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When Prof. Dibu Ojerinde, Registrar of the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) speaks on issues concerning education in the country, everybody listens. An expert in measurement and evaluation, he pioneered the establishment of the National Examination Council (NECO), before his current appointment. Shortly after the recent Education Summit had given the 6-3-3-4 system of education some hard knocks, Daily Sun sought his view on the issue.

Ojerinde's answer was simple and direct: If it's not working, why should we keep it?

The Jamb Registrar who chairs the Association for Educational Assessment in Africa (AEAA) which, by the way, just rounded off a conference, also spoke about the disruption of academic calendar in the universities and the roles some vice-chancellors are playing in this, and lamented that few days to the end of October, many degree-awarding institutions were yet to make a single admission for the current session. In the interview conducted recently, he also spoke on sundry issues affecting education in the country.  Excerpt:

What's the AEAA conference all about?
Well, this conference is organized by Association for Educational Assessment in Africa (AEAA), and it is supposed to look at the theme in relation to quality of assessment in this global economic crunch. So we want to be sure that African countries look at assessment, and then see what they can do to still maintain very good quality in assessment despite the economic situation. That's why we are here. It's an association and we are sharing experiences in the use of technology, in the use of personnel.

You have sort of, anticipated my next question. What are the issues in educational assessment in Africa today?

It's not only quality of assessment. For example, we are thinking of assessment and regional togetherness; assessment and achievement in the school system; assessment and certification; assessment and school environment, all these things. Don't forget that assessment is an aspect of a subset of evaluation, and it starts from test, when you are testing, then the moment you begin to score or mark, you are doing what we call measurement. When you are now planning to use this result, it is becoming what we call assessment. But not many people understand this concept.

How many countries are attending the conference, and what does it aim at achieving?

There are 21 countries from Africa, and when we interact, we are able to exchange idea. For example, I can give you that of technology. An ICT man came from Tanzania this time around, and the chief executive directed that lady to join and see what we have in JAMB, how we do it, how they can improve, okay? So that is a part of it. Even when we were doing our examination in April, there were four people from Kenya who had come to learn from us. We are doing a lot of things together.

For example, we have this research we are doing together which is related to what we refer to as Item Response Theory. It's a model of examination, and not all the African countries have the personnel who can handle item response theory, so we working together so that we can share experiences, so that we can also use what some other people have used; we can replicate it; we can also modify what they have used to suit our purpose. These are some of the things we want to achieve.

At the recent educational conference, a vote of no confidence was passed on the 6-3-3-4 system.

What's your view on this as an educationist?
Well, I don't know those who passed a vote of no confidence, and they must have their reasons. However, I am of the opinion that we have not gone too far. When you have a programme, there must be a monitoring group. In other words, we should look at the track, are we losing track of what we are doing, and is the project trying to achieve its objectives? Once we know that it is not, then why don't we back out? I think that is the essence of saying 6-3-3-4 is not working. And it is obvious that it is not working. If it is working, we should have more people who are interested in technical education in this country. We should have more people who are interested in hotel and catering, not just everybody wanting to go to the university; we should have more people who are interested in teacher education.

But now everybody wants to go to the university; it's not working; we cannot diversify the children into any area of their ability. So why don't we get out of it?

So you are of the opinion that we should do away with the 6-3-3-4 system?

Let's get away with something that does not work.
What do you suggest in place of it?
Well, possibly we go back to the basics. What were we doing before? But, of course, we should ask ourselves, this thing is not working; why is it not working? Can we rectify the un-working-ness of it? That is the issue. I am not sure we have been able to rectify it, but the Yoruba say, if you take three years to get ready for madness, how and when will you be mad? We have been getting ready for madness for so many years; when shall we be mad? We have been talking about 6-3-3-4 for so many years, trying it and trying it, and it is not getting us anywhere, so why don't we get out of it? In fact, the colonial masters that gave us education, let us ask them, how are they doing it? For example, they still insist on A-level, can we go back to A-level? May God forbid, I am not insisting that we should go back to a thing that is not good. For example some people are saying, let's go back to TC 2. My God! How can we go back to TC2? We have moved forward, NCE has been said to be the minimum teaching qualification. Even the NCE we are talking about, they are not competent enough, you want to go back to something worse than that. No, may God forbid. We cannot be in sin and ask for increased blessing.

