Taking the shine off computer-based test

By ENO-ABASI SUNDAY   |   26 August 2015   |   11:47 pm  
OJERINDE

OJERINDE

Infrastructural deficit, which has made it difficult to expose students to the basics of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in most public and private schools notwithstanding, many forward-thinking individuals and organisations are of the view that time was ripe for the introduction of computer-based testing mode of examination in the country. But it took the Head of National Office (HNO) of the West African Examination Council (WAEC), Mr. Charles Eguridu, minutes to deconstruct the argument that CBT is an idea whose time has come. In doing so, he contended that if the purpose of examination is to prepare for life, then computer-based testing mode is incapable of examining the cognitive, affective and psychomotor domains. ENO-ABASI SUNDAY writes. 

COMPUTER-BASED Testing (CBT), also known as Computer-Based Assessment (CBA); e-assessment, computerised testing and computer-administered testing, is a method of administering tests in which the responses are electronically recorded, assessed, or both.

Historically, the use of computer sets in administering examination came into being in the 1970s. And in the following decade, a good number of examining/credentialing bodies in the developed world began using computer-based testing for certification examinations.

According to experts, as time went by, computer-based testing began affecting virtually every aspect of examination administration as well as that of test development, as through the use of CBT technology, a wide array of content can be assessed efficiently and economically.

In Nigeria a couple of years back, the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB), spearheaded the introduction of computer-based examination mode into the country.

The body, after a couple of dry runs last year, abandoned the Pencil-and-Paper Test, and went full blast with the CBT. During the full implementation of the CBT mode in March, a cocktail of challenges, including server failures, power fluctuation, system malfunction among others nearly took the shine off the exercise.

All that notwithstanding, JAMB after the exercise scored itself quite high, and insisted that whatever challenges were noticed would be sorted out before the next edition.

During the last National Examination Council (NECO)-organised National Common Entrance Examination, Chairman of NECO Governing Board, Dr. Paddy Njoku, had informed that plans were in the final stages for the commencement of CBT in subsequent NECO-administered examinations.

WAEC not keeping CBT in view For now, the West African Examination Council (WAEC) is not bothered by what it stands to lose by not embracing the CBT. That explains why the body is not considering adopting that mode of examination.

According to its Head of National Office, Mr. Charles Eguridu, it would amount to “intellectual dishonesty’’ for him to say that the council would introduce CBT in the next five years or the near future.

Eguridu, who explained that the purpose of education was to prepare people for life, and not simply to excel in examinations, stressed the need to examine different human domains, an exercise he noted CBT does not have the capacity to effectively execute. “There is what we call the cognitive domain; that is what you have learnt that you can put in your head.

There is also what we call affective domain that has to do with your emotions. There is also what we call the psychomotor domain, that is skills, which you can express using your hands and your body. “I am yet to see any education expert who will tell you that you can measure the psychomotor domain using CBT.

Any test that will use computer to evaluate who will be a good carpenter cannot be a valid test,” Eguridu declared. Shedding more light on some of its flagship examinations, including the West African Senior School Certificate Examinations (WASSCE), the HNO said WAEC-organised examinations took into account, the three domains that measured ability to recall, apply and practicalise.

He further explained that in psychomotor domain, candidates did practical tests in agricultural science in the farm and the examiner supervised their actual agricultural practice.

Those doing woodwork, he said, were made to carry out physical designs of whatever assignment they were going to do. They were, thereafter evaluated on the outcome of their work.

The WAEC chieftain, who pointed out that even Netherlands, where Nigerian officials learnt CBT application from, has not been able to migrate 40 per cent of its examination to CBT, further questioned the availability of highly essential infrastructures that would aid in the seamless execution of that mode of examination. “In Netherlands which our people emulate in CBT, they have not been able to migrate 40 per cent of their examination.

How many schools in Nigeria have hardware? How many schools in Nigeria have the facilities to have those computers? There is the additional problem of electricity and Internet connectivity.

On claims that CBT has the capacity to annihilate different shades of examination malpractices, Eguridu said that WAEC was using specialised gadgets in detecting examination malpractices as the device have the ability to transmit any irregularity to its database in Lagos.

Develop appropriate infrastructure before upping the ante Franklin Usoh, a parent is in sync with WAEC’s position regarding CBT’s being incapable of examining the cognitive, affective and psychomotor domains of individuals.

As a matter of fact, he thinks that that mode of examination is capable of promoting rote learning, as students are not allowed the latitude to express their understanding of issues in details.

