The effects of examination malpractice on national development


Western education has become synonymous with modern civilization, enlightenment and socialization. This is because the more advanced nations of the world, with their superlative and result-oriented qualitative education have become the unassailable parameters for human transformation, innovation and social change. Education is expected to train the mind of its recipient for effective performance. It equips the individual with the information necessary for high level of human functioning. To be regarded as an educated person, an individual is expected to pass through the whole process of examination conducted by a competent and recognized body. Adequate and proper acquisition of relevant knowledge and skills in school subjects and disciplines of study is invariably a function of quality education (Okara, 2012).

Examination as part of evaluation is aimed at determining a learner’s level of skill acquisition or intellectual competence and understanding after a given training. Evaluation usually enables the teacher to be effectively ready for further teaching as this form of evaluation is often regarded as a feedback. But when examination is not properly conducted, the expected feedback may not result. Consequently the result of such evaluation leads to wrong decision and judgment which affect the teacher, the learner, the entire education industry as well as the society. A reality that cannot be ignored is that no matter how lofty, how enviable, how laudable, how gigantic the education goals are, how relevant the school curriculum is organized, if no provision is made for accurate evaluation of learning progress, all these efforts will be a wasteful venture (Duze, 2011).

Examination could be conducted for the purpose of selection, classification and certification. For examination to be valid and reliable it has to be Emaikwu, Sunday Oche administered under conducive and uniform conditions where examinees are made to adhere to stipulated rules and regulations.

Measurement of ability has always been an important part of the school system such that even the habitual absentees normally turn up to school and present themselves for testing on examination days (Emaikwu, 2011). The essence of testing is to reveal the latent ability of an examinee. The term ability connotes the characteristics of the examinees that the test is intended to measure. It includes factual knowledge, specific skills and general skills. For an examinee’s ability to be measured, the examinee has to respond to a sample of questions. A test score based on this sample of questions would be an approximate indicator of examinee’s ability.

In Nigeria the educational system and other systems are crisis-ridden. Nigerian educational system has degenerated into a decadent, morbid institution plagued with fear of blood-thirsty secret-cult members, drug-driven violence and anarchy as well as rampant cases of examination malpractice. Some Nigerian students have become so wild that they abduct their teachers and even heads of institutions and yet get away with it. Some institutions of higher learning can no longer boldly claim to be the citadel of excellence they have hitherto been noted for in Nigeria. The sanctity of examination process has been trivialized by a lot of malpractice. Some recent researches have shown that majority of students who gained admissions into tertiary institutions in Nigeria are products of examination malpractice (Eba & Emaikwu, 2007).

Examination malpractice according to Usman (2005) is cheating in the examination or any intention to benefit or give undue advantage to oneself or another by deceit or fraud, before, during and after examination. Examination malpractice is already becoming a culture in Nigerian educational scene because it is been condoned by most parents, students, teachers and lecturers (Ojerinde, 2010). Students often go into examination halls with pistols and daggers ‘to take care’ of anyone that would forestall them from cheating. At risk are invigilators and question papers; hence Nigerian educational system is gravely threatened. The frequency of occurrence of examination malpractice indicates a state of hopelessness and helplessness. The incidence of examination malpractice has become so endemic that the penalty hitherto melted out to its perpetrators is almost having no statistical significant effects on them.

There is an astronomical increase in the number of people and institutions involved in this social malaise. As a result of frequent cases of examination malpractice, the society is losing confidence in the certificates awarded by some institutions and examination bodies (Eba & Emaikwu, 2007; Ogum, 2007). Cheating in examination has become so ‘internalized and legitimized’ that some people now regard it as a normal process of passing examination in Nigeria.

The calamity of examination malpractice is not just the havoc it wrecks in our educational system but the gradual introduction of youths into the practice of fraud. Owing to malpractices in universities, examination results tend to give a false picture of the state of affairs; hence a good number of school graduates cannot defend the grades obtained in examinations (Ada, 2004). A crisis situation is bound to develop in the educational sector, if the trend is not prevented. Malpractices in examinations have become so widespread that many people doubt the quality of graduates from the Nigerian educational system. It has led to the questioning of the validity and reliability of the examinations as well as the authenticity of the results and certificates obtained.

A widespread examination malpractice in tertiary institutions in Nigeria has led to a situation where the use of formal examination as basis for determining the level of candidates’ proficiency at absorbing, reproducing and applying knowledge has become impossible. The ugly incidence of examination malpractice accounts for the existence of several qualifying examinations in Nigeria such as post university matriculation aptitude tests, job placement aptitude test, among others to authenticate candidates’ certificates. Since academic credentials are the only acceptable indices of educational attainment, the school going population now see passing examination as ‘a do or die affair’ in Nigeria. As a result of examination malpractice, some Nigerian graduates cannot even write comprehensive letters, let alone read and understand newspapers articles. Some university graduates who Assessing the Impact of Examination Malpractices on the Measurement of Ability in Nigeria are products of examination malpractice have become a reserved army of the unemployable (Duze, 2011).

