Last month, I attended the 35th annual conference for the Association of Educational Assessment in Africa (AEAA) in Kampala, Uganda. As a Research and Knowledge Management Evaluator, this was the perfect conference to attend. My job duties include maintaining contact and verification information, updating curriculums and grading scales, understanding document safety features, and communicating other key elements that assist staff in producing accurate evaluation reports. I was eager to learn from others and obtain answers direct from the issuing examination bodies.
The theme of the conference this year was “Enhancing Efficiency and Effectiveness in Educational Assessment in An Era of Rapid Change.” There were over 350 delegates present from more than 25 countries, including the National Examinations Council of Tanzania (NECTA), Examinations Council of Lesotho, the National Educational Assessment and Examinations Agency of Ethiopia (NEAEA), the South Sudan National Examinations Council, the Kenya National Examinations Council (KNEC) and many more.
The focus of the conference, talks and workshops was on enhancing the educational assessment of students. Many of the sessions dealt with ensuring examinations are properly measuring student performance and capabilities, along with teaching strategies and curriculum development. There were also ample opportunities to establish new contacts and nurture collaborative relationships.
Globalization and internationalization of education have rapidly increased the mobility of students, providing ample opportunities abroad. The same effort that is spent on verifying the accuracy of student assessment and learning outcomes should also be invested in securing the safety of the documentation that validates such education. How does one ascertain the authenticity of educational documents when they are unfamiliar with the system or issuing practices of a country? Changes in technology have led to more effective anti-fraud systems around the globe.
I had the opportunity to present a plenary session, “Mitigating Fraud through Advancing Technology.” This session focused on how technological advancements can assist both the producers of certificates and the third parties who receive those educational documents. Rampant credential fraud can potentially jeopardize the reputation of the issuing institution, and inhibit future alumni when applying for further education or even employment. The incorporation of online databases and verification systems increases not only the efficiency of the examination council, but also benefits the recipients of those virtual documents. Discussions were held on the most cost-effective and systematic ways to utilize such services.
One of the issues raised was the need to publish results quickly, while still ensuring accuracy and authenticity. For instance, adding a student’s photo to a certificate will enhance its safety features, but can delay the release of results if photos aren’t provided by the students.
There is still a minimal amount of trust surrounding online verifications and results in Africa, since a common fear is that information is susceptible to hacking and can be tampered with. Some of the questions raised were:
How to secure the online data?
What is the cost?
Who would be responsible for paying for such services?
Ultimately, what I learned from the conference was that it’s imperative to keep these conversations going. The conference as a whole stressed the importance of organizations such as AEAA in creating a platform of collaboration. As the world continues to move towards digital documentation and verification alternatives, Africa will remain a vital participant.
A heartfelt thank you goes to the Uganda National Examinations Board (UNEB) for organizing and hosting the conference this year!
Melissa Ganiere is a Research & Knowledge Management Evaluator and has been with ECE since 2006. She specializes in education from Sub-saharan Africa and South East Asia, along with refugee documentation and online verification.