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Educational fraud and children

By Bidemi Nelson
09 February 2022   |   3:33 am
Human capital has always determined a nation’s resource deployment and its level of development. Need we say that the quality of human capital in any society is hugely dependent on the quality of education based therein? Education is a process...

Human capital has always determined a nation’s resource deployment and its level of development. Need we say that the quality of human capital in any society is hugely dependent on the quality of education based therein? Education is a process of teaching, training and learning especially in schools or educational institutions to improve knowledge and develop skills, needed for work and life. That being said, illiteracy, innumeracy or the dearth of relevant skills in any society is probably an indicator of the absence of qualitative education or the preponderance of irrelevant education.

Like the popular saying of “garbage in, garbage out” stresses, whatever is invested in any system is the major determinant of what its result will be. Educationally, this is not any different as the global educational system has been plagued with several problems which have compromised the quality of its input and consequently, its output. For instance, before the pandemic, the global education system struggled with low and unequal learning opportunities due to inadequate learning infrastructure and the shortage of qualified teachers, just to name a few. Presently, education equity and quality remain challenged with negative outcomes persisting, seemingly unabated. However, in the midst of this conundrum lurks a silent contagion known as educational fraud which among other things, have further lowered and made unequal, learning opportunities, globally.

In simple terms, educational fraud is usually perceived and defined as a student-oriented action that violates any learning institutions’ standards. According to Juan Manuel Moreno’s article“ something up the sleeve: fraud in education, or the learning of corruption” educational fraud is described as a combination of illegitimate practices in which students engage in order to boost their records of academic performance. However, these definitions seem not to suffice in the adequate description of educational fraud as illegitimate educational activities do not only emanate from students neither are these students their only beneficiaries.

Intriguingly, educational fraud centers on any educational activity rooted and shrouded in falsehood and driven by the intention for financial or other gains, irrespective of the perpetrator.  This indicates that anyone in the educational system can be involved or otherwise, complicit in the execution of educational fraud. With the educational system being simultaneously influenced by the government, institutions of learning, parents and entrepreneurs, among others, educational fraud does not end with the perpetrator but insidiously becomes entrenched till it becomes deadly norm. Those who can benefit from educational fraud include parents and learners, targeting the ownership of embellished school reports and schools’ administrators targeting extra cash or high examination grades for their students (which can be strategic for any school’s marketing campaign).

While the dastardly effect of educational fraud is many times downplayed in the society, its impact on learners remains far-reaching. Children’s experience of education should be such that drive intrigue, exploration, discoveries, innovation and fun. Beyond that, education should be a proven way of getting children to spend their time productively while developing relevant skills needed to keep them from societal vices. Thomas Kreiger and Gavin McCormack’s “40 essential skills for every child” elucidate some of the skills that good educational systems should espouse.

However with educational fraud, children not only under-learn at school but become indoctrinated with anti-social behaviours and criminal skills such as examination malpractice, identity theft, bribery and thuggery. Disturbingly, children with behaviours and skills as these, negatively influence other children and will increase the clandestine community of people who advocate for and fund educational fraud. Besides, children who are products of educational fraud, struggle with learning in advanced classes, may eventually drop out of school and may become vulnerable to more societal vices. Educational fraud also leaves learners battling with incongruent school results. The most unfortunate results of educational fraud are the high numbers of unqualified teachers/instructors within the school system, high levels of parental illiteracy and innumeracy (which have both contributed immensely to the learning challenges of school children) and lastly, the proliferation of quacks masquerading as professionals.

Educational fraud as previously stated is not necessarily about students being crafty in cutting corners to improve grades but a network of complicit individuals who deliberately and strategically create factors that enable falsehood within the educational system for join tor personal enrichment. The issue of complicity in the proliferation of education fraud albeit, remains controversial. For starters, it is argued that the morale to counter educational fraud will persistently dwindle due to the web of people with vested interest, that repeatedly and increasingly benefit from it. Second, it is contended that the amount of risk and cost of educational fraud, apportionable to learners will continually reduce as educational fraud gains more popularity, locally and globally. Third, it is equally argued that the roles and contributions of parents and school administrators particularly, to the perpetration and continuity of educational fraud will become increasingly high, with many of them targeting elementary levels of education.

For instance, some parents have been reported to connive with school administrators to get their children prematurely graduate from primary schools as early as the third grade (Primary 3) for admission into secondary schools. Some parents take it further by fraudulently altering their children’s data particularly their names and age, to make them eligible for Government Promotion Examinations into secondary schools (for instance, the Common Entrance Examinations). In other cases, parents have been reported to support the premature educational advancement of their children to the secondary schools and only have these children return in a few years, back to their primary schools (when they have attained the eligible age), to write the Government Promotion Examinations.

Beyond these, other forms of educational fraud include deliberate under-funding and under-supervision of the educational sector by the government; employing under-qualified teachers; lack of provision for the training, appraisal, support and motivation of teachers; giving government approval to schools who lack basic educational facilities such as libraries, play-grounds or computer facilities; turning a blind eye to clandestine examination centers (Miracle Centers) where examination malpractice is the norm; impersonation during examination; teachers or lecturers coaching learners on the “Areas of Concentration” for upcoming examinations; the culture of “Sex-for-Grades” in schools; the trading of upcoming examination questions; bribing of teachers or lecturers to excel in examinations and invigilators facilitating cheating due to bribes collected or other times, due to harassments or threats from miscreants, and so on.

Nelson Mandela once said that education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world. Adequate investment in education and the recouping of positive returns are necessary for learners to be empowered enough, to steer the world in the right direction. Sadly, educational fraud will continue to victimize and rob our children of this opportunity if the necessary steps to curb it are not taken. Whatever must be done should be decisive and swift. Legislative definitions of educational fraud must be in-depth while the enforcement of laws against it, stronger.

In addition, the processes of learning rather than the outcomes of learning should be more prioritized within school systems. Solutions like “Competency-based-Education”, security cameras in examination halls, whistle-blowing and stronger punitive measures for educational fraudsters should be explored to counter educational fraud and its associated problems. Educational fraud deprives children of their rights and opportunities to be educated and is a form of child abuse. We as educational stakeholders must stand strong, not just in our quest for qualitative education but a fraud-free educational system.

Nelson is of Shield of Innocence Initiative, Ibadan.