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Probing the procedure, credibility of TRCN examination

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As the Teachers Registration Council of Nigeria (TRCN) and its partners keep strategising on how to remove unqualified teachers from the Nigerian school system by the end of January, some teachers in the country, who have passed through the body’s examination, have queried the credibility of its examination, as well as its intents and mission, Ujunwa Atueyi reports.

First, the teachers argued that the content of the TRCN’s test and its style of administration were not sufficient enough to measure competency.They based their argument on the premise that the true knowledge of a teacher cannot be tested and measured through multiple-choice questions, as they alleged that over 65 per cent of the examination were close-ended questions.

Specifically, they said if the council is determined to set standard and dignify the profession, the examination ought to have provision for essay questions that will allow teachers to critically and analytically express themselves.

Other teachers, who called out the council on social media platforms, described the entire process as a waste of time and resources, accusing the council of using the exercise to generate revenues. However, some stakeholders who spoke with The Guardian affirmed that any institution whose assessment system suffers credibility gap should indeed be worried, but in this case, the hues and cries, they upheld were done out of ignorance.

The teachers in narrating their experiences after the examination last month claimed that the main purpose of the exercise is to generate revenue for government as the content of the exam and the procedure does not portray dignity.Mrs. Patricia Ugwu (not real name), recalled, “My school proprietress encouraged us to go and sit for the examination so as to obtain the TRCN certificate. So, I prepared and went for the examination last year, but to my greatest dismay, the set questions did not meet up with my expectations. More so, it was more of close-ended questions; in fact the entire settings and the coordination did not meet the mental picture I had before going there.

“Being TRCN, I expected that they would be really out to test our knowledge and competence. But at the end of the day, I only concluded that they are more interested in generating funds through the registration and licensing fees, than assessing the capabilities of teachers. I have been in this profession for more than eight years, and what I saw at my examination centre was not a true method of testing teachers knowledge.”
 
Another teacher, Chidi Ejiogu, said he was totally disappointed after his experience at the examination venue. “I wrote the TCRN examination sometime last year and I had a very ugly experience. I arrived at the venue at 9.15 am and got registered immediately, like many other candidates who came for the examination. I made it to the hall around 3:00p.m. When I went through the questions, I shook my head in disbelief. About 65 questions were set on the multi-choice pattern.

“How can you assess a teacher without subjecting him or her to essay questions? If a teacher cannot communicate with learners because he/she is grammatically challenged or has horrible handwriting, how does TRCN rectify the defects? I teach English Language and should be examined based on my area of specialisation. I left the examination venue looking confused,” he said.Some of them also queried why they were subjected to write the TRCN test after obtaining NCE, Bachelor of Education and other qualifications.

But experts in the sector have expressed disappointment at the manner in which teachers are condemning the exercise, saying they lack basic knowledge and understanding of what it takes to be a member of a profession.Dean, Faculty of Education, Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Prof. Ademola Adeleke, said first and foremost, testing people’s knowledge through multiple-choice examination does not invalidate the purpose of the test in any way.

According to him, “TRCN has come to stay, it is a making of the federal government to ensure that people that are in the teaching profession are qualified and registered. People seem to have forgotten that teaching is a profession just like any other profession like engineering, accounting and others. And I have not seen a member of such other profession, coming up to either doubt or discredit the process of accrediting members of such a profession.

“That somebody has a degree in education even up to PhD degree, does not mean he/she will not be subjected to exam for that person to be registered as a member of that profession. It happens in other professions too. If you have PhD in engineering and you want to become a registered engineer, you are subjected to a process of examination. So it is a normal thing. Subjected someone to an exam in order to be a member of a profession, is a due process.

Then on the other hand, he continued, “The multiple-choice questions do not remove or reduce the credibility of the exam. As a matter of fact, expert in test, measurement and evaluation are even advocating more of multiple-choice exams. Multiple-choice has an advantage of covering a very wide area of a subject matter. If you subject a student to an essay exam, at best you could give five or six questions, which has a limit as to the extent you cover the subject matter. But if it is multiple-choice, you can have as many as 25 or 50 questions. That gives you the opportunity of covering a wider area.

“So, I do not believe that a multiple-choice exam is less than an essay exam. It depends on who constructed the exam. There are procedures; there is due process of constructing multiple-choice exam that would even test as deeply as you want it to test. In education there is what we call the bloom taxonomy of educational objectives and it tells about the different levels of knowledge you can test. It covers a wide range and multiple-choice questions can be used to test all those ranges. So, I do not subscribe to the opinion that multiple-choice is of lower standard in testing teachers knowledge.”

Corroborating Adeleke’s view, former WAEC Examiner and Chief Lecturer, Yaba College of Technology, Dr. Patricia Akumabor, said since test experts have validated the exam, it is inappropriate for the teachers to query its credibility. “What they need to do is to get prepared and sit for the examination. That is how it is done in other professions. I obtained my TRCN in 2006, but then, they have not started the examination aspect. Since the exam has been introduced it is a good development that should be accepted by all, rather than criticising it, considering the importance of the profession in human and national wellbeing.”

Meanwhile, the Registrar of the council, Prof. Josiah Ajiboye, has dismissed the uproar of the complainants, saying they lack basic facts and understanding of the operations of the council.Ajiboye in a chat with The Guardian explained that the test being administered by the council was developed and validated by experts in the knowledge industry, adding that it is comparable to international standard.

He said: “The teachers have been trained by their various institutions and they have their degrees and diplomas. What the TRCN is administering is not an achievement test, it is a qualifying examination and so it is a multi-choice examination. It is a computer-based test that has been developed by test experts selected from various institutions across the country, to be able to measure the competency of teachers in the area of pedagogical knowledge, understanding of psychological and philosophical principles, as well as principles and practice of education.

“So the test has been validated by experts in the area of test and measurement, and they are adequately able to measure teachers’ knowledge of pedagogy, psychology, philosophy, principles and practice of education, generally. So the tests are comparable to the entire test items used for the same purpose globally.”

Refuting the claim that the council’s interest is hinged on generating IGR for government, Ajiboye said: “There is no profession where the people or members will not be registered. In fact, one of the major criterion of calling an occupation a profession is that there must be a regulatory authority, and individual members of that profession must subscribe to that regulatory authority, and definitely, you have to renew your licence.

“The licence fee is N6000 and is valid for three years. But to make it easy for teachers, we decided to make it N2000 yearly. So all our decisions were in the interest of the teachers. We know what is obtainable in other professions; do they charge N6000 for renewal of license in Nursing or Law? Go and see how much people pay to their regulatory authorities. But as teachers we are always conservative in our charges.

He continued: “When you look at the amount we collect for the examination, you cannot compare it in any way to what is being collected by ICAN for example. You can never compare it! So this is a profession, and as professionals we have to be responsible and it is compulsory that teachers have to know that part of the things that made them professional is for them to be registered by their professional body and to subscribe to that professional body.

“In fact, in some circles they are thinking that TRCN should increase the amount that we charge, but we said no, there is no need for it. When teachers’ welfare is improved, we know that ultimately, there will always be a consequential increment later on. But presently, we still maintain what we charge; we have not increased any of our rates in the past one-decade, and we are not planning to do so.”

Ajiboye in concluding stated that the council would continue to selflessly execute its mandate, as that is the only way they will separate the wheat from the chaff. “For goodness sake, you get your BSc and HND from various institution, but if you want to be a chartered accountant, you just have to pass Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN) examination. The same thing will continue in teaching profession. If there is any profession that should be regulated, it supposed to be the teaching profession because we are the mother of all other professions.”


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Patricia UgwuTRCN
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