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There is a general worry about the poor quality of education in Nigeria. The image of Nigerian education has been greatly tarnished as a result of examination malpractice which characterizes the nation’s institutions of learning. Maduabum (2009) noted that examination malpractices are noticeable in every state of the federation in Nigeria and in all the school systems. Uzoagulu (2008) affirmed that giraffing, coping, and taking handwritten materials and textbooks into the examination hall rank first among other types of examination malpractices. Onyechere (2006) observed that perpetrators of examination malpractice employ different methods camouflaged with various code names. He reported that examination malpractice could be caused by fear of failure, undue emphasis on paper qualification and lack of resources for teaching and teacher-related factors

The issue of national development has been a matter of serious concern to both government and individuals alike. National development has equally been tackled through different approaches.  The question has been, how will Nigeria attain the desired growth and development? Against this backdrop, Education occupies a prime position and interest.

Similarly, the National Policy on Education (2004), clearly stated that education in Nigeria is an instrument par excellence for effecting national development. It has also been seriously contended that no nation can rise beyond her educational system. This means that the level and quality of education in any society determines the level and quality of development of that society (Onwe, Opa and Ugadu 2013).

Education, the best legacy that any society or individual could leave behind for generations yet to come is an invaluable asset both to the individual and the society (Abdulwahab, 2007). Education has also been a veritable tool for cultural transmission and preservation. Generally, forms of education could be basically categorized into formal or informal. Whereas, the former takes place in a formal or official setting, compartmentalized and certificated with programmed learners and teachers, the latter is not so formally programmed. It however, has a longer life-span, starting from birth and ending in the grave, and everyone around the learner constitutes his teacher but no certificate is required.

According to Fafunwa (1991), the informal education has seven cardinal objectives namely:

  • To develop the child’s latent physical skills;
  • To develop character;
  • To inculcate respect for elders and those in position of authority;
  • To develop intellectual skill;
  • To acquire specific vocational training and develop a healthy attitude towards honest labour;
  • To develop a sense of belonging and to participate actively in family and community affair;
  • To understand, appreciate and promote the cultural heritage of the community at large.

Similarly, the Nigerian formal education was anchored on self realization, better human relationship, self and national economic efficiency, citizenship, national consciousness, national unity, social and political progress, science and technological progress as well as national reconstruction.

Thus in line with these objectives, the nation’s educational institutions from pre-primary to higher institutions have designed their programmes in such a way that the recipients should be capable of contributing their quota to national development. However, all these well intended objectives and national development have been illusive resulting from the negative attitudes of students, teachers, the curriculum, government, parents and those entrusted with the task of measuring and evaluating the performances/attributes of students for possible certification. This has been a culmination of various forms of examination malpractices with the attendant vices which tend to negate a virile sustainable national development.

Concept of examination malpractice

Examination malpractice has remained one of the singular contemporary social vice in society that has continued to search for adequate definition for effective management and control. Hence, unless it is given proper definition and control measures, its eradication will continue to elude society, especially, the education sector. Accordingly, Olanipekun (2003) sees examination malpractice as the failure to carryout properly or honestly conditions specified by the examination body (school authority for instance) for the evaluation of students in a programme of study. This implies that any student who before, during, after or in anticipation of any examination or test goes against the rules and regulations guiding the conduct of the examination is involved in examination malpractices. But this definition lacks specificity as it has not indicated any specific acts or incidence, persons, time or place.

Onwe (2011) traced the history of examination malpractices to the late 1970s and observed that since its upsurge and preponderance in the nation’s educational system resulting from a general decadence in moral, ethical, cultural and socio-political spheres of the national development; like a cankerworm and monster it has seemed to defile all measures for eradication. He further sees examination malpractice as ‘any act or wrong doing or neglect that contravenes the rules of acceptable practice before, during and after an examination by anybody in any way’. He argued vehemently that prior to the 6-3-3-4 system of education, it was difficult for a student to obtain five credits at one sitting in the WAEC examinations, and anyone who did was sure to have merited the results. Such a student was sure to do well in both higher educational pursuits or in the civil or public service. But now hardly can you see any student with less than eight credits including English and Mathematics at one sitting in both ‘SSCE’ and ‘NECO’. The question now is, how many of these latter (students) wrote the examinations on their own? However, to fill the gap in the inadequacy of definition of the concept, Badmus and Odor(1996) defined examination malpractice as wrongdoing in terms of construction,custodianship, administration, marking and release of results, with the intention of conferring advantage on some candidates over others. Again, the World Bank (2003) in addressing the issue to public examination system sees it as a practice which involves deliberate act of wrongdoing, contrary to the official examination rules designed to place the candidate at an unfair advantage.

