It has become necessary for the Council to address misleading information on the WASSCE (SC) 2020 following the launch of a report on the examination by Africa Education Watch (Eduwatch).
The Council wishes to first of all state that the initial circulated title of the Eduwatch Report was rendered as “Report on the 2020 West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) in Ghana by the West African Examinations Council”. This misleading title would have been used for the launch if the Council had not protested and expressed its reservations in a letter dated 11th June, 2021, leading to a change in the title to “An Independent Assessment of the conduct of the 2020 WASSCE by WAEC”. In our respectful view, Eduwatch sought to paint a picture that it had engaged the Council when in fact it never did until a few days to the launch when it issued an invitation to the Council.
After reviewing the report, the Council wishes to state as follows:
Aspects of the methodology that Eduwatch used raise issues of credibility and fairness. The Council is baffled at the fact that although it is the subject of the Report, Eduwatch did not engage the Council in order to be better informed about what its processes and procedures are before coming to its conclusions and making its recommendations.
According to the Report “the identities of informants are withheld and subject to non-disclosure.” The compelling reasons for non-disclosure in research include threat to the security of informants, risk of human rights abuse and cultural or religious sensitivity. One wonders which of these is applicable in the instant case.
- Leakage of Examiners’ contact details
The Council in its Press Release of August 19, 2020 acknowledged the unfortunate circulation of a yet to be finalized version of an Examiners’ List for the WASSCE (SC) 2020 on social media. The said circulated list, unfortunate as it was, did not include the critical information regarding which script the examiners would be marking etc. The Council indicated then that it had initiated investigations into the development and assured the public that steps incorporated in the marking exercises over the years ensured fairness. These steps which were and have always been rigorously adhered to are:
- Swapping of scripts across regions – Scripts were swapped to ensure that scripts originating from a particular region and those from nearby/contiguous regions were not marked in that region.
- Exclusion of school names on script envelopes and mark sheets – This made it impossible for Examiners to know at face value the school that the scripts they marked belonged to.
- Vetting - Team Leaders vetted the scripts marked by Assistant Examiners and Chief Examiners vetted the scripts marked by Team Leaders. The vetting process was undertaken for quality control and to ensure that marks were awarded in line with the marking scheme.
- Cross-checking of all marked scripts (Script-checking process) - This rigourous process was carried out as a further step to ensure that all questions had been marked and scored accurately.
- Supervision of above-mentioned processes by Venue Co-ordinators and Subject Officers – This was done to ensure compliance with the marking processes as officially outlined by the Council.
WAEC’s monitoring of the marking process did not indicate any irregularities as a result of the unfortunate incident and as such we find it mind boggling that Eduwatch should continue to cast doubt on the credibility of the examination. Indeed an analysis of the performance statistics for the WASSCE for the past three years (2018-2020) does not show any abnormal improvement in performance.
As a result of investigations conducted, one person has so far been arrested. We have also identified a technological failure which has been addressed to ensure that the incident does not recur.
- Examination Questions Leakage
Africa Education Watch has alleged in its report that there were ensuing leakages in almost all the papers, apart from Integrated Science and Social Studies and that WAEC acted timely to change the questions. This statement is very inaccurate because WAEC did not replace any question paper because of leakage. There are standard procedures which have to be followed when any paper has to be replaced and no member country can replace any paper without following due process. The Council has on several occasions explained that the papers for Integrated Science and Social Studies could not have been changed at such a short notice, taking into consideration the candidature, the printing process, distribution of question papers etc.
Our Press Statement of August 19, 2020 indicated that several fake versions of questions including those of Integrated Science (2 &1), Social Studies (2 & 1), Chemistry (3) Practical Alternative A, and Economics (2 & 1) papers were shared on social media platforms and we still stand by that statement.
Perceived leakages have rather been due to the following:
- Circulation of fake question papers and past question papers purported to be the actual paper from about 3 days to the conduct of the examination
- Snapping of the actual paper and posting it online a few minutes after the start of the examination
We will recall that during the BECE (SC) 2020, WAEC Intelligence picked up 9 supervisors and invigilators who had mobile phones on them and had snapped the question paper and posted them on various platforms. This issue was reported to the police and they have since been prosecuted.
- The Primary Source of Leaked Examination Papers
In its report, Eduwatch erroneously states that “questions are transported from the respective exam centres either on the night prior to or at the dawn of the examination day, depending on the distance between the WAEC depot and the Centre”.
WAEC does not transport question papers to examination centres on the night prior to or at the dawn of the examination day. The depot manual issued to depot keepers (WAEC staff and GES officers not below the rank of Assistant Director) indicates the opening and closing times of the depots and underscores the fact that “Depot keepers should not issue Question papers to Supervisors earlier than 45 minutes before the start of each paper”.
- Malpractices involving Invigilators
The Instructions for use by Supervisors at Examination Centres states: “No member of staff should invigilate any subject which he/she teaches whether in the examination year or any other year”. This is strictly adhered to by school authorities in the drawing up of the invigilation timetable.
While there may be a few bad nuts in the system, it is unfair for Eduwatch to use that to indict teachers with respect to their integrity. The issue of students’ revolt over “strict invigilation” underscores the credibility of the majority of our invigilators who insist on the right things being done.
- Delayed Release of the Full WASSCE Results
The Council did not withhold the results of 60,000 candidates as stated in the Eduwatch Report. The Press Release of November 13, 2020 indicated that “scripts of candidates from 122 schools in certain subjects are undergoing scrutiny”. It must be emphasized that the Council carries out a thorough investigative process when issues of malpractice are alleged, to ensure fairness. This includes the interviewing of candidates. However, the process is sometimes impeded when candidates delay in honouring WAEC’s invitation. Human rights principles require that these candidates are given a hearing before any adverse findings are concluded.
- Relationship between WAEC, GES and MoE
WAEC is an International Body regulated by Council. Council is composed of 34 distinguished personalities from all the five member countries of WAEC. Article 6.2 of the Convention states
“ Every matter that comes before Council for determination shall be decided by a majority of the votes of members present, except that Council shall wherever possible determine matters before it by consensus”
This makes it highly impossible for any member of Council to dictate to members or influence members to take inappropriate action as being suggested by Eduwatch
In conclusion, we wish to commend all stakeholders who contributed to the successful conduct of the WASSCE (SC) 2020 in the midst of Covid 19. WAEC is committed to the conduct of credible examinations in the public interest and assures all its publics that it will continue to adopt innovative measures to improve its processes especially in the fight against examination malpractice.