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The Intrigues Of Scrapping Post-UTME

Posted: Jun 6, 2016 at 7:57 pm   /   by   /   comments (0)

As the dust of the outcry that greeted the controversial 2016 JAMB screening test for admission of candidates into tertiary institutions in Nigeria is yet to settle, the Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu’s pronouncement to cancel Post-UTME has been generating mixed reactions. Just as the academia too is divided on the propriety or otherwise of the decision, parents and guardians whose children have fallen victims of the second test welcomed the development. In this report: Emmanuel Okwuke, Oyeniran Apata, Andrew Utulu and Precious Nkasiobi examine the different position of Nigerians on the decision.


The recent pronouncement by the Minister of Education,  Mallam Adamu Adamu, on Thursday, ordering that the  controversial Post-Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (Post-UTME) as standard test for screening of candidates into tertiary institutions in Nigeria examinations usually organised by universities in Nigeria for admission seekers after the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examinations be scrapped,  has stirred up agitation for and against the continued relevance of the tests or examination as an assessment to measure test-takers knowledge, skill aptitude or classification in many areas of learning has become an acceptable norm in a world where Nigerians also belong.

Position of government on the issue is that it had absolute confidence in the relevance and ability of the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB), there should be no need for Universities to conduct internal examinations to determine the fate of candidates seeking admissions.

The Minister gave the order at the National Universities Commission (NUC) in Abuja, while declaring open the 2016 combined policy meeting on admissions to Universities, Polytechnics and other higher institutions in Nigeria. The combined policy meeting is an annual forum where admission officers and stakeholders from universities, polytechnics and other tertiary institutions converge to debate on common cut-off points for admissions.

Like other countries, Nigeria has a body that regulates educational qualifying examinations. Four prominent public examination bodies in Nigeria are JAMB, the National Business and Technical Examination Board (NABTEB), the National Examination Council (NECO), and the West African Examination Council (WAEC) among others at the states and local education authority level.

A test may be administered verbally, on paper, on a computer, or in a confined area that requires a test taker to physically perform a set of skills.

However, in Nigeria it is mandatory that candidates in search of admission to any of the tertiary institutions in Nigeria, whether federal, state, or private, take and pass the JAMB Examinations before being considered for the Post-UTME screening, conducted by each university, polytechnic and college of education before final issuance of admission letters to successful lucky candidates.

As at the last count in March, Nigeria has 40 federal, 40 states and 62 private universities bringing the total in the university categories to 142. In the polytechnic education sector, the country has 25 federal, 40 states, and 32 private polytechnics bringing the total to 97. This is also in addition to about 135 VEIs/IEIs training centres spread across the country.


 History of Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB)

JAMB was established in 1977 by the then Federal Military Government of Nigeria. It is Nigeria’s official entrance examination board for candidates seeking admission to all Universities in the country.

Prior to its establishment, each university was responsible in conducting concessional screening tests for the admission of students into courses and programmes. JAMB is a Nigerian entrance examination board for tertiary-level institutions. The examinations being administered are available for most students who choose to apply to Nigerian public and private Monotechnics, Polytechnics, and Universities.

Most of these candidates must already have concluded their external examinations, administered either by the West African Examinations Council (WAEC) or the Nigerian National Examination Council (Nigeria) (NECO).

The general untidiness in the uncoordinated system of admissions into universities and the attendant problems were sufficient cause for concern to the committee of Vice Chancellors. The committee of Vice-Chancellors was concerned about this problem. Consequently, the government set up a National Committee on University Entrance Examination under the Chairmanship of Mr. M. S. Angulu and that Committee recommended setting up JAMB.


Introduction of Post-UME Screening by Universities

Post-UME now Post-UTME was introduced for further screening of prospective candidates for admission into the nation’s tertiary institutions in 2005, through the Minister of Education, Mrs. Chinwe Obaji. This policy made it mandatory for all tertiary institutions to screen candidates after their JAMB results and before giving admission.

Candidates with a score of 200 and above would be shortlisted by JAMB and their names and scores sent to their universities of choice which would screen again using aptitude tests, oral interviews, or other examination. Obaji asserts that some candidates scored 280 and above in JAMB but could not score 20 percent in the post-JAMB examination, believing that those students must have cheated on their JAMB examinations and could not pass the Post-JAMB examination because there was no way to cheat.

However, the conduct of the second test soon became a subject of interest to stakeholders in the tertiary education as protest mounted on the allegation that universities and other institutions have turned it to a goldmine primarily to shore up Internally Generated Revenue (IGR).

