Saturday 21 March 2015

If Candidates Can’t Use Computers, It’s Their Problem –‘Dibu Ojerinde, JAMB boss

Prof. ‘Dibu Ojerinde
The Registrar of Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board, Prof. ‘Dibu Ojerinde, in this interview with FRIDAY OLOKOR, says that Computer-Based Test will reduce examination malpractice and other forms of irregularities
There were protests over examination slips by candidates, people say JAMB’s problem with this examination started from there.
The examination slips are the slips we give the candidates, (which contains) their date of the examination, the time of the examination and the venue of the examination. When we told them to start printing it from February 21, everybody felt they must get it printed the same day and that was what caused the problem.

However, within three to four days, everything fizzled out; there was nobody left trying to print anything. It is the impatience of our children and we can understand they wanted to get things done. However, what we did in the final analysis was to tell the operators of cyber cafés to let them go and print the slips from anywhere. Among other things, we didn’t want them cheated because the cyber cafés were milking them, but of course, their impatience made us to release the details to the public. In fact, they could have even printed them in their rooms but that was sorted out.
But some candidates and parents alleged that JAMB deliberately made its websites difficult to access and therefore, allowed agents to exploit them.
That is exactly what I’m trying to tell you; the agents, the cyber cafés were exploiting them and we wanted a stop to that. We said, take N100 and go to our 400 centres, they will print your slip for you.
For example, in our office, everybody believed that we could print for them and so didn’t want to go get it done elsewhere. But it’s impossible to attend to 16,000 people in one day. We were trying to save them from being exploited but we didn’t get it (right).
However, we’re going to look at it in a different way next year so that once all our centres are already accredited, candidates can register and get their slips. That’s what we are planning for next year.
When the idea of CBT came up, it was expected that the pilot scheme would be test run for some time before it is made compulsory. Why the sudden rush?
We have been doing this for the past six years. We made it a reality using what we call dual based test, CBT and Paper Pencil Test the same year, that was in 2013. Then last year, we also did CBT, DBT and PPT. But for the past six years, we have been telling them the end was coming, that we were going to go CBT fully in 2015.
If we don’t do it now, we will never do it; that is my belief. We have practised it enough. It’s not like we just woke up and said, ‘let there be light.’ Even for this test, we were out three times testing what we are supposed to do.
Of course when the testing started, some people said we started the exams and then postponed it. No, we never started the exams until on Tuesday.
But there are people who never sighted a computer all their life and considering the level of poverty and illiteracy in the country, we can’t say it’s their fault. Why didn’t you consider them?
That looks like we are bringing back the hands of the clock by saying that there are some people who have not seen a computer in their lives. Are mobile phones not a mini computer? They are just being scared of the use of the word computer. everything is computer. Any technology is computer, including the phones, IPad, calculator. They are all computers. Therefore, it is not a big deal that we’re using computers.
If you don’t do it now, you will never do it again because the whole world is moving that way. I’m not saying that because the whole world is moving that way, we should change but if it is in a good direction, why don’t we follow it? There is no rural area or local government area in this country where they cannot use handsets. I don’t know any of the 744 local governments where they are not using handsets. If you can use handsets, you can use a computer there.
The issue of network, internet and server fluctuation, like some candidates experienced, keeps going on and off affecting the timing of the test and also threatening the chances of the students, how are you addressing this issue?
We’re not using the internet; it’s computer based and not internet based exam. There is nothing like internet failure, no way. The server may not connect to the system over there or as a result of an upsurge or one thing or the other, you do not get the response from the server but that is a minor thing. It is not internet based, we are not strong enough for internet based test because I know that it may fail. Power may fail us and even the signal may be weak to the extent that you will not be able to use it.
All we use is the direct access to our server in a centre. We have a big centre in our office here in JAMB, we call it central server. This central server sends information to the central server and the server sends the information to the terminals within the centres. So what we send to centre A is different from what we send to centre B. In fact, it is personalised for everyone. All the tests are personalised for everybody.
If you are candidate X and candidate Y is sitting near you doing Mathematics, you’re not necessarily doing the same thing because the arrangement is even different. We have test done our homework in that respect and the internet based is not the answer.
Where did you borrow the idea from?
We didn’t borrow it; it is the thing that is going on everywhere in the world. I finished my PhD from Cornell University in 1978, I did computer based test. It is just because we don’t have the facilities in this country and now that the technology has grown and people know how to use the handset, I said this is the time to use it. I had planned this for JAMB since 2007 when I came in, it was one of the items in my action plan.
It is not a matter of borrowing, that is the in thing and all I needed to do, which has been done was to train my staff in this area of CBT and I’m happy that a lot of them have got it. We have a department which we call Psychometric Department. Psychometrics is completely for computer based test; all the theories, all the practicals, all the instruments that are required are there.
