Professor Clement K. Dzidonu, President of the Accra Institute of Technology (AIT) said on Friday that there is the need to embrace technology to prevent and eliminate the leakage of examination papers.
Speaking at the Eighth Congregation of the Institute in Accra, he said: “Examination leakages have been with us for years, and as such may look like an old problem to some people.
“But the very fact that technology is being used to aggravate the problem by amplifying the intensity of the magnitude of the spread, reach and the speed of the leakage, means that this is a whole new ball game, a whole brand-new problem, that cannot be addressed using old tools, ways or means.”
Prof Dzidonu said some technological solutions had been proposed and adopted by some examination bodies to mitigate the threat of examination leakage targeted at specific stages of the process.
“In a recent release entitled: ‘WAEC Tightens Security of BECE Examination Materials’ we were informed that the West Africa Examinations Council (WAEC) has introduced stringent security measures to prevent leakage of BECE papers involving the use of security mail bags with tag numbers, a padlock and three keys that would be kept by three persons at different strategic locations,” he cited.
He said this new security arrangement required that a group of three persons made up of the District Education Director, the WAEC depot keeper and the examination supervisor stationed at the examination center would keep the keys to prevent the possibility of the mail bags being tampered with.
He noted that this new security arrangement was an improvement, but that it fell short of addressing the risk of leakages that could occur at various stages of the process.
“At best it can provide some level of security but the risk remains reasonably high once there are people involved in the handling of the mail bags,” Prof Dzidonu stated, declaring further that for any security system, the weakest link posed the greatest threat.
“The weakest link in WAEC system is the human factor; any group of the three people could collude to break or open the padlock and access the papers, and then proceed to make them available on social media – we are back to square-one,” Prof Dzidonu said.
“The premise of any security system is the notion of mistrust, not trust in gatekeepers with bunch of keys,” he added.
He said a similar technological solution used in South Africa and being considered by the Zimbabwe Schools Examination Council (Zimsec) is the “gridlock technology” that enables printed examination question papers to be placed in sealed boxes with security codes remotely controlled from the command center at the Head Office.
Prof Dzidonu said the electronic boxes open simultaneously nationwide at a prescribed time and date of writing of an examination.
He explained that the only difference here was that instead of using physical padlocks as in the case of the WAEC system, electronic codes were used, which could only be activated remotely at Headquarters in real-time.
“The ‘gridlock technology’ system is certainly more secure than the WAEC system and can better mitigate the risk of leakage at most of the stages described above except that, once the code to open the boxes is cracked, a determined person may have access to the printed examination papers and then proceed to leak it physically or electronically over social media platforms,” Prof Dzidonu observed.
“Although some of these attempts to address the leakage problem using technology, may not eliminate the threat, they are commendable efforts,” he added.
He said it was clear that the examination authorities did recognize the fact that technology had a major role to play in providing a solution to the problem.
Prof Dzidonu said the good news was that specific elements of technologies were now available to implement innovative solutions that stand a better chance of totally eliminating nation-wide examination paper leakages and even providing new ways and means to administer examinations better and eliminate various forms of malpractice during the actual examination.
He said there was no doubt that the higher educational institutions had some role to play in mitigating the examination paper leakage phenomenon at the pre-tertiary level.
“The universities have no choice in the matter, they must be at the forefront of the fight to eliminate examination leakages at the pre-tertiary level, not forgetting preventing all types of examination malpractice at the tertiary level including ruthlessly dealing with perpetrators be they staff or students”.
“AIT is proposing one such innovative technological system; what we term the Storage-to-Terminal Technology (STT) system,” he announced.
He said the technology that people were using to access and propagate the leaked examination papers was not going to go away. “In fact, the technology as a processing, storage and transmission tool, and media is going to be more sophisticated and more capable of aiding examination leakage activities a notch or two up every examination season.
“For things to get better, steps must be taken to use the technology to mitigate leakage threats at each stage of the process from the compilation, storage, printing to the distribution of the examination papers,” Prof Dzidonu stated.
On research, he said AIT was currently doing PhD research work in Engineering, Information Technology, Education and Business Administration.
He said there were a number of academic and senior administrative staff from almost all the public and private universities in Ghana doing their PhD at AIT.
He further announced that AIT in collaboration with a number of international and local partners including, the Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Ghana Institution of Engineers, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) will be hosting the 2015 edition of the International Research Initiatives Conference (IRIC) this October.
At the congregation, 14 PhD candidates graduated, whiles 39 others obtained Master’s Degrees. There were also 215 candidates who obtained Bachelor’s Degrees. They comprised both campus-based and Open University graduates.
AIT is currently offering accredited campus-based programmes in affiliation with the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) in the fields of Information Technology, Computer Science, Electrical and Electronic Engineering, Civil Engineering, Computer Engineering and Business Administration.
It also offers Open University programmes in collaboration with the Open University, Malaysia (OUM) at the Undergraduate and Postgraduate levels. GNA