Writing exams for students is much like paying taxes for adults: it’s inevitable and trying! Yes, it’s that time of the year when your child seems to be a little more “on edge” than usual. And, it’s very likely because a bunch of important tests are fast approaching and exam stress is already starting to take its toll. Their workload is piling up. Teachers are constantly reminding pupils about exam preparations. You also might always be telling your child that they need to excel at school to have a bright future. These kinds of pressure are why learners consider taking shortcuts without thinking about the dangers of cheating in exams in South Africa

Of course, trying to take shortcuts during a test can have severe consequences and hurt that glistening future you want for your child. Thankfully, LAW FOR ALL is here to school (pun intended!) you on the dangers of cheating in an exam, possible disciplinary procedures and exam tips for parents (yes, you need some lessons, too!)

Class is in session!

Lesson 1 (Recent History): the state of education, matric pass rates in South Africa and the importance of a matric certificate.

The quality of education in South Africa is a controversial topic. Many schools lack the necessary resources- whether it’s textbooks, facilities or, in some cases, qualified teachers- to give learners the adequate tools and knowledge to prepare for the all-important matric exams.  And, yes, your child’s future hangs in the balance.

But there have also been many misleading claims about the state of education in the country. Researchers Gopolang Makou and Kate Wilkinson found that some statements are distorted and incorrect. Their research showed that in 2017, “ 401,208 pupils (of the 534,4843 who wrote the National Senior Certificate (NSC) exams) received the necessary pass to apply for a place at one of South Africa’s universities to study for a bachelor’s degree, diploma or higher certificate”.

And if you are thinking the higher my child’s education, the better chance they have of getting a job, you are 100% correct. As Statistics SA’s Quarterly Labour Force Survey for the fourth quarter of 2018 points out, only 1,7% of unemployed people in South Africa are graduates. And it all starts with obtaining that matric certificate, and that pressure can take its toll on your child.

Lesson 2 (General Knowledge): why your child might crib on a test, and the dangers of cheating in exams in South Africa.

With the exam dates on the horizon and a particularly complicated maths test to prepare for, your child is undoubtedly feeling the pressure to cramp in a vast amount of knowledge is a short period. And, the fact is- they might panic, and think of ways to cheat on a test.

As exam season approaches, you should look out for tell-tale signs of stress and support your kid in any way you can (we’ll give you more guidance in Life Orientation class a little later!). Pupils often think that sneaking few notes into the exam hall, writing formulas on their fingers nails, scribbling answers in invisible ink or loading test answers onto a smartwatch are sure-fire ways to cheat and go undetected, but the truth is teachers and invigilators are trained to look out for any suspicious behaviour. What’s more, in China, schools are even going so far as to use drones to catch exam cheaters.

Moral of the story: chances are slim that your son or daughter will get away with cheating. And, they face penalties that can derail their future.

DETENTION! Disciplinary hearings, suspension, expulsion and other dangers of cheating in exams in South Africa

Don’t think your child will simply get a proverbial slap on the wrist and continue as usual.  As Dr Gillian Mooney from the Independent Institute of Education states:Every year, without fail, we hear about scores of matriculants whose results are held back, who face criminal charges, who are banned from writing NSC exams for years, and who spend ages in court as a result of cheating. Quite simply, it is not worth it”.

In most schools, pupils that cheat in exams or that posses and circulate any material that might give them an unfair advantage are guilty of serious misconduct. Getting caught will in all likelihood lead to being suspended or even expelled if it isn’t the first time.

“Remember, the South African Schools Act gives pupils the right to state their case in a disciplinary hearing held by the governing body,” says Adv. Jackie Nagtegaal, LAW FOR ALL’s Managing Director.

If your child is guilty, the governing body may suspend them, but not for longer than seven days. But, only the Head of Department is allowed to expel a pupil guilty of committing serious misconduct. Pupils have the right to appeal to the Head of Department’s decision. This must be done with a Member of the Executive Council within 14 days of receiving an expulsion notice.

There is also a special irregularities committee, comprising union representatives, circuit managers, investigators and subject specialists from the Department of Educations, that oversees matric exams and decides on the appropriate punishment for cheaters. The committee has a no tolerance approach. In the past culprits have had to wait a year to write the NSC exams again. But, it isn’t just cheating that could land pupils in trouble. Using vulgar language in an exam script isn’t just inappropriate; it is also punishable. Leaking an exam paper could also lead to Pupils who do this could face criminal charges for theft.


Lesson 3 (Life Orientation): Prevention is better than cure, tips for parents to help their children prepare for exams

Try to avoid placing added pressure on your child to ace their exams. Rather focus on creating an environment that helps them perform to the best of their abilities.

Parent24 suggests the following exam stress tips for your kids:

  • Encourage healthy sleeping patterns by turning off all electronic devices 30 minutes before bed time. This will allow your child to rest their mind and body.
  • Cut out food and drinks with high levels of caffeine or sugar- these can disrupt sleep. Incorporate meals with plenty of Omega 3 to help the brain.
  • Remind your child to take regular study breaks. Relaxation is key for the retention of information.
  • Set realistic goals and implement a reward system.
  • Without nagging too much, remind your child to prepare in advance to avoid last-minute cramming the night before a test.
  • Let them know that you are there if they need someone to quiz them.

Ding, ding, ding! School’s out!

Congratulations, you’ve graduated with flying colours! Exam time is unavoidable and will always go hand in hand with a bit of stress. But, cheating because of life’s pressures is never right or worth it. Warn your child on the dangers of cheating in exams, ensuring they don’t ultimately cheat on their future.

We’ve got your back!

We understand you probably still have many questions. LAW FOR ALL’s experienced lawyers provide legal advice relating to children’s rights, disciplinary hearing and legal action against schools.

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