, what he/she can offer, their interpersonal skills and their strengths.
I know there is a body of private educators in Nigeria and I hope someone in that association gets to read this someday and bring up this discussion, before our education system becomes totally unacceptable to the world.
Next time we will take on another angle of this menace eating up our society.
“Changing lives one person at a time”