JAMB’s Computer-Based Test: A critical appraisal

UTME

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UTME

The adoption of Computer-Based Test for the conduct of the 2015 Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination was fraught with some lapses but experts advice that it should be continued based on its ability to address examination malpractices and ensure timely release of results by the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board

About 1,475,477 candidates seeking admission into the various tertiary institutions in the country went through the first edition of the full-blown Computer-Based Test (CBT) technique of the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) recently.

The CBT technique was adopted this year because JAMB had in 2012 announced that the options of the Paper-Pencil Test (PPT) and the Dual-Based Test (DBT) will be phased out in three years and replaced by the CBT. Consequently, JAMB had in 2014, organized a test-run of the CBT, which was adjudged by many as successful and capable of putting an end to malpractices that had characterized the conduct of public examinations in the country. Professor Dibu Ojerinde, Registrar of the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) explained that the adoption of full-scale CBT became imperative because it would enable them release candidates’ results the same day and send them to their phones through SMS a few hours after the examination.

However, this year’s examination, which was held in 400 centres across Nigeria and seven other countries, has elicited mixed reactions from candidates and other stakeholders. While some candidates applauded the conduct of the computer-based test and the swiftness in releasing the results within 24, others criticised the exercise based on some of its many lapses.

Indeed, some of the lapses manifested a few days before the examination when some candidates in some parts of the country protested because of the difficulties they encountered in their attempt to print their examination slips from designated centres and JAMB offices. For instance, in Makurdi, the Benue State capital, some frustrated candidates destroyed properties worth millions of Naira while protesting.

There were also cases of outright change of examination dates without notification to the affected candidates. Some candidates who registered in Lagos complained that they were posted to neighbouring states such as Ogun, Osun and even far away Kwara to write the examination.

When the examination eventually started, there were cases of server and power failures even as there were no other sources of power supply. In some of the CBT centres, candidates were said to have commenced their exams late due to Internet failure, leaving parents and guardians who accompanied their wards to the centre frustrated. Some of the candidates lamented that when there was internet failure, the computer submitted their papers when they had not finished answering the questions.

Nevertheless, some of observable merits of the CBT technique include the elimination of impersonation, special centres and cheating. Moreover, the examination went smoothly in many centres across the country. In Abuja, the examination was held under tight security in all the centres, ostensibly to prevent chaos.

There was presence of personnel of police men and officials of the Nigerian Security Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) across examination centres, with sniffer dogs deployed strategically for bomb detection and crowd control. At the Charms City, one of the examination centres approved by the board, the situation was generally peaceful. Biometric screening of candidates across the centres commenced at 6am and lasted till 7.30am before examination kicked off. The leader of the NSCDC team at the Charms City, Mr Akpan Bassey, said that there was no single case of examination malpractice at the centre.

Professor Viola Onwuliri, Minister of State for Education while inspecting the conduct of the examination at Charms City and NIIT centres in Abuja, said she was impressed with the CBT mode which, according to her, has checked obstacles in terms of marking and grading examination results. She noted that the CBT is part of government’s efforts to make Nigeria part of the global community and achieving excellence in the quality of education.

In Ibadan, Oyo State capital, the examination began across six centres with minor hitches recorded before the commencement of the exercise. At the Polytechnic, Ibadan centre, the administrator, Mr Isiaka Salawu, who is also a lecturer in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics said that on the first day, they had difficulties in downloading the questions. JAMB officer, however, had to contact those in charge of the process before it was resolved. “There was also the problem of network, but our IT officers  were very much on ground to assist the candidates, so we were able to get over all these problems easily,” he said.

The JAMB officer in charge of the centre, Mr Musa Bala Zamuna, from the Kaduna office disclosed that the process went on smoothly. “The candidates got to the centre at the appropriate time, as early as 6am and we commenced the exercise early enough,” he said.

During a visit to one of the centres within the Moshood Abiola Polytechnic (MAPOLY), the exercise was a success, as candidates were seen writing examinations at the ICT Resource Centre of the institution in an orderly manner.

In Delta State, the exercise was peaceful in various parts of the state without any hitch. According to the Deputy President, National Parents Teachers’ Association (NAPTA), Ibrahim Oniye the CBT is a laudable initiative. He, however, advised that more pilot studies should have been conducted before its full implementation to avoid hitches experienced by candidates.

Professor Dibu Ojerinde, Registrar, JAMB

Professor Dibu Ojerinde, Registrar, JAMB

However, Prof. Ojerinde is optimistic that some of the lapses will be resolved before next year’s examination. “We hope to have less days next year because Mr. President is building centres in all states of the federation particularly in the local governments which will be ready for use next year,” he said.

There is no doubt that the adoption of the CBT mode for this year’s UTME has tackled examination malpractices and ensured timely release of results. Stakeholders however believe that efforts should be intensified to perfect the CBT method so as to put an end to the problems associated with the conduct of entrance examinations into the nation’s tertiary institutions.

Indeed, the CBT mode has exposed lapses in the content of computer education as taught in both public and private schools in the country. Observers lament that in this modern age of Information Communication Technology (ICT), some of the candidates in the CBT examination could not effectively use the computer system.

Apparently envisaging such shortcomings in respect of students’ ability to use computer systems for the examination, JAMB had thrown open its pre-exam trial portal for candidates to take mock test before the commencement of the CBT.

Reacting to the reported challenges on the CBT, Professor Olusoji Aremu, Deputy Director, Distance Learning Centre (DLC), University of Ibadan said that the problems are expected. According to him, “the main issue is that two components of assessment are being done: pedagogy on various subjects and skills on technology which the Computer-based Test represents”. He added that, “while the outcome measures (performance) would be on how much (quantity) of the subjects a candidate knows, not much emphasis is on the mechanism (computer education which is skill-based) through which assessment would be made. What accounts for this is obvious.”

He said the Computer Education Curriculum’s emphasis is on pedagogy and not on skills acquisition, adding that in situations where learners would want to acquire computer education skills and instructors are willing to teach, the challenges of infrastructure in many public and private schools are enormous. “There are no computer laboratories, no electricity, and many JAMB candidates have never seen computer systems prior to the examination let alone handling it. While these are constant, instructors continue to teach the candidates on the pedagogies of subjects they want to be examined on but not on the skills that will drive the pedagogy for desired results.” He stressed that the above scenario calls for a review of Computer Education Curriculum.

“The curriculum should be skills-based and driven. More importantly, functional and up-to-date computer laboratories should be a must in public and private schools. There should also be alternate power system on ground. These appear to be utopian ideals given the parlous state of most public secondary schools in Nigeria,” he added.

Professor Aremu noted that improving the situation calls for private sector-driven CBT centres and recommended that public and private schools could take their students to such centres periodically to acquire computer proficiency skills.  He however opposed the suggestion in some quarters that JAMB should revert to the paper-pencil test (PPT) pending the time the country is ripe for the CBT.  To him, there should be no going back in the adoption of the CBT.

By Pita Ochai

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