Education is an illumination process into the minds of humans. When the mind is exposed to knowledge, the resultant effect is holistic behavioural and personality changes. This is why education is referred to as an agent of change. The human ability to think, invent and innovate are further sharpened and strengthened through education. Amajuoyi et al. (2013) assert that the main goal of education is to effect positive changes in human behaviours. This change manifests in man’s ability to concretize the intangible ideas or knowledge. At this point, education is made to be functional by bringing development to society. Ololube et al. (2012) describe education as a catalyst for national unity; human capital development; cultural diversity and human rights awareness; as well as means of empowering individuals. The significance of education has been emphasized by the United Nations General Assembly gazette in 1948 which state thus: Education shall be directed to the full development of human personality and the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. Nigeria’s philosophy of education as stated by the Federal Republic of Nigeria in National Policy on Education (2013, p. 1) is based on some beliefs among which are:
education is an instrument for national development and social change.
education maximizes the creative potentials and skills of the individual for self-fulfilment and general development of the society.
Having the above, the Federal Government of Nigeria further enshrined in its objective statement, in National Policy on Education (2013), p. 1–2), that the goals of education in Nigeria are:
development of the individual into a morally sound, patriotic and effective citizen.
development of appropriate skills, mental, physical and social abilities and competencies to empower the individual to live in and contribute positively to the society
Based on these beliefs and objectives, one can deduce that education is given a top priority in the affairs of the country. However, this priority is met with several challenges. Education is marked as one of the top-five most corrupt sectors in Nigeria (Sahara Reporters 2019). An ugly situation status attributed to compromised practices in examination processes, and demand for bribes for service delivery in the sector. In 2012, Nigeria ranked first in the Global Examination Malpractice Index (Information Nigeria 2012). Although, there is no available literature pointing out Nigeria’s current status on malpractice global ranking, available data indicate little or no improvement maintaining malpractice-free examination processes (Agwu et al. 2020).
Examination and malpractice
In education, one of the assessment tools to ascertain if the individuals who have acquired formal education have been equipped with the necessary skills that will bring about national development and social changes is examination. Examination is an integral part of education; it is a pivotal force for placement, promotion, certification without which the learning process is incomplete. According to Rind and Mari (2019), examination has an important vital role in the development of students. It is a compulsory criterion to determine whether or not a student is qualified to move up to the next class (Borghouts et al. 2017). Examination gives quantitative data of the extent of learning or skill acquired over a period of time. Examination creates a platform for assessing if educational objectives and goals have been met by all the stakeholders. Adegoke (2010) opined that an examination is an assessment tool used in measuring how much learning that has taken place over a period of time and to what extent the educational objectives and goals have been achieved. However, primary aim of education has been undermined by different forms of examination malpractices thereby questioning the reliability of students’ scores after examinations. Even the predictive validity of examination which is an indication of students’ future achievement is equally undermined. Diverse forms of examination malpractices are questioning the integrity of the education system thereby making a mockery of the entire teaching and learning process.
Literature (Atueyi 2019; Edeh et al. 2019; Nnam and Otu 2015; Odo 2015; Omoniyi 2019; Raji and Okunlola 2017) have established diverse instances of examination malpractices in Nigeria. In Nigeria, examination malpractice is a criminal offence. Examination Malpractice Act 33 of the FRN ( 1999), as amended, defined examination malpractice as acquiring unfair advantage before, during or after an examination. The Act also describes it as an attempt to enrich oneself by compromising merit in the examination process. Examination malpractice can be defined as any act by examinee(s), the examiner(s) or stakeholder that violates the rules and regulations of an examination. It can also be termed as an act that permits an examinee to gain an unfair advantage over other examinees before, during or after an examination. Shonekan (1996) (cited in Olabode 2019) referred to examination malpractice as any act either by omission or commission which violates examination ethics consequently compromising the validity, reliability and integrity of the assessment or evaluation system. Ifeakor and Anekwe (2010) defined examination malpractice as any form of improper or dishonest act in an examination which is geared towards securing unmerited advantage hence resulting to a colossal and unprecedented disregard of rules and regulation affecting external and internal examination process; starting from the setting of examination questions, through the sitting of the examination, marking and grading, to the publishing of the results and issuance of certificates.