It is also on record that the Late President Musa Yar’Adua, in an address delivered on his behalf during the 33rd and 34th convocation ceremony of the University of Benin, remarked that the Post-UME may be cancelled if complaints against its conduct by students, parents, and guardians persist.

Also, NUC and JAMB had at a time called for the streamlining of Post-UME screening in order to avoid government intervention and the elimination of Post-UME screening.

The House of Representatives Committee on Education in their oversight visits to educational agencies, in the past, learned that universities had turned the screening of students seeking admission into money-making venture. The then Chairman of the Committee was reported to have suggested the need to call a stakeholders’ meeting on the issue.


Reactions From The Ivory Tower

Reacting to the development that has received condemnations and applause, Professor Chidiebere Onyia, a former Faculty of the California State University, Dominguez Hills, California and visiting Professor, Faculty of Education, University of Nigeria Nsukka, expressed regrets that many times Federal Government’s policies sometimes come across as reactionary and not well thought out.

He frowned at the decision of the minister, saying that it was based on his personal conviction that has no proven reasons for cancellation.

According to him, “I am surprised that the Hon. Minister’s action is based on his personal conviction and not on empirical evidence that the higher education admission process as it currently stands is flawed.

He added, “I understand the sentiments that could have led to this decision, but scrapping a second level assessment into the university clearly communicates that the quality assurance issues that led to the introduction of Post-UTME by the University of Nigeria, University of Ibadan, University of Lagos, and the rest have been addressed and to the best of my knowledge those issues are still unresolved.

Prof Onyia stated that by implications it means that tertiary institutions will now rely on JAMB results for admission, he charged managers of the level of education concerned to develop a more robust internal assessment to process candidates.

He advised that: “Students that are admitted based on fraudulent JAMB results should be sent to a remedial programmes in whatever name if they perform far below average in their first year.

Unsure about the position of the NUC in the new development, he opined that the development had only placed extra quality assurance measures on universities, saying that the situation calls for some further thinking, funding and human capacity to implement.

“I am not also sure where NUC stands in this new development. This news will make some people happy and others sad, but the bigger question is how this new policy direction aligns to our long term goals for quality education in higher education and the competitiveness of our graduates.

“I am not sure if this approach will move us closer to quality graduates considering that the difficulty we currently experience with the preparedness of some of our students is upper primary and secondary problem,” he added.

Apparently worried at the euphoria that the development had generated among other categories of Nigerians, especially parents and guardians that the development will lead to access to universities where first choice preference for degree-awarding institutions stood at 97.78 per cent as against 1.1 per cent for National Certificate in Education and National Diploma courses, Prof Onyia dismissed the excitement as unfounded for logistics.

He said, “This new policy will not improve access because universities have not been given more capacity in terms of infrastructure to accommodate more students.

“The number of students admitted last year based on the current carrying capacity will still apply this year except if more universities have increased their capacity to enroll more students into same courses offered the previous year or based on addition of new courses.

Both ways these universities must have corresponding lecture halls and faculty accommodation to match the anticipated increase.

He submitted that the examination dreaded by both prospective candidates and their parents will not in any way stop parents who perhaps have lost confidence in the local system to enroll their wards in institutions overseas.

“Therefore it will not affect parents taking their children abroad rather it might escalate the flight to schools abroad. I am yet to see the data from the research unit of the Federal Ministry of Education or NUC showing a correlation between requirement for students to take post-UTME and parent decision for children to study abroad.

Emphasising the need for further test of candidates before admission into tertiary education he added, “I will also like to point out that SAT, TOEFL etc are assessments that students take to gain admission into universities abroad. Institutions also conduct other forms of interviews in addition to these assessments before admission is concluded.

“Therefore, different countries have their own understanding of the process for admitting qualified students into programmes in their universities. I am yet to understand Nigeria’s process and what empirical evidence it is anchored on. That way new leaders will not change policies without objective evidence and clarity on how new decision will strengthen our education system and quality of graduates.


Address Shortcomings Of CBT, Not Scrap Post-UTME

Wondering why the various observable shortcomings and flaws in the conduct of the 2016 UTME was wished away by the authority, he interpreted the minister’s statement to imply that the board’s approach to the conduct and assessment of candidates will continue till a reason arises to stop.

“Computer Based Test (CBT) being one of the approaches to meeting the increasing number of candidates will continue even with all the flaws so far identified. Clearly most of the students that were affected by the system malfunctions in the last JAMB examination will wonder why government is still pursuing a plan that they do not have adequate capacity to handle.