For example, the blind can now do computer based test because they trained for it and we provided the materials called brain note apex. We used it for them and they are doing it. If the blind can do computer based test, what about those who can see? We have visual ability, it is time we changed.
But the programme is rife with hitches.
The challenge is more of personnel. We don’t have enough personnel in this area but it is a matter of training of people and I want to say that at least, 80 to 90 per cent of all the staff members of JAMB are computer literate and they can transfer this knowledge to the centres, which is what we are using.
The theory behind computer based test is not meant for everybody. You must be a specialist in testing and particularly, computer application. But if you are not a specialist, leave it for those who are there. I did something related to this in my PhD in 1978 and yet we are talking of 2015. That was about 37 years ago, so people shouldn’t complain of not being ready. We will be left behind if we don’t move.
Did you not face resistance from the public, especially from parents, to the idea?
There will always be resistance to any new thing. I had local resistance, national resistance and even international resistance.
What do you mean?
When I said local, even some of my staff members who think that it is not possible, resisted. Some of my staff members who are benefiting from paper and pencil idea also resisted. They said by the time I introduce computer, it will eject them out of the system but interestingly, they are better off today. Nationally, parents, people who are benefiting from paper and pencil idea, even printers and those who will buy paper to print will not like us to put them out of business.
Internationally, some people who give us the gadgets which we use for scanning, computers which we use for processing; those who give us computers to capture data, all of them. Now, I’m saying we are not using optical mark reader anymore which is at least about N150 per candidate. Let us stop spending money on irrelevant things. If they can use it in the United States, Britain, Australia or anywhere, we also should be a part of this. So, as far as I am concerned, I know there will be resistance but I’m prepared for it.
Nigerians in the Diaspora are thinking that good things are coming to Nigeria, let us key in with it. They are helping us in other parts of the world. In Addis Ababa, they asked us to come and conduct their examinations for them. In London, we conduct examinations for Nigerians. We conduct it for people who are in South Africa, Ghana, Ivory Coast and they are so anxious. In fact, in eight countries, we are conducting it for them because they know that is what is happening in other parts of the world; so Nigeria should not be left behind.
Didn’t our political office holders mount pressure on you to drop the idea since the public have been against it because of the number of people living in rural areas without computers?
The fear of the unknown became the factor of the pressure but when we explained to them, they said we should go ahead. I was with Mr. President to discuss about this issue and we demonstrated how we would to do it, how others are doing it in other parts of the world and he said we should go ahead. He directed the Nigerian Communication Commission to build centres for us. They are building centres for us now.
Those who said ‘no’ initially later confessed that they didn’t know it was so easy after we showed it to them. The children who come to an air-conditioned environment to write examinations will be better off than those who are under the heat or in the rain. So why do we want to make life very difficult for our children?
The resistance has gone down. By my own assessment, a minimum of 70 to 80 per cent of Nigerians have come to accept that computer is the answer. Computer based testing will eradicate examination malpractice completely.
Is it true that the questions are simpler?
Well to the children, maybe they are simpler but to me, we have not gone below our usual standard. In developing test items, there is something we call psychological entrance into an examination. If I give you a question that is very difficult as number one, it will knock you off. But if I give you a simpler one to start with, it gives you a psychological entrance into the examination. This is the principle that I have used to the extent that the kid will be thinking it is easy but not knowing that it is getting more and more difficult as he or she proceeds.
Using computer, you just click which they find easy to do unlike paper pencil test. I’m not saying that the questions are simpler. We use the same principle as before to calibrate the questions, to analyse the questions, but we use a different kind of arrangement, which gives the children what we call psychological entrance into the exams.
How much did JAMB spend on this new system?
It depends on the capacity. A place like Kogo (in Bwari area of the Federal Capital Territory), where we have 270 systems, that environment cost as much as N75m and there are places in our state offices which cost much less than that, about N40m and N45m. I’m talking of the building, infrastructure, computers and generators; including boreholes. All these things put together, I think it is quite a reasonable thing.
People say the contract for the CBT was handled by your American friend.
I don’t know that American. If you do, let me know. If they know the American who is handling this thing for us, let them bring out the name. All the things that we’re doing here are Nigerian based; they are being done by Nigerians for Nigerians. Am I the American because I trained in America? If that is it, I’m an American, but there is nothing like that. They should stop rumour mongering if they do not know; that is purely ignorance.
Honestly, how would you rate JAMB’s success since adopting this system?
For now, the end justifies the means, but I will score myself for this exercise between Tuesday and Wednesday a minimum of 95 per cent.
What happens to the remaining five percent because in this exercise, you are supposed to score 100 per cent?
Yes, but human factors will come into it. I’m human, not God. There are some things that you cannot account for, there are some things that you cannot assume that you can do but as they come, we keep sorting them out. For example, we told some candidates to go over from a particular centre to another. Am I going to say that is 100 per cent? But when we get a solution, we say thank God.
Has the system reduced the level of leakages of exam papers?