Examination malpractice in its complexities and intricacies is all-encompassing. It is an embodiment of corrupt practices. The engagement of secondary school students in different forms of examination malpractices especially during public examinations is alarming. There are constant innovations on different modes of examination malpractice to the bewilderment of the examiners and stakeholders. The different forms of examination malpractice include registration of students in “rogue” online website for examination paper leakages, impersonation, swapping of papers, copying, smuggling of foreign or extraneous materials, bribery or inducement of examination officials and so on. Adegoke (2010) opines that examination malpractice at various levels of the education system poses the greatest threat to the validity and reliability of the examination outcome and consequently to the authenticity and recognition of certificates issued.
Students’ involvement in examination malpractice in public examinations such as Senior Secondary School Examination (SSCE) conducted by the West African Examination Council (WAEC) and the National Examination Council (NECO) is worrisome. These examination bodies have been in existence for over 66 and 19 years respectively (https://www.refworld.org). These examination bodies have always been known for the validity and reliability of their results over the years. However, concerns have also been expressed on the credibility of students’ results obtained through these examination bodies. According to Afu and Ukofia (2017), studies have indicated that candidates with exceptionally credible results in SSCE and NECO struggle with making good cut-off scores in Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) conducted by Joint Admissions and Matriculations Board (JAMB) and post-UTME by organised by tertiary institutions. Joshua et al. (2010) corroborated to this assertion by remarking that in public examinations, some students who get high scores can hardly defend these scores by performing or exhibiting academic behaviours that are in tandem with the scores. Obviously, some school leavers can hardly defend the certificates they possess. This is better understood using Classical Test Theory (Spearman, 1904). The theory is stated thus: X = T + E, where X represents Observed score (the score assigned by an examiner in a particular examination which reflects a student’s ability). T represents True score (the actual or true ability of a student devoid of all mistakes or errors). E represents Error score (scores that are purposely or unintentionally assigned into the measurement process to increase or decrease a student’s score in a given examination). A well-assessed examination paper will have less of E to make X a true reflection of T. But when E is large due to examination malpractice, it directly diminishes the T which is the true ability of a student and brings the X which is the observed score closer to E which is the error score. This simply means that examination malpractice truncates the reflection of the true abilities of students in public examinations due to the error scores (Joshua et al., 2010). With this analysis, one will begin to wonder the fate of the educational system as it relates to the socio-economic development of the country if a great number of the students are brandishing “Error Certificates”. Bandele and Adewale (2013) confirmed that the Nigerian educational sector is been wrecked by the craze for obtaining certificates which are at the detriment of acquisition of knowledge hence, putting a question mark on the reliability and validity of certificates obtained by secondary school students. What could be the cause of these societal abnormalities?
Researches (Animasahun and Ogunniran 2014; Ejiogu 2001; Fayombo 2004; Kamal and Bener 2009) have revealed that desperation to obtain credit passes in English language and other core subjects in these public examinations is one of the causes of examination malpractice. The Federal Republic of Nigeria in the National Policy on Education (2013) stipulates that “English language shall be the language of instruction at all levels of education and also a core subject in the school curriculum”. English language is a prerequisite for gaining admission into tertiary institutions. Succinctly put, one’s proficiency in the English language determines the academic and professional success. Due to this enviable position occupied by the English language, efforts are being made by all stakeholders to ensure that students obtain credit passes in English language in public examinations. English language teachers’ development programmes, twenty-first-century pedagogical approaches, exchange programmes, use of technology in teaching the English language just to mention a few, as some of the efforts made to enhance the teaching and learning of English language at the secondary school level. The subject receives prominent attention in every school time table. Students are exposed to the four language skills (listening, speaking, writing and reading) from primary to secondary school level with relevant materials that will improve their language skills. Extra-mural lessons are frequently organized by some schools as an intervention measure. Studies (Atanda, 2011; Fasasi and Amadi, 2015; Yusuf et al., 2021) have established poor performance and mass failures recorded in English language examination at senior secondary school level. Consequently, in a quest to reduce the number of failures in English language, some concerned citizens establish tutorial centres where students receive remedial or extra-mural lessons in English language and other core subjects. Unfortunately, over the years, these centres have evolved with “special” and “miraculous” functions.
