On Monday, December 11th 2023, Director of Legal Affairs of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), Godwin Edudzi Tamakloe, suggested on TV3’s New Day Show that Ghana has been writing a substandard version of the West Africa Secondary School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) since 2020.
“To appear relevant and useful, Akufo Addo had gotten WAEC to give a Ghana version of WASSCE that you and I have been writing. Do you know that from the year 2020, Ghana we have been writing our own Ghana-made WASSCE? And Akufo Addo will now stand somewhere and say that comparing his own Ghana-made WASSCE to the globally accepted WASSCE, his Free SHS students have done better.”
About two months before the Director of the NDC made the claim on TV, Kwame Alorvi, the former president of the National Association of Graduate Teachers (NAGRAT) had suggested in an article published on October 6th that the Ghana-made WASSCE which was started in 2020 is sub-standard to that of the other West African countries.
“My first reason is the attempt by the President to compare mangoes with oranges. Since 2020, Ghana has effectively left the sub-regionally organised West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) to organise a local or Ghana-made WASSCE which I call Ghana Senior School Certificate Examination (GHASSCE). So how then could the President be comparing local examination results with those of an international status?” he wrote.
When Fact-Check Ghana reached out to Mr Tamakloe for further clarification and to substantiate his claim, he insisted that the WASSCE written in Ghana since 2020 is not standardized like the other West African countries under WAEC adding that the results from Ghana cannot be compared to the other countries even for excellence awards.
“I am saying that what we are doing now is not standardized and if it is not standardized how do you compare? If you are writing exam made for only Ghanaian students, how do you go and compare him to a student in Nigeria. From 2017/18/19, when a Ghanaian takes the WASSCE, it is an exam that pertains to all West Africa so you can say that this particular student had the best grade or the best result in the whole of West Africa. You can compare because the exam that was taken by the Ghanaian student is the same exam that was written by a Nigerian student, but in this specific case, the Ghanaian student is writing a different exam, the Nigerian student is writing a different exam, so it is not standardized”, he claimed.
Is Ghana’s recent WASSCE any different from what it used to be and what does it mean for the candidates writing the exam? In this report, Fact-Check Ghana presents the facts on Ghana’s WASSCE.
The Ghana WASSCE
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Ghana’s educational calendar was altered from May/June to August/September. The closure of schools during the pandemic to contain the spread of the virus affected the academic calendar as WAEC suspended examinations in the West African region.
However, the government of Ghana later reopened schools for final-year students to write their exams with the support of WAEC although this suspension was taking effect in the other countries. This called for WAEC to organise an independent WASSCE for Ghanaian candidates.
The other four member countries of the WAEC — Nigeria, Liberia, Sierra Leone and The Gambia — have returned to the May/June calendar after the pandemic while Ghana is yet to revert to the May/June. For now, Ghana’s WASSCE is written in August/September.
Education specialist provides insight
In an interview with Fact-Check Ghana, Divine Kpe, an Education Specialist and senior program officer at Africa Education Watch, explained that Ghana having a different exam from the other West African states does not mean the questions for the Ghana WASSCE are sub-standard.
“It is still the West African Examination Council (WAEC) that is still administering to Ghana as well so it is not any different examining body and the questions will not be the same as what the other countries have written. Ghanaians write a different set of questions compared to what the other countries write but the same content areas,” he explained.
According to the education specialist, all questions set by WAEC have the same difficulty index. The difficulty index is determined by the assessment officers to tell if the question is standard for the students.
Mr. Kpe explained that difficulty in the exam is calculated in a way that all questions from the same content area are allowed to have the same difficulty index.
“Every question that is set for a high-stake examination must meet a range of acceptability when it comes to the difficulty index calculation. So, all questions that WAEC actually set meet the difficulty index calculation and therefore if other countries are not writing with us, the same way we all have the difficulty index, it means that the standard is the same. Mind you, the questions are from the same content area.
“To say government has created or influenced the WASSCE and that is bringing a different set of exams to favour a situation is not accurate,” the education specialist said.
John Kapi, Head of Public Affairs at the West African Examinations Council explained to Fact-Check Ghana that the timetable and questions for the WASSCE are prepared by an international panel/committee, adding that Ghana’s WASSCE “is comparable with whatever the other member countries would have written before we do ours.”
The WAEC official further explained that after the WASSCE, an International Preliminary Committee, a body made up of subject experts from all the member countries assesses the questions and determines “a suitable marking scheme for marking all the scripts of the exams written here in Ghana.”
After the WASSCE, there is also an award scheme to acknowledge outstanding and best-performing students who sit for the exam. Mr. Kapi said this is done by the subject awards committee which also determines the grade boundary.
In the last two WASSCEs, there were students from Ghana who competed with their counterparts in the region and were awarded for their performance.
“There is no truth in anybody saying that the Ghana-only version is meant to water down the examination so that Ghanaian candidates can pass better than their counterparts. The examination we write here is comparable with whatever the other member countries would have written before we do ours”, the WAEC said.
Critics of the WASSCE exam Ghanaian students write argue that the standards are not the same as what other Anglophone countries write, making it impossible to compare.
But checks by Fact-Check Ghana show that earlier in March this year, two students from the St. James Seminary Senior High School in Ghana were awarded in The Gambia for placing first and second positions in the best student for the 2022 West Africa Senior Secondary Certificate Exam (WASSCE). The Ghanaians received their award from the Gambian President, Adama Barrow, at the 71st Annual Council Meeting of the West African Examination Council (WAEC). Ogidigbo Chioma Blessing from Nigeria placed third.
Again, in March 2022, a past student of the Presbyterian Boys’ Secondary School (Presec-Legon), Kwame Brako, was adjudged the overall best student in the 2021 WASSCE in Ghana and 2nd in West Africa.
Thus, if the standard of the WASSCE written in Ghana was incomparable to what’s written in other Anglophone West African countries, Ghanaians would not have been awarded at the regional council meeting of the WAEC.
From the above, it is evident that claims that the WASSCE Ghanaian students have been writing is substandard are false.