Yes, it is zero leakage now. Anybody who goes out and says these are the questions they will ask me and that person believes that he is going in to meet the same kind of questions in the exam hall will be disappointed. He is not going to meet the same questions, so it is zero per cent leakage. I can prove that to you that examination malpractice has been completely reduced.
As the candidates sit by their systems, you can see them and their pictures on their screens. If a male is sitting down and you see a female picture, wouldn’t you know he’s not the right candidate? The system of biometrics will even expose them. The process of examination attendance list will expose them, so most of these problems that we encountered are gone.
Nigerians say the policy was not well thought out because many schools in the villages and rural areas lack amenities like tables and chairs, let alone computers?
Let them give me the name of a school that has nothing. Do they belong to a particular local government? Does the local government not provide all these facilities? I’m from a rural area; I am from Igboho, the remotest part of Oyo State but there is a centre provided by one Chief Otunba Oni. What are they saying? That there is nothing? If we don’t move now, we will never move again.
But students don’t have computer based curricula in secondary schools, why didn’t JAMB wait till that is done first?
The national curriculum on computer education is there, if they are not exposed to it, that is their problem. But I’m saying that is not even the matter. I’m saying if you can use your handset, you can do computer based test.
All it says is: here are the questions. What is your response? Then you click or you touch it, either you use the mouse or you press the button A, B,C or D for the answer and then the next question comes up.
What is responsible for the uneven distribution of centres in places like Abuja, Lagos and some other areas?
From the population of candidates for this examination, a lot of them are from Lagos axis, therefore, there will be more centres in the Lagos axis. Let me tell you that over 203,000 candidates registered for the examination in Lagos axis followed by Kaduna axis with about 185,000 candidates. Then, you go to Port Harcourt. The higher the number of candidates, the more the number of centres. But of course, we appeal to higher institutions like polytechnics, colleges of education, universities and private individuals to open centres and once they do that, we go out to accredit the centres. If they are good, we use them. If they are not good, we go away. There are some that have not met our standards and so we cannot continue to do anything there.
Do you think this system will bring out the best in the candidates, when some are sitting in front of computers for the first time or for those whose computers had issues or experienced hitches during the test?
Let us wait. The rewards of education don’t come immediately; it is a function of time. This is a revolutionary time in our educational system. For example, cheating is no longer there, using handsets to bring in answers is no longer there. Children will believe that for you to be able to pass JAMB, you will have to read, teachers will believe this, parents will believe that you have to read. Even we who set the examinations will believe that the children have to read. Therefore, they will prepare for the exams.
In the process of preparing for the exams, the teacher will be saying you cannot displease me, you must learn. He will be teaching them, the parent will be running after the school. Therefore things will change. With technology in the country, we will be better off. There are some good boys and girls over there who have not been exposed to this and in any case, they are going to the university. In universities, they use computers to teach them, to take notes, even in the post UTME. Why not get ready for that day before the doomsday? This is the time to prepare.
If the system is 95 per cent successful as you claim, would you then say that post UTME should be scrapped?
It depends. Let us get it 100 per cent, then we will see whether there will be need for post UTME or not. To me, with time, post UTME will be a thing of the past. It (post UTME) is there because people doubt the scores. But there is no need to doubt the scores now because we know it is genuine.
From last year’s exercise, 617, 000 candidates took the CBT and there was no single exam malpractice, a lot of them are in the university now and they even performed better than the paper pencil people. I know at the end of the day, it will be minimum examination malpractice and that may come as a result of lateness, which is regarded as malpractice because if you come late, we cancel your result. We will not allow you to do the exams and if you do the exams, we will cancel it.
What if the candidate comes late because of traffic?
Which traffic, where? Teach your child the ways of the Lord and when he grows, he will not depart from it. Teach them how to be punctual, teach them how to take their studies seriously, teach them how to obey laws and order and they will key into it for the rest of their lives. That is the beginning of the discipline that we’re talking about. Punctuality is a path of discipline that we want to impose on the lives of our children.
How many types of questions were set in this exam?
As many as the number of candidates. We have 1.45 million candidates, we have 1.45 million tests. We can do more than that depending on the number of candidates.
If human beings are the ones who set the examination questions, how then are you sure they won’t leak before the day of the tests?
Technology number one, technology number two, technology number three. We’re not in the cult; we who are not in the cult know what we’re doing. We do it the way it should be done to the extent that nobody can beat us.
As many questions, as many tests as the number of candidates, that is what we have done. We have what we call an item bank, that bank has many questions and the items are calibrated and graduated according to their difficulties, according to the content of the syllabus and according to the objective of the syllabus. Therefore, we have so many and by the time we begin to move one question to the other end and the other option to the beginning and all sort of things, leakages will be difficult. It is not manually, we use technology to do these things.

Via - Punch

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