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Reducing exam malpractice through computer-based tests




PROF. Dibu Ojerinde is the registrar and chief executive officer of the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB).

Ojerinde in a chat with journalists, last week, in Abuja said that the introduction of computer-based test (CBT) had led to reduction in exam malpractice in the country.

He said that the introduction of the CBT was for the development of the Nigerian child and the betterment of all Nigerians desirous of improvement in the educational standard.

Ojerinde said at the end, it was a win-win for the Board, the candidates, parents and the Nigerian education.

Contrary to a school of taught which believes that the standard of education in the country is going down, Ojerinde said that compared to the standard of education 10 to 20 years, one would begin to appreciate the efforts made by various state governments, federal government and some educational institutions.

He, however, said that when the standard of the country’s education was compared to the western world, one would realise that Nigeria was still far behind and that was why JAMB had decided to take advantage of the technology to reposition education.

JAMB is a Nigerian entrance examination board for tertiary-level institutions. The board conducts entrance examinations for prospective undergraduates into Nigerian universities. The board is also charged with the responsibility to administer similar examinations for applicants to Nigerian public and private monotechnics, polytechnics, and colleges of educations. All of these candidates must have obtained the West Africa School Certificate, now West African Examinations Council, WAEC, or its equivalent, National Examination Council Nigeria(NECO).
Ojerinde, who was first appointed as the registrar/chief executive of JAMB in April 2007, was born in Igboho, Oyo State.

Ojerinde is the first Nigerian professor of Tests and Measurement. He was pioneer director, Monitoring and Evaluation, National Primary Education Commission (NPEC), 1990 to 1991, first director/consultant, Centre for Educational Measurement (CEM), Federal Ministry of Education (FME) 1991 to 1992, the first registrar/chief executive, National Board for Educational Measurement (NBEM), 1992 to 1999 and the first registrar/chief executive, NECO 1999 to 2007.

Ojerinde authored and co-authored several books, manuscripts, monographs including published and unpublished articles.

He was the editor, Ife Journal of Theory and Research in Education and he is currently involved in the development of aptitude tests for Junior Secondary Schools in Nigeria. Ojerinde belongs to several professional bodies both at home and abroad.

He is the president of the International Association for Educational Assessment (IAEA) and the vice-president of the Association for Educational Assessment in Africa (AEAA) and a member of the Nigerian Psychological Association (NPA), Educational Studies Association of Nigeria (ESAN) among others.

On what informed the computer based test, Ojerinde said: “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.

“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.”

Reacting to suggestions that the introduction of the CBT will affect most candidates since they are not familiar with using computer test for their routine examination, Ojerinde said: “What is a computer? It’s a device that performs complex and specific task 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, confess that the CBT is the best 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.

“These candidates that you feared may not be able to operate the computer have mobile phones and they can send SMS, go to social media sites and perform some complex tasks with their smart phones successfully. The use of the computer for the examination is even simpler than what they do with phones.

“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.

“However, before the examination starts candidates are tutored between 10 to 15 minutes on how to use the computer to write the examination, all they have to do is to pay attention and do exactly what they are told. Truly speaking, when we look at the percentage of the candidates that cannot operate the computer it is minimal compare to those that can use it.

“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.”

What have been the challenges of using the CBT far? The JAMB registrar explained: “Well, so far the major challenge of CBT is acceptability among some parents and guardians, because they believe that their wards cannot operate computers. Even those who can operate computer still have this impression that it’s too early for Nigeria to adopt such a technology. They think it’s too good to be a Nigerian thing.

“The irony is that other nations are falling over each other to come to Nigeria to understudy what we are doing. Nations that started CBT decades ago are at a loss as to how we were able to develop our design to conduct the examination for over a million when they are still battling with thousands. We are being appreciated outside while our own people think we are too fast dragging education at an unprecedented speed. The Board has made revenue for Nigeria exporting this technology as other global examination bodies come into Nigeria, pay taxes, patronise our tourist point courtesy of CBT.