“Don’t get me wrong, I understand the thinking leading to the decision for CBT however because we are in a technologically driven world and a generation that is more comfortable with technology tools for teaching, learning and assessment does not mean that we will jump into it with both legs just to say we are technology driven.

He continued, “The backbone for deploying such tools must reflect in the hardware and software adopted for this process; meaning that JAMB will need more resources to make this a good experience for their candidates.

“JAMB will need to rethink its current decision to increase the use of CBT without addressing the numerous complaints by parents and students and policy makers will need to allocate more money to JAMB to meet the increasing demand on them by parents and students,” he said.

He admitted that ‘once they address these issues without being defensive we will have a process that works and add value to the assessment process especially as it relates to the turnaround time for student result publication.’


Don Calls On FG To Stop Encroaching On Established Norms

Professor Soji Aremu, Deputy Director (Academic), Distance Learning Centre, University of Ibadan (UI) is worried at the continued encroachment on established norms by those at the helm of affairs.

He called the attention of Nigerians to the problems of governance in Nigeria, saying that uninformed policy direction makes mockery of established norms.

“The statement credited to the Minister of Education in respect of scrapping of Post-UTME would not only bring confusion into the admission policy in respect of university education, it also amount to an attempt to rubbish University autonomy.

“University autonomy is not only in term of university governance, it also include admission policy as deem fit by each University Senate. The said policy statement would further bring chaos into admission ?exercise in 2016/17 Academic year,” he added.

He dismissed the 180 peg as cut off mark saying it is practically impossible for Federal Universities to make use of the peg given the increasing number of candidates who compete for limited number of spaces.

He opined that the policy statement would also give candidates and their parents? and guardians’ false illusion of admission possibility into federal universities when the Minister himself knows this is not possible.

Wondering at the quality of university representation at the purported 2016 Combined Policy Meeting on Admission where the decisions were reached, Professor Aremu queried whether the Ministry of Education ventured to carry out a normative evaluation of UTME and Post-UTME scores of candidates in some selected subjects and correlate same with students’ academic performance after first year in the university?

He dismissed insinuations of extortion as possible reasons for the minster’s decision, saying “The issue is not that of extortion as the Ministry of Education is made to believe, but rather that of ensuring quality due to the ‘failure’ of JAMB in ensuring same. This would not also guarantee access given about 1.5 million candidates seeking for a limited number of places in public universities (especially first generation universities).

Prof Aremu submitted that, “Obviously, it would be resisted by the universities as the question of quality is determined by University senates and not JAMB and Ministry of Education.”


Hidden Agenda

Still from the academia, Professor Ayodeji Olukoju, former Vice Chancellor, Caleb University, Imota, Lagos State, blamed the rationale for cancellation of the screening test on the failure of JAMB to give credible verifiable scores, saying whether that error or poor performance has been defiled by CBT we can’t verify or validate it now.

“The original motive of doing a second screening through post- UTME is something that is good and will remain good.  I think that the decision to scrap it was not a good decision and after due consultation with all the stakeholders the second thing is that it erode the autonomy of Nigerian universities and in my own opinion. I think that it undermine the ability of universities to be competitive.

“I think that JAMB as the single clearing house for all students coming into universities is overburdened and any mistake at that point is like the leader sin is a leading sin and therefore JAMB itself should even give opportunity for others to access its work.

He added, “If truly it claimed its products are good, let them go through another screening because at the end of the day they are going to be graduate of Nigeria universities and not graduate of JAMB and therefore the decision to scrap if it is true was taken in haste and for me it is also suggestive of a sectional or hidden agenda.”

Hon. Ifaluyi Isibor, President of the University of Benin alumni association, who condemned the decision, opined that though it might be popular, the pronouncement will end up destroying the university system in the country.

The erstwhile member of the Federal House of Representatives opined that the policy whereby the JAMB set the standard and do the admission of new intakes was a populist idea, but was capable of backfiring on low admission mark.

“If the government says the cutoff should be 180 marks what will happen when there are large number of students who score above that point. Will the facility be adequate to accommodate them?”


Conflicting Signals

Also, in his submission, the immediate past chairman of the south-south zone of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Professor Anthony Monyei, said that the signals is conflicting considering that the registrar of JAMB later affirmed that the universities are acting in order by doing their own internal screening so as to stop impostors from gaining admission into the universities.

