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Education fit for the future



JAMB Candidates protest in Lagos House of Assembly, yesterday.

JAMB Candidates protest in Lagos House of Assembly, yesterday.

Jamb: Joint Admission ‘Manipulation’ Board!
Edmund Burke once said, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing”. Over the past few weeks, I have been receiving messages and complaints on the need to write something on the just concluded UTME CBT Examination. In the face of great indictment and obvious manipulations, JAMB’s ability of being a fair umpire for tertiary admissions has become sickly questionable and manipulative. As I began to ponder on the content of my piece, I suddenly realised that this problem is not just about JAMB but also actually about a nagging fault and in our educational system.

The JAMB issue is simply an open reflection of a hidden flaw in our educational assessment system. I was privileged to be in Dubai last year (December, 2015) where teachers, educators, Heads of Schools and stake- holders from all around the world convened to talk about the evolution of a new form of education that is expedient for the future.

The conference was designed by the British Council and the theme was: “Education Fit For The Future: Planning For A Changing World.” It is poignant to note that the Nigerian form of education does not prepare students for the future. Our children are becoming endangered species in the face of a changing world; the Nigerian form of education is preparing students for a world that no longer exist, as we are churning out degree holders every year with certificates that have face value but no intrinsic worth!

We need to redesign our educational system to produce global citizens, as our students are no longer in tandem with global standards. Many people are going to the universities to do Masters and PhD for traditional, mundane and wrong reasons, there are many Master’s and PhD project works that have been dumped in the ‘heap of academic refuse’ in our libraries because they were done, not to proffer solutions to problems, but rather to add to the academic degrees of the recipients.
Alexander Trenfor said: “The best teachers are those who show you where to look, but don’t tell you what to see”. I remember one of my very brilliant students in one of the South-western Universities failing a particular course just because she was unable to copy “word for word” from her lecturer’s obsolete lecture notes. It is only in Nigeria that a lecturer prides and delights himself that students are failing his courses. Most lecturers set questions with massive failure in mind; the prime purpose of examination is to evaluate the progress of the students.

Most institutions are filled up with lecturers and pseudo-educators with lecture notes, methods and approaches that have lost relevance in a changing world. Our educational system prepares students to look for job and not to create jobs. Education is meant to be a part of the solution to unemployment but in Nigeria, our own form of education is part of the problem.
Our means of archaic educational assessment punishes students destructively for making mistakes when actually mistakes are an integral part of learning. International Examinations have designed an assessment method that rewards students even for floundering intelligently. Imagine a system that rewards students for making intelligent mistakes! When Thomas Edison was being questioned by a mischievous journalist on how he felt for having failed for 999 times before getting the idea of the light bulb, his response stunned the whole world when he confidently said: “I have not failed 999 times, I have only learnt 999 ways of how not to make a light bulb.”

A staggering number of students numbering about 500 carried placards on March 15 to the Lagos State House of Assembly calling for the state to intervene in the blatant impunity displayed by JAMB in the March 2016 University Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME). JAMB’s mode of assessment has always been enmeshed and shielded in ominous mysteries and dark secrets, from the ambiguous tale of negative markings to the mysterious ways with which they’ve always determined the fate of students in getting placements into tertiary admissions, they have never come out to plainly set their rules straight.
I am not in outright support of putting an end to the JAMB CBT Examination because technology makes learning and assessment simple, accessible and efficient. There is nothing wrong with the application of technology; the problem is always with the system. International and professional examinations like TOEFL, GMAT and GRE are CBT-based and they have, over time, become a form of reference and standard for emerging exams. While JAMB has succeeded in fighting and checkmating the devil of malpractices with the introduction of CBT, it has also succeeded in introducing a higher monster called ‘manipulation’.

If the truth be told, the last JAMB CBT examination was a fluke and a farce. The chasm between Professor Dibu Ojerinde’s assumed ideal examination and the actual reality faced by frustrated students during the last CBT test is pitiable. The least I expected from the JAMB Registrar was to understudy what went wrong and come out openly to apologise to Nigerians and many students whose “educational destinies” were tampered with. I was not able to ascertain the veracity of the pathetic story of a young boy in Lagos that committed suicide because he had 159 in the last CBT exam. Owing to the outcry from parents and students, I personally did an understudy of the claims of bogus marks allegations, addition of jumbo 40 marks for students that did theirs in the first three days of the exams and allocation of abysmal marks.

Also, the issue of unstable marks as JAMB data-base was generating ludicrous marks for students at their second and third checks of their exam results online, technical hitches, logistic flaws and various other claims. In fact, many of the students interviewed said that their English questions bear up to like 95 per cent resemblance to that of last year.
Dear Professor, could it be that JAMB has exhausted its bank of questions? I was able to get a student that was seriously marked down in the last CBT Exam; it was interesting to know that her school did a pre-Jamb test in which she got 291 but to everybody’s surprise, the ‘almighty’ JAMB gave her 182. I am challenging the Registrar of JAMB to set standard JAMB questions for this student and call professionals to ascertain that it is actually their standard, set the venue, pick the time, but, this time, the whole world would be the umpire instead of JAMB. I challenge you sir, as this student will be representing all the others that were unjustly marked down. I promise to supply her name and examination number on request. I say these on behalf of all the students that were unjustly marked down.

At this juncture, I want to emphasize a major disease in the Nigerian system of education. Our educational system has no place for vocational training and the nurturing of individual gifts. Vocational Education Training (VET) program will provide a unique kind of education that directly relates to getting a job. The Nigerian education curriculum must be redesigned to integrate VET courses, which are typically shorter and more practical than higher education courses and have industry and trade focus.

We need to redesign our educational sector in such a way that it allows for the nurturing of individual gifts, the kind of education that prepare learners to stand out rather than fit in.
I will sincerely plead that the Honourable Minister of Education set up a committee to investigate JAMB’s excesses. I am not calling for the removal of the JAMB registrar, Professor Dibu Ojerinde, I am only interested in JAMB ascertaining what went wrong and taking a bold step towards apologising officially to Nigerians and making sure that this does not repeat itself again.
I dedicate this piece to thousands of Nigerian students that were victims of JAMB’s inordinate overzealousness in the March 2016 UTME CBT Test.

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