‘Three-year validity of JAMB results possible’
The Senate, penultimate week urged the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB), to increase the validity of the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME), from one year to three years.
The lawmakers also asked JAMB to consult widely with Parents Teachers Associations (PTAs), the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and other stakeholders in the education sector with a view to coming out with a friendly, holistic, comprehensive and sustainable admissions policy.
Registrar and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of JAMB, Prof. Dibu Ojerinde, in a parley with reporters, admitted that the extension of validity period of results of UTME was possible with some modification to the examination. Ojerinde also spoke on other issues including the perennial call for the inclusion of private varsities as beneficiaries of Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFUND) in order to drive down the high fee regime holding sway in these institutions. ENOABASI SUNDAY was there. Excerpts
Is it possible to extend the shelf life of the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME), from one to three years?
It is very possible. However, there are certain clarifications that will have to be made for Nigerians to understand the implication. What we test at the moment is achievement of the candidates and not their aptitude, and if you want a test that will be valid for over a year, then it will only be proper to test them using the aptitude template.
So, to answer your question it’s possible and the board welcomes the idea. We only need to test the latent traits of the candidates instead of achievements. In other words, we will now be doing aptitude and not achievement test. And after taking our examinations, candidates will have to wait for three years to be able to take it again.
This we believe will improve the patronage of colleges of education, polytechnics and other institutions. How will it do this? Candidates who may not get the highly patronised tiers of tertiary institutions may opt for the less patronised instead of waiting endlessly for three years to retake the examination again.
However, the mode of the operation is not yet spelt out. I am yet to face the Senate Committee to understand the real problem. If we are trying to copy some other parts of the world, we must be ready to pay the price. Again, I believe that they mean well for Nigerians. But let us wait and see.
Less than half of qualified candidates get admitted into universities, yet some universities still do not utilise their full capacities. What is the board doing to address this challenges?
This is a very unfortunate and unacceptable circumstance in the conduct of admissions. First, we in the board are doing everything possible to ensure uniform calendar, which if achieve, will bring about an effective management of access.
Unfortunately, some university administrators do not understand the implication of their inaction in this respect. This year, we met during the policy meeting chaired by the minister and we agreed that October 2015 should be the deadline for 2015 admission. But as I speak, some universities are just beginning. This is not good. It is a disservice to Nigerian education. We have compiled their names and we will send it to the minister of education for appropriate sanctions. Why do we want them punished because their act has led to loss of access.
Some of these candidates on their list would have by now been admitted by other needy institutions only for them to also gain admission in their institutions, which in the final analysis will lead to loss of space that would have been taken up by other candidates.
However, for us to address the challenges of access, private institutions need to be taken seriously. The school fees they charge are too high for some of these candidates and government needs to do something may be through the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund).
If TETFund includes private institutions in their grants this will help reduce the exorbitant fees being charged by private varsities thereby attracting some of these brilliant candidates.
The recent redistribution of candidates to schools other than that of their choices appeared to have been grossly misunderstood, so, what has the board done to ensure that the benefits of the policy are not lost?
This policy was borne out of an honest desire to ensure that a reasonable number of candidates with high scores were admitted. It was also to address the lopsided application by candidates to institutions that do not have capacity to admit them, and to also ensure adequate utilisation of the few capacities for admission in our ivory towers.
Unfortunately, some selfish business concerns who collect money from these candidates in the name of giving them admission in this over-subscribed institutions hijack the process, misled these candidates and they staged what they called protest all over the place. Being a responsive organisation, we decided that it should be stopped and redesigned even when we realised that they were mislead and didn’t understand the implication of the policy and their action. This policy was to address the problem of wastages.
For instance, the University of Lagos (UNILAG), which has capacity to admit only 9,000. But over 49,000 out of over 76,000 that applied to the school were eligible for admission. Since UNILAG would not admit any score less than 200.
Certainly, they can only take 9,000. The question is what happens to the remaining 82 per cent? Since they could not just be laid off like that because they had good scores, we looked for schools around that have capacity to take them.
We asked universities to give us the requirement for the kind of candidates they wanted, and based on that, in consideration with the three admission criteria of merit, catchment and educationally less developed states; we arrived at the list we redistributed. But this beautiful initiative was aborted. These candidates were the ones whose universities of first choices would not get absorb because they had limited and definite carrying quota as given to us by the National Universities Commission (NUC).
