Remote Causes and Counseling Implications of Examination Malpractice in Nigeria

By Nsisong A. Udoh
2011, Vol. 3 No. 10 | pg. 1/3 |



This study considers the remote causes of examination malpractice in the Nigerian system with a view to suggest new ways of combating the problem. Three research hypotheses were formulated to guide the study. Using the multistage stratified sampling technique, 200 students were selected for the study from 20 secondary schools in Akwa Ibom State. An Examination Malpractice Questionnaire (EMQUE) was used for data collection. The three research hypotheses were tested statistically using the Chi square statistical technique. The results indicate that poor study habits, paucity of educational facilities, and inability of schools to cover prescribed syllabuses are significant remote causes of examination malpractice in the country. Based on these findings, methods of tackling the menace are proffered and counselling implications are suggested.


The issue of examination malpractice is a national emergency situation. Before the advent of western type education, traditional Nigerian education was based mainly on experience and practice. Its mode of instruction was simple as knowledge was passed on orally and through practical tests. Students then only had to commit to memory, learn by rote, or through observation (Ibia, 2006). Because traditional Nigerian education placed little or no emphasis on certification, students had the proper view of education, seeing it as a means to an end not an end in itself. Besides, the Nigerian then frowned at dishonesty and would not hesitate to sanction offenders (Agogo, 2006).

According to Ejiogu (2001), general moral decadence and the high premium placed on achievement and certificates by Nigerians has in recent times spawned examination fraud. The general overdependence on educational certificates as a measure of one’s knowledge and competence has led to a mad rush by most people for educational certificates (Sofola, 2004). In a bid to acquire such certificates, many have resorted to unethical means—foremost among which are examination malpractices—just to acquire the certificates at all cost.

Without doubt, the persistent occurrence of examination malpractice in Nigeria has spawned heinous problems such as:

  1. Lack of credibility of academic certificates acquired in Nigeria by the international community.
  2. Declining standard of education in the country. Onyechere (2004) asserted that unless we are able to stop examination malpractice, the standard of education in Nigeria will continue to fall.
  3. The problem of turning out into the society half-baked—if not unbaked—graduates who are virtually good for nothing and functional illiterates.
  4. Inability to secure competitive and challenging jobs which require practical test of proficiency and skills.
  5. The existing correlation between examination malpractice and in public offices. As noted by Thomas Derry of the West African Examinations Council (WAEC) and quoted in the Examinations Project (EEP) survey (2004) report, students who steal their ways to higher offices through examination malpractice would not find it difficult to engage in corrupt practices when they are employed.
  6. Finally, examination malpractice has economic implications. According to EEP (2003) report, Nigeria loses more than one billion naira annually to examination malpractice. Thus examination malpractice could equally be seen as an economic .

Mention-worthy at this juncture is the fact that Nigerians have not been sleeping since the wake of this mischief in the mid 1970s. It is on recorded history that the first serious case of examination malpractice in independent Nigeria was the leakage in 1977 of the West African Examination Council (WAEC) question paper for the West African School Examination (Onyechere, 1996). The outcry by WAEC in the wake of this incidence led to the setting up of a tribunal by the Federal government of Nigeria to investigate the mass leakage and to suggest possible measure to forestall future occurrence. The tribunal recommended severe punitive measures. The federal government followed this up by promulgating Degree No. 20 of 1984 and later, Degree No. 33 of 1999 in which severe punishments against perpetrators of examination malpractice were clearly enshrined.

Further measures which have been taken in recent times to eradicate examination malpractice include that taken by the Obasanjo Administration which embedded in the National Economic Empowerment and Strategy (NEEDS) policy document a target of 40% reduction in examination malpractice annually; the existing legislation on examination malpractice, Degree No. 33 of the 1999 Constitution which is still in force—though not enforced; and the move by the Federal Ministry of Education to introduce the study of ethics in the school curricula with a view to forestalling examination malpractice.

It is a truism that even though much has been done, it is either grossly inadequate or ineffectual at curbing the menace as we day-in-day-out see examination malpractices take newer, dynamic and appealing forms especially with the advances in Information and Communications (ICT) coupled with the general falling standards of societal norms. It is also true that examination malpractice would not have attained its present endemic state but for the fact that the major stake holders in education are at the forefront aiding and abetting the crime.