“Others fear that the unavailability of steady electricity supply in the country will disrupt the policy, which to us in JAMB is not a challenge because any accredited CBT centre in Nigerian must have an alternative power supply for the duration of the examination else such a centre will not be approved in the first place.”

How do you intend to address these challenges in the future? Ojerinde said: “CBT has come to stay and with the successful conduct this year every stakeholder would have no option than to key into CBT. I am sure that some individuals were waiting to see how JAMB would do it, and I want to believe that with the success everybody will just follow naturally. Already the Federal Government is building centres for us and state governments are also building centres so CBT has come to stay.
Nigerians have seen the simplicity of CBT and the reliability of the results is what will do the magic.

“In the next few years no body will be talking about any mode of examination other than CBT.

We will continue in our appeal to local, state, federal government and private individuals to invest in the building of at least one CBT center in their locality.

“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.”

Is the process really sustainable? The JAMB registrar said: “Oh yes, 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 is 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.

“As we all know the start of everything is always the most difficult part. Now that we have conducted CBT for over 1.4 million candidates for the first time and it has been applauded and enjoined as a success by most stakeholders, then subsequent years will definitely be an easier task. We have trained our staff which means we have the technical know-how so it is sustainable.”

On what other measures JAMB is taking to make sure that examination malpractice is brought to the minimal level, Ojerinde said: “From time to time, we try to introduce policies that will cut down incidences of malpractice to its minimal.

“In 2010 the Board introduced the use of the Biometric Verification Machine (BVM) which captures both the passport photograph and finger print of candidates at registration point and they are also verified with the same data before entry into the examination hall on the examination day. This innovation has been very helpful in combating impersonation.

“The Board also introduced the use of handheld scanners in examination process to detect electronic gadgets that could be sneaked in by the candidates during examination such as handsets/telephones, calculator and other unauthorised gadgets. This process has gone a long way to bridge communication between candidates and their machineries during examination.

“The Board produces question papers in different ‘types’ for candidates writing the same subject combinations. This process has surely curbed examination malpractice to a large extent and has discouraged candidates from communing with themselves and or copping from each other during examination. This concept of differential questions is more elaborately performed at the CBT. Indeed, each candidate is given a customised test.

“The CBT was introduced in 2012 and was first tried in 2013. This was introduced to partly curb the incidence of smuggling out question papers by machineries who only registered for the examination for the sole purpose of taking out question papers, solve and return then and all forms of malpractice and unholy acts during and after examination. The prompt release of results is also a policy act associated with CBT to discourage and attempt by whoever to defraud the candidates in the name of helping them with whatever.

“The Board has also formulated a policy that will deny any candidate caught for examination malpractice the chance to sit for the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) for at least three years.

“It is our wish that candidates that are handed over to security agencies over malpractice related offences will be thoroughly and severely punished publicly to serve as deterrent to other candidates that may want to perpetuate such act. However, with CBT the story is different. We have less or no headache at all over malpractice.”

Reacting on the issue of the standard of education in the country, Ojerinde said: “Well it all depends on how you look at this issue of educational standard in Nigeria. When you compare the standard of education of this country lets say 10-20 years ago compare to what we have now you will begin to appreciate the efforts made by various state government, federal government and some educational institutions.

“On the other hand, if you want to compare the standard of our education to the western world you realise that we are still far behind and that is why we in JAMB have decided to take advantage of the technology to reposition education. With CBT the story will be encouraging in the near future.

“Frankly speaking, I will say that the standard is improving but there are many more rooms for improvements, however to attain such height everybody has a role to play and we must play it well for posterity sake.”

Going forward, where do you want JAMB to be in the next two years, Ojerinde said: “In the next two years I foresee a JAMB that will conduct the CBT examination within a maximum of five days.

“I see a JAMB that will stand as a reference point to other public examination bodies around the globe.

“I see a JAMB that will be consulted by both local and international bodies in terms of examination and recruitment on medium and large scale.

“I see a JAMB that will conduct a 100 per cent hitch free and malpractice free examination. I see a world acclaim JAMB in few years to come.”

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