Why should we let them waste money for post UTME, transport and other risky factors and yet not get admission? If we wanted to be selfish, we would just let the status be after all they would still come back to register. But are we helping the system by subjecting them to traversing the poles of Nigeria all in the name of looking for universities that would not admit them? The answer is no. The same candidates we were out to assist called us all sorts of names.
However, most of these candidates after losing out are now coming to beg us to place them in schools that have spaces.
This year, we have redesigned the application platform to include a second choice for candidates to pick from the lowly patronised degree awarding institutions. This is because the highly patronised ones will be over-subscribed and it will not make sense if they are given a second choice.
The 2015 UTME was conducted using the Computer Based Test (CBT). How were the experience and the challenges?
The 2015 UTME conducted purely on CBT showed very encouraging results. Our resolve for an e-examination has produced the desired result. The system succeeded in eliminating examination malpractice and also brought back the trust, credibility and acceptability that our results were known for. We are encouraged and we are working very hard to improve on the last year’s exercise. Today, our examination is taken in over six foreign nations, Europe, Asian and some African countries all courtesy of the credibility of our system.
The challenges were equally interesting, but we are gradually surmounting them. First, there was the issue of acceptability, which was as a result of fear and doubt. But this has gone with the various trial testing and the final full-blown examination on CBT.
The second was the availability of centres. But today we are even rejecting applications from centre providers for us to use their facilities. Government has also provided centres for us through the Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC).
The general public had responded positively above our estimation. This has equally brought to bear, the fact that whatever is thinkable is do-able and it is always good to take risks that would propel development.
Why was the CBT spread over one month, and will it be the same in 2016?
No, it lasted two weeks but only 11 days of examination. We will likely spend less than six examination days in 2016. In 2015, we had more days because we had few centres and today we can boast of over 500 centres and with these we are confident to conduct the examination for over one million candidates within less than six examination days.
The academic calendar in Nigerian universities is not uniform, and even the deadline for admission exercise is not adhered to. What is the board doing to address all these?
This is a very sad story. I keep asking our tertiary institutions’ administrators whether this is how they went to school during their days. Why do they want to intentionally destroy the system they benefitted and enjoyed? The board keeps fixing deadlines and the schools keep failing to meet this simple arrangement. We even told them even if you are not resuming classes, please just commence the admission process to lessen the problems of the candidates but they won’t.
JAMB is known for innovations, you introduced CBT, biometric verification, and the rest. So, what is JAMB working on at the moment?
At the moment we are working round the clock to ensure that CBT is grounded. We are currently training on Item Banking to ensure the sanctity of our test items and when we are done with all the development of the bank, we will start thinking of open book examination. We have to be ahead of those that are determined to destroy public examinations in Nigeria, Africa and the globe.
Another innovation on the board is the use of short code. We have gotten the license and we are partnering with network providers to be able to allow the candidates get their requests on their handsets. Airtel has signed an MOU with us and we are sure that other providers will key into the project. You will see what I mean when we roll it out finally.
The board is at the forefront of ensuring academic parity; it introduced the UTME to unify the hitherto two examinations for universities and others. Why is the HND/B.Sc dichotomy still very visible in our academic system with the unification of the entry requirements?
One of the greatest challenges facing the development of technical education in the country is the issue of HND/B.Sc dichotomy. This has lingered for too long and I want to urge all stakeholders concerned to ensure that this problem is solved. On our part, we merged the two hitherto examination that is UME and MPCE to what is today known as UTME, so that all the tiers of tertiary institutions now have the same entry requirements.
However, the existing placement by employers of labour for HND/B.Sc certificate holders has made our efforts to be in limbo. So many committees have been constituted, various reports submitted but, still no positive declaration on this very important issue. However, I am very optimistic that this government will right this wrong. This is a real of change; change for the better.
Teacher education has been relegated to the background are you comfortable with this position?
The development of teacher education is one of my top-most heart desires. Being a teacher all through my life, the only legacy I can bequeath to my nation is to ensure that teacher education gets the best. Unfortunately, the story has not been a pleasant one. The situation is so pathetic that at times only colleges of education admit the leftovers. The cut-off marks are lower for entry requirements, teachers’ welfare is poor and when the economic realities bite hard, the only sector that is being selected for salary reform is teaching.
I am praying so hard that the present administration addresses these challenges. If teachers as ministers of education couldn’t do it, I believe a non-teacher- minister will do it. On my part I will give the present minister all the necessary support as a teacher to ensure that the story is glorious; we should not keep quiet.
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