Could you explain the difference between assessment and evaluation?

You see, I said testing is a subset of evaluation too. However, when you finish testing, you now score, when you are scoring, you are doing what is called measurement. Then, the compilation of all these things into a document is what we refer to as assessment. But then, if you want to judge the value of assessment, that becomes evaluation.

For example, two, three pupils have taken a test, and they come out in different scores. The moment you are comparing the scores of ABC to say, 'Ah, A has performed better, C is the worst,' and this and that, you are passing judgement, and that is evaluation. That is evaluation among group, but also, within a person. Somebody did Mathematics test last week and scored 70, ands this week he did and scored 60. Now he scored 70 last week and this week 60, why? Is he going up or coming down? You're passing judgement within that individual. If he scored 70 last week and this time he's scoring 80, you say he's improving. That's judgement, and that's evaluation. So the difference between assessment and evaluation can be seen when we are passing judgement and comparing x and y, but when the scores are collected and everything is clear, that is assessment.

What problems have you encountered in this transition from UME to UTME?

You see, it takes time for Nigerians, not only Nigerians but human beings generally to change from what they are used to. They say, 'ah, this is what we are used to, why do you want to change it? Don't change it; let us continue in the same manner.' Because of the fear of the unknown, people don't want to change. Now the immediate problem we have is that we have considered the first choice of the candidates, and they have been given admission.   The second choice, most of them chose a college of education or a polytechnic. And we tell them, 'university has refused to take you, polytechnics and colleges of education are considering you, come and go to the polytechnic.' They don't want to go. 'Come and go to the college of education.' They don't want to go because they think the college of education is meant for the inferior.

The polytechnic is meant for the unwanted ones. This is not proper, but as far as we are concerned, we have done our own part; we will continue to tell the children, 'don't stay at home for one year; go and do something for yourself. You may find that that polytechnic programme will redeem you; that programme in the polytechnic could be your saviour. Why don't you try instead of saying, 'I am not going to the college of education?' 'I am not going to the polytechnic.' That's the problem that we have now. Those who have been admitted into colleges of education are now saying, 'we don't want college of education; we want to go to the university. And their universities of choices have not taken them or some universities are not doing their work on time. I must tell you, within the last one and half weeks, I have had the cause to report to the honourable minister that at least, 57 different degree awarding institutions have not completed their admission exercise, they have not even shown up to conduct their admission, and this is October.

Which institutions are those?
They are big universities, big ones.
You earlier gave a deadline of mid-October for completion of admission.

Yes. Well, don't let me name names. I have given the names to the Hon. Minister, in black and white. They are yet to even bring just one candidate to us for admission.

Are you still sticking to the deadline?
By the grace of God, I'm sticking to the second week of October deadline for completion of admission.

That means they are going to lose their admission quotas?

Well, I don't know what they will do. They may go and report me to God. Because I know that's the problem. Look, the presidential summit which was held the other day. I was there on Monday. Among other things, I said it publicly that the academic calendar has been twisted upside down in this country, and we are saying standard has fallen, how can it not fall when children are supposed to be in class for 13 weeks they are now there for only seven weeks. They can't complete the programme, even if you rush them for seven weeks to complete the content of the programme, they have not re-cogitated, they have not reconciled themselves with the fact, they have not internalized it. You ask them question and they just give you what they feel. As far as I am concerned, that's not the way it should be. And we ask ourselves, 'is that how you, the vice-chancellors went to the university? Is that how you were admitted into your degree programme?' I know when I resumed in Ife as an undergraduate; it was in September. Some of them resumed even early September, and now they don't want the children to resume in September. We don't stick to time any more. What are we saying? This is the problem.

How many admissions have you made so far for the current session?

For now, I cannot even tell you the number because as of the time that I was crying out, out of the about 500,000 that we need in the universities, we have not got up to 150, 000.

