Wanted: Academic integrity

There has been a concern over the years about what seems to be the lack of honesty and responsibility at major examinations, such as the Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE) and the West African Senior Secondary Certificate Examination (WASSCE). 

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This dishonesty further trickles into the universities of all places, leaving much to be desired.

The West African Examination Council (WAEC) has over the past few years tried to tackle this canker of examination malpractices by instituting certain measures. These have, however, not been foolproof.

The penchant of students, teachers, parents and relevant staff who handle examination questions and syndicates to collude and perpetrate examination malpractices makes one wonder what success actually means in our Ghanaian society.

As the anonymous quote goes, success without integrity is failure ‒ a failure that robs the apparent success of its shine; a moral and ethical failure that we cannot overlook because of the negative impact it has on individuals and the nation at large.

While the name of the nation is being dragged in the mud, and examination results are consequently not respected internationally, those involved in these vices are actually denying the young ones the opportunity to be responsible and to develop the courage to stand up for their values and beliefs when they face tough choices and moral dilemmas in life.

Then we turn around and ask why we sing the national anthem but stand spineless in the face of oppressor’s rule, social injustice and gargantuan corruption. How do we expect God then to bless our homeland Ghana and make her great and strong?

By allowing and encouraging this misconduct, we are certainly creating a generation which will not be bold to defend forever the cause of freedom and rights. 

Attitude

Our attitude towards the conduct of examinations in this country is a reflection of the nature that many of us have taken on.

An examination of the roots of this moral erosion (pun intended) shows that we have truly shifted in our societal values and norms over time, placing less emphasis on honesty, self-respect, responsibility, hard work and courage.

As individuals, it is likely many have not prioritised these values in their own lives. We have become people who place high value on material possessions, wealth and status.

Therefore, success at all costs is prioritised over ethical behaviour. This can result in a lack of empathy, honesty and fairness in interactions with others. This is the time for our ‘celebrities’ to model and advocate for academic integrity.

Our children need strong role models from their Old Students’ Associations to challenge school authorities, teachers and candidates to stand up for what is true and good.
Standards are not subjective.

This post-modern ideology that standards are relative (moral relativism) must be nipped in the bud to forestall further decline in integrity. It is not okay to cheat in an exam. Period!

Accountable

We must hold individuals and institutions accountable for unethical behaviour and create systems that support and reinforce moral values. The adoption of national values is long overdue.

This is how strong political and economic systems are created. The weakened trust in an educational system that is supposed to be fair andincorruptible, especially when it has to do with admissions and placements, has made unethical behaviour also justifiable. 

As we enter this new examination season, may those committed to fostering examination malpractices be reminded that the end can never justify the means. This is because integrity is the essence of everything successful (R. B Fuller).

All the best to those who are engaged in the fight to stem this illness from our society, and kudos to all parents, teachers and students who are determined to stand up for integrity. Honesty is truly the best legacy!

The writer is a Child Development Expert/ Fellow at Zero-to-three Academy, USA.
E-mail: [email protected]

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