Examination special Centres
Examination special centres (henceforth, ESCs) as known as special centres, miracle centres or miracle examination centres (MECs) are modern day organisers of “remedial” classes, tutorials or lessons that claim to prepare candidates for external examinations. ESCs are operated outside the school environment by private individuals who are trained and, in most times, untrained teachers. Their specialty or miraculous expertise is in preparing students to sit and excel in external examinations using every dishonest means. Although these ESCs are not conventional schools, most private secondary schools in Nigeria have been found to have the same goal and function (i.e., ensuring that their students pass exams all available and underhand means) as the ESCs. Agwu et al. (2020) posit that miracle examination centres are linked to private secondary schools. Studies (Anzene 2014; Aworinde 2015; Jokthan 2013) found that private secondary schools represent a hub of MECs in Nigeria. These secondary schools, with autonomy as licensed schools, provide platforms for students to do their Senior School Certificate Examinations (SSCE) and pass with excellent results through undeserved and corrupt means.
ESCs employ subject experts who claim to demystify the difficulties students face in these subjects including English language. These centres are known for giving intensive lessons on these core subjects. Ideally, the ESCs engage students academically during holidays or after day school; therefore, making students spend less or no much time on televisions, loitering the streets or getting involved in any kind of delinquent acts. Some students who patronise these centres also record successes during their external examinations, thereby making such centres to be household names. The centres receive massive support from parents, education bodies and other stakeholders. However, the centres have evolved to be designated “special or miracle” centres. This designation for these centres makes one to question their activities. Most students who enroll into these ESCs for normal tutorials also go ahead to register for external examinations with the ESCs instead of their schools because they are promised of unmerited A grades. These ESCs, which are neither licensed schools nor accredited centres for external examinations take the students to private secondary schools where there is weak or compromised monitoring by government authorities during exam period.
Amake (2019) declared that these ESCs also popularly referred to as special centres, miracle centres or miracle examination centres based on their “sure” success records in any examination are found to be involved in various forms of examination malpractices. They advertise themselves on streets using posters bearing either: “your sure way to success; pass your English Language and Mathematics in one attempt; make A1’s in one step; a trial will convince; or score 300 and above in your JAMB examination”. Even the names of the ESCs such as “Exam Heroes Lesson Centre, A1 Tutorial centre” are not only luring but suggestive to the questionable activities these centres may be carrying out. Igwe et al. (2018) supported this view by adding that ESCs are better called business centres as they flourish in malpractices due to the high level of patronage accorded to them by students who are being financed by parents, guardians, and facilitated by teachers, school management, law enforcement officials and communities where these centres are located. There are suggestions that these tutorial centres are going contrary to educational ethics to the extent that custodians of law and ethics are involved. Can the national objectives of education be met going by the current trends of events with these ESCs? The study is focused in finding out what perceived effect the activities of ESCs are capable of having on the teaching and learning of English language in particular and the quality of education in general.
Quality of education
Quality of education here refers to the expected standards or principles education should have, maintained and improved on. Its usage in the context of this study is interchangeable with quality education. There are many theorisations on quality of education or quality education, however, there is no over-all consensus on what it is. Nevertheless, quality as regards to education is an essential variable for cost-effective educational outputs (Commonwealth 2017). Commonwealth (2017) defined quality education as a “system or product that has passed a certain set of criteria or principles” (p. 2). According to Slade (2016), quality education is determined by the provision of quality human and capital resources (both tangible and intangible) and implementation of policies that ensure children are supported to learn through the guidance of qualified, motivated, creative teachers. UNICEF (2000) viewed quality of education from five dimensions, namely, quality learners, quality learning environments, quality content, quality processes, and quality outcomes. These dimensions are disaggregated into elements such as regular school attendance, family support, class size, teachers’ behaviour, literacy, assessment to mention only these, that entrench or affect good quality of education. At the dimensions of quality learners and quality outcomes which interest this study, students, for example, who are infrequent with school attendance due to health or socio-economic issues; possess poor linguistic skills; or receive negative support from family in form of imposition of career choice or inordinate expectation of high grades, may hardly perform very well in their various subjects’ choices, especially during external examinations. These might warrant patronising ESCs. Instances also abound in secondary schools in Nsukka where students leave schools they attended for five years, after their penultimate class due to the schools’ zero tolerance to examination malpractice, for “special centred” secondary schools that are always ready to welcome them.
