JAMB: complaints, confusion, questions over computer-based-test
In line with the global technology-driven society and international best practices, the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) first introduced the Computer-Based-Test (CBT) method of writing its Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) in 2013. They conducted their examinations in 2013 and 2014 using three modes namely Dual-Based-Test, Paper-Pencil Test and Computer-Based-Test. The challenges, complaints and hitches encountered by the candidates during the exercise were not much and noticeable.
In 2015, the board, banking on its near success in the previous years, decided to go into complete CBT, which continued this year. The introduction of the full-scale CBT has witnessed several challenges like power failure, poor internet connectivity, late start-off, inadequate computer sets, among others.
However, this year’s exercise, which commenced on February 27 in over 500 centres across the country, appeared to have witnessed more challenges than previous ones. The aftermath has led to series of protests by the aggrieved candidates, the call for the sack of JAMB Registrar, Prof. Dibu Ojerinde for inefficiency, as well as the call by the House of Representatives to revert to paper pencil test.
In Lagos, hundreds of candidates who sat for the examination and their parents publicly protested on March 15, over what they described as the many challenges 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 brilliant students, posting wrong results for some of the candidates, and many others.
The board had to cancel some centres following complaints of poor facilities provided by the centres’ administrators in Lagos. Aside the poor facilities, the Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu also expressed concern over the plight of candidates who are not computer- literate to write the UTME through the CBT mode.
With these obvious hitches in this year’s examination, there is no doubt that there are new challenges in the conduct of the CBT that the JAMB board has not been able to address yet. If not, the challenges that dogged the examination last year, such as network/system failure, and inability to keep to time schedule, wouldn’t have been experienced this year again.
Besides, there were also other disturbing issues such as the alleged “addition” of 40 marks to the scores of many candidates that took the examination in the first few days after it started on February 27; incompatible questions and answers; and incomplete questions.
These challenges have led to the stakeholders questioning the integrity of the examination and the board’s competence and readiness to continue conducting the examination as 100 per cent CBT.
The House of Representatives had asked the Federal Ministry of Education to direct the board to revert to pencil-paper method in the conduct of UTME or adopt both PPT and CBT so that candidates can opt for any mode of their choice.
This followed a motion moved by a lawmaker from Lagos State, Mr. Oghene Emma-Egoh, on the conflicting scores of candidates who took the examination.
The lawmaker had argued that the technical errors experienced during the examination have dashed the hopes of many of the candidates in gaining admission this year.
He cited two cases of conflicting results. One was that of Ibrahim Shawulu from Kogi State, who was said to have scored 399 out of 400, and in less than 24 hours his score was reduced to 199. Another candidate Foluke, the 17-year-old girl in Ejigbo-Lagos, who scored an aggregate of 156 and when the result was checked again she had an aggregate of 196.
But despite the obvious hitches, some stakeholders in the sector, including Ojerinde, have ruled out the idea of reverting to paper pencil test, saying that the benefits of the CBT outweigh the hitches and suggested ways to improve the conduct of the CBT.
Their arguments was hinged on the fact that inertia to change is part of life, adding that over time, human systems adjust to change as the forces of homeostasis kick in.
They argued that there are two key advantages of not going back on the CBT mode of conducting UTME. First, it will catalyse the attainment of a higher degree of computer literacy by potential undergraduates of Nigerian universities. Secondly, it will reduce to the barest minimum, cases of examination malpractice in the conduct of the UTME.
Further stating the advantages of CBT over paper and pencil exercise, Ojerinde was quoted as saying that: “There is need to support the board in its drive to improve the quality of education through CBT, which reduces examination malpractice to the barest minimum.”
Though he acknowledged that there are few challenges associated with the conduct, which he said are expected with any new technology, he said with the support of all, the board would gradually get it perfected.
“In an examination of over 1.5 million candidates, it is expected that there will be a few cries 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. We are very concerned even if it is one candidate that is not satisfied.”
“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,” Ojerinde said.
But for the candidates, improvement in the conduct of the CBT should start with the provision of more centres and more computers to prevent prospective candidates from spending more time than necessary at the centres. They also called for improved internet connectivity.
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