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Forms of examination malpractices

Examination malpractices can take any of the following forms. However, the form of malpractice is dependent on the persons and artistry of the culprits involved. According to Abdulwahab (2007), Onwe (2011) and Osim and Ndifon (2012), various forms of examination malpractices include micro-chips, Macro-chips, download, giraffe, mercenaries, assault and intimidation of invigilators, leakages etc. Micro-chips and Macro-chips involve bringing in extraneous materials into the examination hall. The difference between micro-chips and macro-chips lies in the size of the materials imported into the examination hall. Download involves the use of GSM mobile phones to store data and browse internet to solve problems in the examination hall. Giraffe has been an age-long style whereby candidates stretch their necks in order to see and copy from other candidates in the examination hall. Mercenary involves the recruitment of an external body to write the examination on the candidate’s behalf. The mercenary is seen as an intellectual prowess and engages in the illegal business to earn a living or sometimes as a means of sustaining one’s educational pursuits. It is also asserted that the ‘mercenary’ syndrome is usually male-dominated,

often with pecuniary benefits attached or sometimes to compensate an amorous relationship. There have also been a few other cases where the mercenary is believed to do it in compassion for someone not for any monetary incentive or gratification but as a demonstration of love and concern.

Causes of examination malpractices

Examination malpractices may be caused by a number of factors. Some of which include:

  • Poor curriculum and policy implementation.

Most of the nation’s educational policies and programmes seem to be perfectly suited to the needs of the time, however, the problem has

been that of improper implementation. For instance, the ‘6-3-3-4’ and most recently, the ‘9-3-4’ systems of education which were both modeled from the informal education system to emphasize creativity, functionality and development of specific skills, health, attitude towards

honest labour among others have serious lags in implementation. In fact, the highest degree of examination malpractice is noticeable in the system as majority of students with fantastic SSCE and NECO results cannot defend such results.

  • Poor teaching methods and absence of instructional materials

The poor teaching methods and non-utilization of instruction materials are serious factors contributing to the persistence of examination malpractices. And to this end, Senwua made a case for there – introduction of teacher’s grade II certificate and Teacher’s education programme at the post primary level as a starting point for teacher education in Nigeria.

  • Attitude of teachers and school principals

These important stakeholders in education feel that the better the result of their students are in external examinations such as SSCE and NECO, the more students and parents will strive to enroll in their schools. As a result, they organize systematic examination malpractice. This they do by bringing experts either students in higher institutions or subject masters to solve the examination questions and systematically distribute same to students in the examination hall. The school authority in bid to perfect this unwholesome act station syndicates or spies who give them information about the monitoring agents/officials from either the ministry of education or WAEC/NECO.

  • Other causes include:

The existence of dubious and fraudulent admission process, right from the primary level to tertiary level, the frequent and indiscriminate closure of institutions of learning as a result of protracted strike actions, the erosion of the autonomy of academic departments which over-robs the department of the discretion of taking students or persons they consider suitable for their peculiar courses; over admission of students and high cost of undergoing academic studies

The implications of examination malpractices on National development is a cause for concern to all well meaning Nigerians, especially now that the nation is soliciting for a change in attitude, cultural and value re-orientation and national development. Consequently, this social vice has thrown quite a lot of challenges to the nation’s developmental aspirations. Senwua (2012), observed that education is a fundamental human right associated with national development and well-being, but this loafty ideal is marred by the persistence of examination malpractices in the nation’s educational system. She further noted that this vice causes poor production of the products of schools (primary, secondary and tertiary), who cannot defend their certificates at work places or higher institutions of learning.

Again, Onwe, Opa and Ugadu (2013), noted that examination malpractice leads to low quality of education. This they argued results in the fact that the standards set by the educational planners in the country are not actually met by the recipients of the nation’s educational system. This then results  in low quality and not low standard of education in the country.

Another implication is the emergence/persistence of cultism. Cultism which is a twin monster of examination malpractice is further perpetuated by examination malpractice. Abdulwahab (2007), observed that growth and maturation of examination malpractice tendencies in the nation’s tertiary institutions have been considered as one of the direct fallouts of cultism. Taiwo (2004) equally noted that examination malpractice has turned the education sector into a sad reflection of corruption and insecurity in the society. He argued that most members of secret cults are from rich homes and are never serious with their studies; thus prompting their venturing into examination malpractice. And whenever they fail their courses, they react violently through their cult members against the teachers in charge of those courses they failed. This breeds insecurity and terror and no one is in doubt that terrorism and insecurity are the banes of national development.