Speaking for the private university sector under the aegis of the Committee of Vice Chancellors and Registrars of Private Universities of Nigeria (CVCRPUN) and Vice Chancellor of Bells University of Technology (BELLSTECH), Ota, Ogun State, Professor Isaac Adeyemi welcome the development, saying that institutions will only come up with new screening methods that will not be called post-UTME.

“I think and I believe that the statement emanated from the confidence of the minister in the administration of JAMB and the conduct of the examination. The noticeable insinuations about the exam in the 90s especially formed the basis for which universities introduced post-UTME.

Now that the examination in being done on-line had brought back some level of confidence of stakeholders in the body. Although, there were some pluses and minuses, but it appears the minister seemed convinced that the result is a little bit more authentic.

For those of us in the private university sector it is a welcome development. We want to ensure that the right quality of candidates are coming into the university system, by interacting with the candidates one on one we will be able to measure about 80 to 90 per cent of the student’s character and standard before admission.

Believing that the minister had not ruled out the idea of screening completely, Professor Adeyemi said the implication was that JAMB results only should be used to screen candidates.

Addressing the issue of 180 as cut off mark, the CVCRPUN Chairman said it was not a recent development, saying that no university will admit candidates with marks lower than 240 in some science programmes.

“Mind you not all universities will come down as low as 180 for admission. Some universities will use so many parameters for admission of candidates into a particular programme; the number of vacancies that is available and the range of scores by candidates.

“Take for instance in medicine hardly could you find a student in the science being admitted with 180. In some courses you cannot even go below 240.  In the college of medicine hardly can you find candidates with marks lower than 220 being admitted for a programme in that area. Students are admitted on merit. 180 is just the barest minimum and it has been the minimum cut off mark in the last 15 years or thereabout,” he stated.

Other Stakeholders

Parents and guardians believe the cancellation was in order considering the level of corruption perpetrated by officials to book a place for desperate candidates.

Chief (Dr.) Osita Chukwu, National Coordinator, Save Nigeria Freight Forwarders, said this is the best thing that could happen in the education sector. He argued that the proponents of this system did not pass through it. The idea is basically for corruption.

“Most of them that are doing this did not pass through that process. We are all graduates and we did not pass through such process. Even abroad, it is not done. In some places, there is nothing like JAMB. Students only undergo some kind of tests and thereafter are offered admission into the university or polytechnic.

“For the Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu to do this, it is a good omen in the education sector and a good one on the mantra of change agenda of the federal government. Parents pay for JAMB and also pay for post-UME, it is wrong. In some other places, such test is once and they call it board. Once you pass the test, you go into the university.

The post UME has been used to defraud and frustrate many students. Some of them after several trials get frustrated and give up hope. Some due to frustration joined criminal gangs and cult. The system has been used to dupe a lot of people. This has made a lot of intelligent students to stay at home for four years and above,” Chukwu said.

Anya Njoku, a maritime journalist said they do this to favour some people in the society who are well to do to the detriment of the poor masses. “It is clear that JAMB has a standard. Would the various universities and polytechnics now say that their standards are better than that of JAMB? It is just corruption all the way. It is a good step the minister has taken.

John Agili, a student who had passed JAMB three times, but was denied admission through post-UTME says it is good news. The schools use it as an avenue to make money. They charge parents and students between N250,000 and N500,000 to secure admission.

“If you cannot pay, that means your child or ward will not go into higher institution. Many parents do not have money to pay such and we do not believe in paying bribe to secure my admission. If we do so, that means we will continue to do that until I graduate. I know I am not a dull student. I even thanked my parents for their patience.”

For David Onyisi, who has been at home since three years trying to make it after scoring high in three JAMB examinations, but denied the chances through post-UTME, said, “When some parents come out to boast that their children scored high in all their subjects during the West African School Certificate Examination and GCE as well as passing the JAMB and Post-UMTE, I do laugh.

This is because I knew their children to be very dull in secondary school. They will not tell you that money changed hands before their children gained admission to tertiary institution.

I can tell you that throughout my years in secondary school, my overall positions were either first or second. We were two that struggles for first or second position. Myself and one girl. While we were in SS2 and SS3, teachers do make us to teach other students. I came out in flying colours, crediting all my papers.

But today, some of those I was teaching are almost graduating, while I am still searching for admission. It is just a corrupt society. I give kudos to the minister of education. Brilliant students will now smile after passing their JAMB”, David said.