Out of how many who applied?
That one is another question. I will like to talk about those who qualified for admission on basis of their score - 866, 000 qualified for admission. They met the national cut off mark. But I am not saying that 180 is the cut-off mark for all the institutions; some universities will not even take anything less than 200. Even within a university, some faculties will not take anything less than 250 because that course is very, very popular. For example, Medicine in Ife, they will not take anything less than 250, whereas Physics will take 200. So a university, Ife for example, will not go below 200, so that is their own, and we have no choice because they have several applicants. So it's the best they can do.

The performance of candidates in public (exit) examinations has been a source of concern.

What is the problem?
We're only looking at the output in education, what did we give it? In secondary school system, there is what is called inputs, interaction and output. Inputs are the things we have given the system - the teacher, the piece of chalk, the textbook, the time, the food that you give the children, the uniform, the pencil that they have, these are parts of the inputs. Then the interaction among all these things – the teacher, the pupil, the parents, they are all in a box. It's like the washing machine, when you want to wash your linen you put it in the machine. But you need to make sure there is detergent, you need to make sure there is electricity, you need to make sure there is water, okay? Then you switch on the electricity and it begins to move up and down. At the end of it, you have white linen if you put enough detergent. But if you now put Ijebu detergent, no way, you won't get it. As you lay your bed, so you lie on it. That is what is happening. I don't want to talk about the results. I know whom to blame.

What's the future of JAMB vis-à-vis the post UTME?

JAMB is waxing stronger than before, and it will continue. The issue of post-UTME is a different story that is the decision of the government. But let me tell you, I am not in anyway opposed to post-UTME, I will encourage it, but they must do it right, do it right in that they should now have a standardized programme. Now we are giving the students six choices of institutions. Are we saying that they should go through the six institutions to get admission? No, I don't think that is the spirit. Now can we say when we will do post-UTME? Can we say where we shall do it? Can we also say how we do it? Can we also ask, who will do it? Can you also tell us about the stability of this post-UTME? Take Lagos State, for example. There are several institutions in Lagos State. Can the institutions in Lagos State take the post-UTME conducted by UNILAG anywhere in Lagos State? Can we use the one conducted in Maiduguri in Zaria or all over the country? When you can do that, then you are standardizing it. Don't let the children be running helter-skelter, even if you want to confine the post-UTME to the four walls of the university, and the polytechnics and colleges of education…

There are allegations that universities are using the post-UTME to collect money and also undermining JAMB.

Didn't they allege that JAMB is also collecting money? We are in a very cynical society; all sorts of insinuations are being made. But it is true that the government pegged the cost of post-UTME at N1,000.

But some schools are collecting more than that…
Yes. It is true. Some are collecting N10, 000, I have it on record. I have institutions that collect N6,800. I have institutions that will normally admit only 5,000 candidates and they invite 65,000 candidates for the post-UTME, and they collect N5,000 from each of them.

Who will punish them?
What's your view on cheating in public examinations?

If it is cheating we have to start from home. Is there cheating between husband and wife? What of between children and father? So the society is the cause of cheating. Cheating refers to doing things that are unacceptable, isn't it? So fraud in the society, is it not cheating? But I am not saying that because we are cheating in the society we have to cheat in examinations. It is a reflection of the society. Let me tell you this. I found myself in Britain in 1986 Cambridge.

In Cambridge, we attended the award committee meeting. In that meting, they presented the results of candidates who took GCSE, – General Certificate of Secondary Education in Britain. And they brought in some material they recovered from a candidate, what was it? – POP! He bandaged himself and inserted a receiver, and his father was in a vehicle. What happened? A policeman was passing by with his walkie-talkie and there was a signal, and he traced it to the car. From the car, he saw a father: 'what are you doing?' The man told him that he was dictating answers to the kid in the examination hall.

The boy was dictating the questions, and the father was dictating the answers, that's technological cheating, isn't it? So it's like that all over the world; I am not saying it is right. As long as we are humans, there will be cheating, because everybody wants to survive, we want to achieve. But we have to achieve in a clean manner knowing that if you don't prepare, you will fail, and that is what is happening to children in our school system. We are not properly prepared; the children are not properly prepared, the teachers are not even doing their work, the parents are not even controlling their children any more; they are not giving them the wherewithal to learn. So as you lay your bed, you lie on it.