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Low quality of education is another serious implication. Because of the terror and insecurity unleashed by cult members who indulge in examination malpractices, teachers (lecturers) are forced to graduate half-baked graduates who lack the requisite skills and experiences. This has devastating effects on the path to sustainable national development.

Other serious implication of examination malpractice is that it undermines the integrity of the examination bodies as well as the quality of certificates they issue. This ugly scenario withers the image of the country both at home and abroad as holders of unmerited certificates and degrees lack the wherewithal to hold their own in the labour market.

Furthermore, examination malpractice has correlation with prostitution and the spread of HIV/AIDS.

Similarly, female students are known to exchange sex for grade in institutions of learning. This unfortunate act is usually done without cause to any form of protection like the use of condoms. This may predispose the victims to the spread of HIV/AIDS and encourage prostitution among female student in charge of those courses they failed. This breeds insecurity and terror and no one is in doubt that terrorism and insecurity are the banes of national development.

Finally, examination malpractice especially certificate racketeering leads to loss of human resources and debasement of professional status. This happens when dubious individuals fake results and professional certificates/degrees. In this case a fake medical practitioner may administer wrong medication on patients. This may lead to death of the victims thereby calumniating to loss of the nation’s scarce human resources. Similarly, such an act constitutes a serious debasement of the profession concerned. Instances abound in Ebonyi State where earlier this year, a medical doctor was discovered to have faked his MB degree in medicine at the Federal Medical Centre, Ebonyi State. Unfortunately, this fake medical practitioner escaped and disappeared without facing the rut of the law. This was believed to be as a result of his ‘connectedness’ and ‘Godfatherism’. In a similar development, 15 lecturers of Ebonyi State College of Education were demoted for parading fake certificate/degrees. All these constitute serious devastating blow on national development.

Human resources have remained the most essential of all resources needed for both individual and societal developments. Again, the educational system remains the most veritable instrument through which human resources could be created and developed. It therefore becomes unequivocal to state that the individual and society’s success in laying the good foundation for the nation’s tomorrow lies in the nation’s ability to rise above the challenges posed by this ugly monster, examination malpractice.

The implications of examination malpractices on National development is a cause for concern to all well meaning Nigerians, especially now that the nation is soliciting for a change in attitude, cultural and value re-orientation and national development. Consequently, this social vice has thrown quite a lot of challenges to the nation’s developmental aspirations. Senwua (2012), observed that education is a fundamental human right associated with national development and well-being, but this loafty ideal is marred by the persistence of examination malpractices in the nation’s educational system. She further noted that this vice causes poor production of the products of schools (primary, secondary and tertiary), who cannot defend their certificates at work places or higher institutions of learning.


The negative impact of examination malpractice especially its negation of the path to sustainable national development and the undermining of the nation’s educational objectives cannot be left unresolved. It therefore, behooves on all well meaning citizens to aggressively put a common front to tackle this social vice so as to restore the hope of Nigerians in the educational system as a vehicle for engendering sustainable national development.

Recommendations on the ways to tackle examination malpractice

The researchers hereby make the following recommendations as a panacea for eradicating examination malpractices in the nation’s educational system.

  • Strengthening the implementation machineries of the current educational system (9-3-4).
  • Improvement in the curriculum content and methodology of the new educational system.
  • Re-introduction of the teacher’s grade ii certificate as a basis for teacher education.
  • Meeting of adequate punishment to offenders/culprits.
  • Proper definition of what constitutes examination malpractice.
  • Public enlightenment/awareness campaigns on the dangers of examination malpractice.
  • Mass re-orientation of the Nigerian public on cultural values and ethics.
  • Improvement in admission policy at different levels of educational institution.
  • De-emphasizing paper certification and emphasizing practical skills/experience.
  • Reduction in the rate of strike actions.
  • Improvement in the conditions of service of teachers/lecturers.


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Badmus, G.A & Odor, P.I (1996). Challenge of managing educational assessment in Nigeria.Kaduna. Afaman publishers.

Fafanwa, A.B (1991). (new edition) History of education in Nigeria. Ibadan NPS Educational publishers.

Federal Ministry of Education (2004). National Policy on education. (4th edition) Lagos NERDC Press.

Olanipekun, N. O. (2003). Examination malpractice in Nigeria schools: An indepth analysis. Offia: Royal prestige venture.

Onwe, I. O. (2011). The Sociology of education: An introduction. Abakaliki End Point Enterprises.