Also investigation reveals that university and polytechnic lecturers and staff have their quota in the number of students they bring for admission. What this means is that not until these have been given their slot, legitimate admission seekers will not have their way in such institutions.


Built Environment Professionals

Feelers from professional members of the built environment indicate that the scrapping of the post UTME examination by the Federal Government was a welcome development as it does not in any way add value to the quality of either the new intake during admission processes nor does it in any way affect the quality of graduates produced by the higher institutions.

In other words, they all concurred that in the first place, it was a waste of time and resources, exerting unnecessary burden on its victims. According to Olufemi Emmanuel Akinsola, senior lecturer in the department of building technology, Yaba College of Technology, it all boils down on the curriculum: “Post UTME has no effect on quality of graduates. It’s the curriculum used that determines the quality of graduates and have direct impact on the future of building profession.”

Also supporting this view is the Lagos State chapter chairman of the Association of Town Planning Consultants of Nigeria (ATOPCON), Omotayo Awobodu, who stated that Post JAMB, in the real sense, is a duplication of JAMB examination and was more or less unnecessary. Government, he advised, should look the way of the JAMB examination and do amends, where necessary.

“Post JAMB is in the real sense a duplication of JAMB exam. It places undue burden on applicants.  If there is anything that is wrong with the quality of JAMB exams, it should be fixed, rather than asking people to redo the test in another name.

“Government should back up the directive with necessary steps to improve the quality of JAMB exam, henceforth. As a matter of fact, JAMB exams should be made valid for admission for at least three years. This will go a long way to improve on quality.”


An Indictment Of JAMB

They are not alone on this view. Former National President of the Nigeria Institute of Town Planners, Bunmi Ajayi, also bought into and corroborated their views.

“The post UME is an indictment of JAMB and her exam. There is therefore justification for cancelling it.  The decision however is a wakeup call for JAMB to be up and doing. It should not affect the quality of our graduates.”

However, while analysing the reason behind the introduction of the post UTME exam, the former Lagos State branch chairman of ATOPCON, Bisi Adedire, stated that the general idea of conducting a post UME exam was embraced by higher institutions of learning some years ago to further test the ability of their intakes and also screen out those who might have earned good JAMB scores through examination malpractices.

This, he said, helped the institutions to gain a better assurance on the quality of their intakes. However, he posited that in 2014, JAMB introduced CBT mode of conducting the exam with the sole aim of eradicating the malpractices involved in JAMB examinations.

According to Adedire, the Registrar of JAMB specifically mentioned that the new idea would totally eradicate exam malpractices with time because it would be a true reflection of each candidate’s performance; and this would allow universities to have confidence in the result presented by JAMB candidates. Hence, post UME exam would be eradicated; and interestingly, the CBT mode was kicked off in 2015 and now Post UME has been truly stamped out.

On whether the new decision by the Federal Government could affect the quality of intakes, he stated a capital NO, adding that the computer based exam is more of a garbage in, garbage out procedure which minimizes manipulation.

“The Computer based exam is more of garbage in garbage out procedure; hence, manipulation is minimal or even non-existent when properly monitored. CBT exam mode is an objective and standardized mode in which tests are graded by machines thereby eliminating biases. Also, the post UME exam over time has become more of a money extortion means from students while the quality of the procedure is also questionable.

“It is also open to malpractices as much as JAMB was. It is also noteworthy that last year, many students who scored low marks in their JAMB exam scored higher in their post UME exams. I believe JAMB has been able to tighten their ends by introducing CBT and so, eradicating post UME exam/test shouldn’t impact on the quality of the intakes into our higher institutions of learning.”

On its likely implications on the future of the built environment or any other profession, he stated that the scrapping does not exactly rule out the hurdles in gaining admission into the tertiary institutions.

The Town Planning Consultant indicated that the new decision simply means that cut off marks into higher institutions will simply increase, especially for the top institutions. Eradicating it, he insisted, does not mean that universities/polytechnics cannot employ other modes of screening candidates such as interviews or results (WAEC/NECO and JAMB) assessment; it just means t hat they cannot conduct any examination or test similar to JAMB exam.

“Also, to ensure that this decision benefits more candidates, the Government has a lot to put in place. It is no gainsay that the resources and facilities in our higher Institutions of learning cannot accommodate this change yet.

“The facilities in place in our institutions of higher learning are not sufficient to accommodate the number of candidate produced yearly by our secondary schools. This then limit the chances of students gaining admission even when they have performed well in the JAMB CBT exam.”