That JAMB’s UTME may be more credible
JAMB (the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board), in recent times, has earned a lot of public accolades in Nigeria for its ability to pay billions of naira back into federal accounts. This is a positive development from public perception of JAMB just three years ago, when it gained national and international notoriety because its staff declared that a snake swallowed thirty-six million naira in one of JAMB’s offices. While the public’s perception of the institution with regards to financial probity is on the rise, her reputation as an examination body that organises fair, credible, and dependable examinations, continues to be called to question by many Nigerian students, parents, and numerous educational stakeholders.
The fundamental responsibilities of JAMB are to conduct reliable and trustworthy matriculation examinations and to offer admissions into tertiary institutions in Nigeria, as well as to circulate helpful information about the processes of its examination to potential candidates and other stakeholders. JAMB ought to guarantee that competent examiners and invigilators are appointed to proctor their Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UMTE). JAMB is duty bound therefore to ensure that all the processes of implementing the examination they conduct are transparent, fair, and trustworthy. The delivery of this examination should be such that the results are seen by the stakeholders, including parents and tertiary institutions, as a true assessment of the abilities of the examined candidates.
The innovative use of Computer Based Test (CBT) by JAMB since 2013, in implementing this examination, is laudable for several reasons: First, it encourages speedy feedback on examination results. Such system reduces the anxiety and stress that a long period of waiting for such results could cause. Second, CBT and the use of other technologies reduce the opportunity for examination malpractices, thus making the examination more transparent and credible. Third, it challenges JAMB candidates to become more familiar with computer technology, thus preparing them for education and work in the 21st Century. Fourth, it provides immense research data for JAMB and those interested in educational development in the country. Thus, JAMB’s implementation of CBT is very appropriate.
In spite of the many benefits of JAMB’s CBT, there are irregularities that still need to be addressed by the examination body for UTME to be considered more credible. One of such is the failure often reported of JAMB’s CBT examination delivery agents to safeguard the examination processes in a manner that is as flawless as possible for each candidate. A simple search on the internet indicate that obvious irregularities continue to plague the delivery of this examination, leaving many candidates unfairly assessed and distraught. There are several reports of JAMB candidates being disoriented by faulty computer systems, poor internet access, etc. These failures put to question the credibility of JAMB’s assessment of its candidates. While JAMB has responded to some of these challenges by delisting the defaulting centers and rescheduling the examinations of candidates, there are several candidates who feel that they have been treated unfairly by this umpire. JAMB is expected to ensure that candidates are fairly assessed as they compete with their peers in the quest for admissions into tertiary institutions in Nigeria.
When candidates have certain experiences that make them cry for redress due to flawed examination processes, it is a failure on the part of JAMB. While the number of such candidates may appear to some as statistically insignificant, yet the effect of such deficiencies on a candidate’s educational career is enormous, and the impact on such a person’s future is very significant. Hence, there is need for JAMB to do its best to avoid such problems. But when such problems occur, it is extremely important for JAMB to ensure that it thoroughly investigates the issues: this will assure students, parents and tertiary institutions that rely on JAMB’s assessments for admission, that the results it issues and the admissions it offers, are credible.
JAMB’s examination proctors should be very diligent in reporting problems they encounter and notice. JAMB should find appropriate ways to hold their invigilators accountable for failures in diligence. Thankfully, there are opportunities for candidates to give feedback to JAMB: each one of those feedback should be given due attention. Every candidate who reports examination irregularities deserves timely and comprehensive feedback. It does not make sense for JAMB to release the result of anyone whose feedback borders on his or her inability to write or complete the examination due to technical issues that the candidate cannot be held responsible for. Releasing such result without giving the candidate any response says to the candidate that he or she does not matter; it further indicates that fairness and equity do not mean much to JAMB. Such action by JAMB is not only insensitive, but it amounts to an abuse that adds trauma to the disappointment the candidate already has already experienced. Such attitude does not nurture trust in this examination body.
As a matter of fact, appropriate examination management software can be deployed to assist JAMB with credible and timely feedback on irregularities, especially with regards to the computer consoles that candidates use for their examination. With such timely feedback, JAMB can correct some of these challenges in a timely manner or give adequate considerations and responses to candidates who have challenges that militate against their fair assessment.
The credibility of UTME should never be in doubt. Thus, JAMB ought to ensure that every candidate who sits this examination is fairly assessed. But when this is not possible, JAMB should ensure that each candidate’s feedback is thoroughly investigated and given proper redress if the complaint is verified. Efforts, strategies, and investments in making this happen will go a long way in respecting the candidates and improving the credibility of JAMB’s UTME.
Fr. Nweke, a Catholic priest and educational consultant, lives and works in Lagos.