By Paul Obi in Abuja
Contrary to opposition against the continuous use of Computer Based Test (CBT) in conducting the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) in the country, the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB) yesterday insisted that it will continue with CBT as any reversal of the system would amount to taking the nation’s educational system backward.
JAMB Registrar, Prof. Dibu Ojerinde told journalists in Abuja that calls for the return to paper type model in the conduct of JAMB examination was wrong-headed and would not be in the best interest of the country in its attempt to standardise the conduct of its examination system.
He said the protest against the CBT emanated from the move by a select few benefiting from the old method and were against the current innovations made so far in the conduct of the UTME.
The House of Representatives had during the week mandated JAMB to create an avenue where candidates would have the options of choosing between the paper type model and the CBT model, seen as more modern and backed by technology.
Ojerinde in his explanation observed that “In the middle of the journey towards the development of education, particularly the sensitisation on the conduct of public examination in Nigeria and our decision today will either take us back or move us to the next level.
“The Board began the journey towards the conduct of Computer Based Test in 2013 when it conducted the exercise using the three modes of Dual Based Test, Paper Pencil Test and Computer Based Test. This was as a result of the inability of the Board to device possible ways of containing the excesses and embarrassing irregularities associated with the Paper Pencil Test. This was an era when the Board was not comfortable with the happenings as far as its examinations were concerned even in the face of changes, reforms etc. Our examination was more of a war, with candidates bolting away with question papers, parents and tutorial centres conniving to perpetuate all manners of malpractice.
“This unwholesome activity was a concern to us as a credible and responsive organisation saddled with the mandate to conduct Matriculation Examination. In view of the above, the Board looked at the best practice globally and decided to introduce the CBT as a recipe to the catalogue of problems bedevilling the sector particularly the conduct of its examination.
“Expectedly, the new regime was to come with a lot of challenges because change is always very difficult to accept. We were mindful of the fact that a lot of businesses will no longer be as usual and such individuals will certainly fight back. And today our expectations are truly manifesting. However, we were determined to succeed seeing the prospects ahead.”
Ojerinde explained that “With each year’s exercise passing and the policy becoming a reality with improvements, the opponent of the policy especially some of the Tutorial Centres became very desperate and more resolved to truncate the policy. Each complaint by candidate is seen as an opportunity for them to manifest their desperation.
“There is need to support the Board in its drive to improve on the quality of education through CBT which reduces examination malpractice to the barest minimum. Our decision to go with CBT was actually a tough decision which we knew was going to come with a lot of resistance from individuals who were benefiting from the confusion associated with the Paper Pencil Test (PPT). However, we resolved to take the hard way given the many benefits of CBT.
The JAMB Registrar conceded that “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.”
He rather contended that “in an examination of over 1.5million candidates, it is expected that there will be a few cry 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. Don’t get it wrong, we are very concerned even if it’s one candidate that is not satisfied.
“It may interest you to know that less than one per cent (1%) of candidates and CBT centres in the 2016 UTME had challenges which the Board is doing everything to overcome. The issue of 40 marks to candidates is an issue that has been over-flogged by conspirators against CBT. One of the challenges of CBT is the unsuitability of CBT centres. This has led us to movement of candidates from one centre to another to ensure that they write the examination.
“The roles of this group of stakeholders have been very unfortunate. Consistently, they have sought to truncate policies once it does not accommodate their interest. Most of them have approached us to use their business centres as CBT centres, unfortunately most of their facilities failed our integrity test. We will show you a video of a typical happening in one of the centres and this will tell you why there will be continuous protest by this group who will always want to have their way. This is true because when we were doing the Paper Pencil Test, there was no protest because it was business as usual.
“In life when you identify a good policy all a nation does is to see how they can ensure that the policy works through constructive input. The few challenges associated with Computer Based Test are partly technical which with time will be addressed. We are happy not a single complaint has come from anybody that he/she was unable to use computer.
“Let us work together and see how we can make this good policy work. It will do us all good if we see CBT as a benefit to the Nigerian child and not all about JAMB,” he urged.
The board also said it 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.
The registrar observed that “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. We relocated candidates where the board had challenges. The board is looking at some of the issues raised during the examination but most of the excuses raised by candidates are flimsy.
“We relocated about 59, 000 candidates due to the problems in various centres which vary from town to town. There are about 59,000 of them spread across 15 states of the federation. Those that were relocated never suffered any setback or inconvenience. For all these two set of people I want to apologise sincerely for what happened to them but we are going to put on a redress for those whose relocation affected them in missing their examination.
“Let me use this opportunity to offer explanation on the issue of the much publicised two results. The process of our marking involves transformation and other qualitative programming. In the process of these configurations we had a little challenge which we quickly corrected and ensured that this never happened in subsequent results. This challenge was only associated with the candidates that sat for this examination on Saturday 27th, and some candidates of Monday, 29th February, 2016”.
Further, he bemoaned the force with which individuals now deploy to ensure that their wards and friends pass the exams either by crook or other forms of cheating, adding: “conducting examination in this country is now becoming a war, with the invasion of mercenaries and armed bandits.”
Ojerinde also said that the board found out that some of the over 500 centres used for the CBT was compromised by the operators, leading to the invasion of mercenaries and armed bandits in Uromi, Edo and Lagos States. The registrar warned against such invasion, stating that the board would liaise with security agencies to fight fraud and disruption of examination centres henceforth.