When the Registrar, Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board, Prof. Dibu Ojerinde, said the 2013 Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination would be conducted through the computer-based assessment module for admission seekers, some Nigerians rose in opposition to the idea. Their fear bordered on the fact that Nigeria is hardly ripe for the method, based on the extent of computer penetration.
But Ojerinde would not budge. For him, the only thing the agency would do to help UTME candidates is to make the CBT optional in 2013 and 2014.
“From 2015, anybody that wants to write the UTME test should get prepared for the CBT module instead of the Pen on Paper Test,” he said.
However, in spite of the examination body’s preference for the e-assessment test, candidates seem uninterested. This is because as at Saturday, only 4,000 of the over one million candidates that had registered for the 2013 UTME, scheduled to hold on April 27, showed preference for the CBT option. JAMB has made provisions for 150,000 candidates it expected to go for the CBT option. Ojerinde, who confirmed these figures in Lagos on Saturday, said candidates who, ordinarily, would prefer the PPT model, could be forced to adopt the CBT option. This, he said, was because the PPT centres would soon be filled up.
Yes, we are starting the CBT this year, but it is optional. But registration figures on our website revealed that one million and one hundred candidates had registered as at Saturday and about 4,000 of them filled the CBT option. The implication of this is that we (JAMB) will be forced to send some candidates to CBT centres.
If this happens, some stakeholders expressed the fear that candidates that are computer illiterate would be put at a disadvantaged position. Ojerinde, however, allays this fear.
“By adopting the CBT, we are not saying that candidates should go and get a certificate in Computer Studies before they can go to tertiary institutions. What we are saying is that the world has changed and it is technology that has changed it. We do not have a choice and we should be ready to force ourselves to change. The candidates don’t even have a choice because if they don’t do it now, they will still face it when they go for the post-UTME test in their higher institutions of choice,” he said.
Stakeholders are, however, divided over the adoption of the CBT and the lack of interest of candidates in the option. While some argued that Nigeria was not ripe for it because of the yawning gap in infrastructural facilities, particularly power generation, others believed that it was time the nation joined the technology-driven world or remain on the same spot forever.
The Managing Director, Dragnet Solutions, Lagos, Mr. Robert Ikazoboh, is one of those who believe that the adoption of technology in education in general is long overdue. To him, the e-assessment revolution should be adopted right from the basic school to s econdary and to tertiary institutions. This, he argued, would simplify examination assessment processes.
“CBT will revolutionise the test administration at the tertiary institution level. The current system — PPT — poses a lot of challenges. Examiners still mark tonnes of scripts manually. Examination results are delayed, a situation that leads lead to prolonged follow-up actions, among other drawbacks. But all of these will be adequately addressed by CBT.
“CBT guarantees efficiency in examination delivery, administration and scoring. It far surpasses the traditional manual, paper-based assessments, as the manual efforts of human hands are replaced by the many times more efficient processing power of the computer.
“It also reduces the need for resources for many elements of the testing life cycle such as printing and storing of paper, requirements of more invigilators to distribute and collect question papers and answer sheets,” he said.
Ikhazobor argued further that CBT would ensure prompt release of results as students receive their scores through sms on their handsets.
“No room for lecturers who use results as tools of witch- hunting. Studies have shown that large class size in various higher institutions is inimical to learning, but with constant continuous assessments and feedback, better learning outcomes will be achieved. The problem is that it is difficult to have constant continuous assessment in large classes under PPT. CBT makes assessment and instant feedback possible and delivers better learning outcomes.
“It will eliminate examination malpractices and maladministration and engender a sense of meritocracy, responsibility and transparency. These are some of the benefits that CBT will bring to our higher institutions when this innovation is introduced,” Ikazoboh concluded.
Also, the former Executive Secretary, National Universities Commission, Prof. Peter Okebukola, urged Nigerians, particularly admission seekers and students, to embrace the advantages in technology to develop themselves. JAMB, he said, was thoughtful in adopting the CBT because it would revolutionise the nation’s education sector.
Though he did not oppose the idea, a professor at the Lagos State University, Ojo, Ademola Oniffade, said JAMB should have started the CBT in 2015, arguing that it should be adopted after the stakeholders must have been educated on it and the candidates exposed to computer training.
He said, “A great idea, but I don’t think it should be rushed. Many of these candidates may not be computer illiterate in the true sense of the world, but they could be affected by fear of doing exam on computer for the first time. We should have given them enough time to master it.”
Also, some parents, including Mr. Theophillus Ajala, expressed fears that epileptic power supply and system failure could work against candidates. Moreover, some of the candidates who spoke with our correspondent expressed divergent views about the CBT.
While some expressed readiness to write the exam with either of the option, some said Nigeria was not ripe for the CBT because of lack of facilities.
“I’m ready for the examination under whatever condition. But my fear is that the CBT could enhance exam malpractice as the people that JAMB would use could compromise the integrity of the examination. Some candidates whose computers malfunction during the examination could also be short-changed or cheated by time,” Ogun State-based Oludare Akinlade, who aspires to study Law at the University of Ilorin, said.
However, another candidate from Rivers State, Miss Cynthia Princewill, said the CBT would not be a challenge for her since the state government had created a computer centre where candidates are being trained for the examination.
The Rivers State Education Commissioner, Mrs. Neni Lawrence, said the state had extended the Zenith Computer Centre to enhance the training of candidates for the UTME. Some schools in Lagos, it was also learnt, had been training their students on the use of the computer to write examinations.
However, Ojerinde said candidates had nothing to fear, as the examination body had instructed them to go on the JAMB web site for training.
On what the organisation is doing to ensure the integrity of the CBT, Ojerinde assured that its questions would not be compromised.
“We have done a lot of work, including a workshop on what could go wrong. We have tested the system and I can tell you that questions will be sent to each candidate’s screen from our headquarters seven minutes before the exam. The questions will be encrypted and will go straight to the receiver. Even if you hack our system and get the questions, you will not be able to decode it. Anyway, the question will not be sent until seven minutes to the examination time. Therefore, all candidates must have been on their seats,” he said.
On power generation, Ojerinde said all the CBT centres accredited for the examination — such as Chamms (Lagos, Port Harcourt and Abuja), Rivers State University of Science and Technology and University of Lagos — have efficient alternative power supply.
He added, “Nobody will be cheated because a candidate can stop his or her work to go to the toilet without losing time. We cannot wait until we have a perfect social infrastructural and technological facilities before we go the way the world is going. Technology is the major thing driving the world now and epileptic power supply cannot stop us, since there are alternatives to power supply.”