Beyond this, he said most students in the rural areas, who, for no fault of theirs, are not exposed to basic knowledge of the workings of a computer set quite early in their educational sojourns, would be in a disadvantaged position when placed side-by-side with their privileged peers in metropolitan areas, who are familiar with ICT.

He urged policy makers to put in place supporting facilities before railroading students to embark on that journey, because every student must be sufficiently prepared by all concerned, before CBT is fully embraced.

Head of School, Omolola International School, Sango- Otta, Toyin Emehelu, also thinks the country is not appropriately prepared for CBT because of a lot of constraining factors. “I think for now we are not ready for the CBT.

It obviously is one of the biggest innovations in education in modern times, but assessing the position of the industry in the country now leaves one with an opinion that we are not ripe for it.”

Emehelu, who is chief executive of Coreskills Developmental Services continued, “There are still a lot of cities in the country with very low computer literacy and Internet penetration.

These are the key elements that will drive the execution of CBT. This readily poses an uphill task for the implementation of this initiative. I think there are still much to be done in upgrading our literacy standard with special emphasis on ICT from the elementary level before embarking on the CBT, and hoping for a desirable result. She continued, “The education industry has lost a lot of developmental years due to rot and lack of innovation in our policies.

This has extended implication on the infrastructures; which makes us ill prepared for modern innovations like the CBT. Hence jumping into the process to provide such services at the expense of putting the right environment in place will only hurt the system the more.

There is no quick fix. On when it may be right for the process to begin, she said, “It is not about a specific date, it is about when we are ready to address fundamental issues in the industry.

_Dr.-Charles-Eguridu

Dr.Charles Eguridu

The CBT will come naturally when its time is ripe. CBT as JAMB’s cure-all-drug for examination challenges, others While defending JAMB’s decision to be the first examination body to adopt the CBT, its Registrar/Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Professor Dibu Ojerinde, had spoke at great length in the wake of the first wholly CBT it organised. “The CBT is a creation of the board’s desire to transform our educational system starting from the conduct of public examination.

This system was thought out, as the only way for now, that can address the challenges of examination malpractice, such as impersonation and other ills associated with public examination,” the president of the International Association for Educational Assessment (IAEA) stated.

He continued, “Another reason is that with CBT our school will be forced to follow our school curriculum as it affects information technology. And above all, the board opted for CBT so as to ensure global best practice in the conduct of examination.

This is what is right and being done globally. “Again, the only constant thing in life is change, and positive change. It is either we change with the world, especially now that there is a global technological transformation and advancement, or we will be left behind. We in JAMB cannot afford to be left behind,” Ojerinde, who is first Nigerian professor of Tests and Measurement stated.

Not to be bowled over with the argument that the CBT’s introduction would negatively affect most candidates since the idea of using computer test for their routine examination was alien to them, the pioneer director, Monitoring and Evaluation, National Primary Education Commission (NPEC), defended the novel step thus: “What is a computer? It’s a device that performs complex and specific tasks with accuracy and speed.

The phones we use are mini computers and every body uses them with minimal instruction. “Those who feared CBT do so because they do not know how the CBT works.

Most candidates, at the end of the examination, confessed that the CBT is the best examination mode. In fact, the CBT rather enhances candidates’ performance and makes them more serious and focused during the conduct of the examination, as they all know that it is no longer business as usual.

To use the computer to write the board examination is so simple, easy and user friendly, that you do not have to be a computer guru to be able to use the computer to write the examination.

The process is so simplified that candidates can successfully write their three hours examination using the four arrow keys and the alphabets A, B, C and D keys on the keyboard.

They can use the four arrow keys to navigate up, down, left and right. They can punch on any of the four alphabets to select their answers. It is as simple as that. “Our experience from the conduct of CBT since 2013 indicated that only few candidates call for assistance during examination after the initial tutor before the examination begins.

Success in the examination is a function of the preparedness of the candidate and not the ability to use the computer. “So there is no need for parent, guardian and concerned Nigerians to fear.

The introduction of the CBT is for the development of the Nigerian child and the betterment of all Nigerians desirous of improvement in the Nigerian educational standard.

And at the end, it’s a win-win for the Board, the candidates, parents and the Nigerian education. Don’t forget it’s a selection examination so everybody is expected to work hard. “The CBT is a growing baby, we will all continue to groom, nurture and improve on it.

By next year it will be better than this year’s. The CBT process is very sustainable; all that is needed is the collaboration and positive contribution of every Nigerian. Let me tell you, if it were not sustainable, the board would not have embarked on it in the first place because its sustainability has great impact on the Nigerian child desirous of tertiary education.



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