Wednesday, March 23, 2016

The fuss over 2016 UTME

The Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board was established in 1978 to deal with the problems associated with the conduct of concessional examination by the then existing federal universities. By August 1988, JAMB was empowered to conduct matriculation examinations for entry into all polytechnics and colleges of education in the country and to place suitably qualified candidates in the available places in these institutions. Over the years, the Board has initiated various reforms to bring its activities in line with modern trend in the conduct of matriculation examinations.
When JAMB kicked off matriculation examination in 1978, it was based on Paper and Pencil Test. Under this system, candidates were to shade the correct answer out of options usually given. It is called multiple choice or objective examination. This system of examination was fraught with many sharp practices and challenges. Under the PPT, it was easy to cheat. Candidates colluded with supervisors through monetary inducement to dictate correct answers to them. When that was not done, the examination supervisors were compromised to allow mercenaries (paid agents, usually undergraduate students) to sit for the exam on behalf of the candidates. Also, because of the short time given for the examination, many candidates were jittery and in the process shaded wrong answers; by the time they realised their mistakes and wanted to erase in order to pick the correct option, they sometime overdid it and damaged the exam sheet. In addition, the result of the PPT took long time to be released, sometimes taking up to three months.
However, JAMB under the current leadership was very dissatisfied with the PPT which the Registrar, Prof. Dibu Ojerinde, claimed made the examination to be  more of a war, with candidates bolting away with question papers while  parents in cahoots with  tutorial centres operators connived to perpetrate all manner of malpractice. This led the Board to introduce Computer Based Test in 2013.The examination board started off the exercise using the three modes of Dual-Based Test, Paper Pencil Test and Computer-Based Test.
JAMB on its website highlighted 32 advantages of the CBT.  They include: Improvement of the Board’s service delivery; reduction of incidences of breaches of examination security; making Nigeria operate global best practices; improves security of the testing enterprise;  is reliable, robust and flexible. Others are: It allows subsequent changes to an answer without the uncertainty of knowing whether a poorly erased answer might invalidate the new selection; immediate score reporting; ability to track and display the time remaining on the examination; and it is one of the recent innovative approaches to assessments by Examination Bodies. Indeed, result of the CBT  is almost immediate as candidates get to know their scores in a matter of hours.
Like every innovation, the CBT has not been without hitches. The 2016 Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination was held from February 27 to March 19. Over 1,5 million candidates enrolled for the examination. As it turned out, there have been allegations of incompetence and inefficiency levelled against JAMB. On Tuesday, March 15, 2016, hundreds of candidates who sat for the UTME and their parents publicly protested in Lagos over what they described as the many problems facing the CBT. There were allegations of frequent system trip-off while the examination was going on at some centres leading to loss of time before reconnection with JAMB’s server, multiple scoring, bonus marks of between 40 and 60 for some candidates, reduction in the marks of some exceptionally brilliant students, posting wrong results to some of the candidates, and many others.
As reported in The PUNCH of March 16, 2016, a candidate, Maryam Animashaun, expressed disappointment with the conduct of the examination as she claimed that she received three different results from JAMB. Animashaun, who sat for the examination at the College of Education, Oro, Kwara State, was quoted as saying: “I am confused. I do not know what to do now. The first alert I received on the telephone from the board with regard to the examination showed that I scored 218. The second alert read 186, while the third one read 286. The surprising thing now is that I cannot print any of the results. On the website, the board claimed that I did not sit for the examination.”
In a robust response to many of the complaints and allegations, Ojerinde admitted to some technical errors which he claimed were negligible. He said, “There are few challenges associated with the conduct which are expected with any new technology which we constantly admit but believing that with the active support of all, we will gradually get it perfected. In an examination of over 1.5 million candidates, it is expected that there will be a few outcry here and there but when you look at the percentage of complaints vis-à-vis the success, one will comfortably say we are on the right track.” Ojerinde said less than one per cent of candidates and CBT centres in the 2016 UTME had challenges which the Board was doing everything to overcome.
The Registrar also said JAMB would reschedule examination for candidates who missed the UTME, adding that, it relocated 59, 000 candidates in 15 states because of problems in some of the centres. He observed that “of the 1,546,633 candidates that sat for the 2016 UTME, 145, 704 had issues of multiple results which have been resolved by the Board.  This challenge was reportedly only associated with the candidates that sat for this examination on Saturday, February 27, and some candidates of Monday, February 29, 2016. Ojerinde said the Board was looking at some of the issues raised during the examination but claimed that most of the excuses brought up by the candidates were flimsy. He equally informed the public that the Board found out that some of the over 500 centres used for the CBT were compromised by the operators, leading to the invasion of mercenaries and bandits in Uromi, Edo and Lagos states.
My take on the brouhaha trailing the 2016 UTME is that JAMB should be given opportunity to perfect the use of the CBT. Going back to Paper and Pencil Test is not an option in a 21st century society. Even some secondary schools are now using computers for their terminal examinations. No student in a contemporary world should consider computer illiteracy as a bliss. Education stakeholders should team up to support JAMB to succeed in the onerous task at reforming the country’s examination process.