Orhungur (2003) decried the general opinion which tends to indict the students and exonerate the teachers and other examination agents. Quoting a tentative report by Usman, he maintained that if the staff, that is, all who have to do with examinations—examiners, typists, custodians, staff of examination bodies, printers, transporters, and security agents—put their house in order, students would not have access to examination materials before examinations.

Umar (2003) indicted head masters and principals as the biggest perpetrators of examination malpractice in the country. He asserted that headmasters in connivance with their teachers initiate primary school pupils into examination malpractice during common entrance examinations by giving answers to the students so that they would record high number of passes in their schools. In the case of secondary school principals, Umar (2003) stated emphatically that they are the worst perpetrators of the crime as they, in a bid to have the names of their schools praised and recognized, manipulate and aid the crime.

In the same vein, Ike (2004) of the EEP held that principals have gone to the extent of building into the National Examinations Council (NECO) and the West African Examinations Council (WAEC) registration fees, an examination malpractice fee variously referred to as cooperation fees, understanding fees, examination welfare fees, and miscellaneous fees with the sole aim of bribing supervisors and invigilators and whoever sent them so that they might ‘cooperate’ during examinations.

Another group of master-minders who have rather taken centre stage in recent times are operators of private study centres also known as extramural classes. These study centres are veritable fronts for examination fraud operated by organized syndicate who charge outrageously high fees for examinations. Funnily enough, students are, more often than not, willing to pay because in the end it pays off very well (Thisday, 2004).

The last group which is also a strong force behind the perpetration of examination malpractice is the parents. Many parents would not want their children to repeat any class no matter their level of performance. Thus, they pressure school authorities to give their children automatic promotion even when they fail their examinations. Parents are also in the forefront of hiring mercenaries to write examinations for their wards. They thus collude with principals to issue fake but favourable examination results to their children.

Looking beyond the contribution of education stakeholders to examination crimes, other important causes of examination malpractice revolve around the students and their attitude towards their studies as influenced by the general socio-economic situation in the country. In recent times, students prepare—if at all they do—lackadaisically for examinations. The reason for this lacklustre attitude as opined by Thomas Derry of WAEC is that the youths have prioritized entertainment and pleasure at the expense of their books (, 2004). Furthermore, Anger (2004) pointed out that the high fees associated with especially the Senior School Certificate Examination (SSCE) makes malpractice unavoidable as poor students cannot afford to repeat a given examination and would in the first instance do anything to pass it at all cost.

A comprehensive submission by Anyiin (1998) identified the fundamental causes of examination malpractice to include:

  1. Lack of necessary facilities for teaching/learning
  2. Non-coverage of prescribed syllabuses due to their extensiveness and the general nonchalant attitude of teachers towards teaching.
  3. Industrial actions by teachers.
  4. Mass promotion of students in internal examinations.
  5. The general misconception of good performance by some principals and the society as a means of enhancing the status of societal rating of the principals and their schools.
  6. Faulty or lack of proper administration of examinations.
  7. Imposition of school subjects on candidates by parents.
  8. Poverty and greed on the part of the teachers who constitute the bulk of invigilators and examiners.
  9. Constant increase in examination fees, among others.

Statement of the Problem

In the fight against examination malpractice, it appears that no one is exonerated. As exposed in the preceding section, education stakeholders, the students, as well as the national economy could rightly be apportioned blames for the preponderance of this menace. In sum, these variables tend to operate interdependently such that there is a cumulative influence, with one variable buttressing the others. This could be seen in the fact that the poor economic situation in the country has compelled most poor parents to resort to unethical means in order that their wards may pass their examinations at one sitting.

Therefore, this research investigates remote causes of examination malpractice in Nigeria with a view to proffering effective methods for curbing the menace.

Purpose of the Study

The purpose of this study is to investigate the causes of examination malpractice in Nigeria and proffer proactive measures to forestall it.

Specifically, the study will focus on finding out the extent to which:

  1. Paucity of educational facilities engenders examination malpractice in Nigeria.
  2. Non-coverage of school syllabuses buttresses the preponderance of examination malpractice.
  3. Poor study habits contribute to the problem of examination malpractice in the Nigerian Education system.

Research Hypotheses

The following hypotheses were tested in the study:

  1. Lack of educational facilities does not significantly contribute to the incidence of examination malpractice in the Nigerian Education system.
  2. The inability of schools to cover prescribed syllabuses does not significantly promote cheating during examinations in Nigeria.
  3. Poor study habits does not significantly worsen the problem of examination malpractice in the Nigerian Education system.

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