Examination malpractice mars the quality of education. Good quality of education entails self-reliant education. Students who engage in examination malpractice lack self-reliance. Going by the discourse, how will the end product of the current Nigerian education system participate globally and bring the desired changes in the society if assessment which is one of the elements of dimension of quality is being destroyed by malpractices? Enabling environment, content of the curricula, qualified teachers, teaching and learning process are sustainable variable of quality education; therefore, they should be given deserved attention for the end product (learners) to be creative, innovative and productive. If one variable is faulty, it makes a mess of the entire process. This could be the reason Eze (2009) declared that whatever methods, techniques and pedagogical strategies teachers adopt during curriculum delivery, quality outcome is definitely the end product that will determine if the processes are appropriate or needed to be improved upon. Hence, the quality of a country’s education determines the quality of manpower and development of that country. In all, examination malpractices remain one of the greatest threats to the quality of education in Nigeria.
This study is anchored on social learning theory by Bandura (1977). Social learning theory is an observational learning theory. The theory posits that behaviour is learnt from the environment through observation. In this theory, the human behaviour is conceptualised from the perspective of continuous reciprocal interaction between the cognitive, behavioural and environmental influences. Observational learning is composed of four processes: attention, retention, reproduction and motivation. Learning occurs when someone pays attention to something in the environment, and goes ahead to retain the information by structuring it using easy-to-remember format like mnemonics. Thereafter, the observer will have to reproduce the behaviour he has paid attention to. To reproduce the desired behaviour, the observer needs to be motivated. The motivation may be intrinsic or from external reinforcements such as reward and punishment.
From the foregoing, it would be understood that the theory lays emphasis on the role of observing and modelling actions, attitudes, and psychological responses of others. Learning mostly and easily occur through observational modelling of others’ behaviour. Observation enables one to construct idea of how new behaviour are portrayed. This becomes an encoded information which the observer will later perform. The society has arrays of models of influences, ranging from parents, siblings, peer group, teachers, church to old and new media. Behaviours exhibited by these models are imitated by toddlers, young and old adolescents regardless of moral threats. Whatever children see or hear they do. Students observe how models of influences bribe their way of out situations, jump queues, and lie. They learn these underhand behaviours and could re-act them in their academic lives by paying for access to exam questions before the exam period, cheating during the exam, or having impersonators do their exams for them.
Finally, this theory demonstrates the relationship between examination malpractice and the social environment. The examination malpractice is an offshoot of larger societal vices. What students and ESCs do are what they have observed and retained from the society. These behaviours can be unlearned if the models of influences act responsibly and speak against these vices. More so, external reinforcement like punishment should be meted out to culprits and abettors of examination malpractice.
Objectives of the study
This study investigated the perceived effects of ESCs on teaching and learning of English language and the quality of education in secondary schools in Nsukka L.G.A of Enugu State Nigeria. Specifically, the study sought to:
determine the perceived effects of ESCs on teaching and learning of English language in secondary schools in Nsukka L.G.A., Enugu State, Nigeria.
ascertain the perceptions of school principals, religious and traditional leaders on the effect of ESCs on the quality of education in Nsukka L.G.A., Enugu State, Nigeria.
The study answered the following questions:
what are the perceived effects of ESCs on teaching and learning of English language in Nsukka local government area, Enugu State, Nigeria?
what are the perceptions of school principals, religious and traditional leaders on the effect of ESCs on the quality of education in Nsukka local government area, Enugu State, Nigeria?