Expectedly, the recent statement by the Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu against the post-Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (post-UTME) when he said there will be no need for universities to conduct another test for students to gain admission, generated mixed reactions among stakeholders in the country’s education sector.
The minister had while declaring open the 2016 combined policy meeting on admissions to degree, National Certificate in Education, National Diploma and National Innovation Diploma Awarding Institutions in Abuja, expressed confidence in the UTME conducted by the Joint Admissions and matriculation Board (JAMB), saying, “as far as I am concerned, JAMB has built a level of confidence in terms of conducting the UTME, a situation where universities go and conduct other examinations is unnecessary.”
Though some stakeholders, especially parents and civil rights organisations received were delighted at the news of the proposed scrapping of post-UTME, academics and other administrators think it will not be a good idea, as the screening was the idea of vice-chancellors who felt that that the UTME was not enough.
For those in favour of the cancellation of post-UTME, their decision could be as a result of the abuse of the screening by most universities; the risk encountered by candidates while travelling to write the examination; the extortion of parents by universities through that means, among others.
Commending the government for proposed scrapping of UTME, a group under the aegis of Stand Up Nigeria said the move would boost the anti-graft war in the education sector. Describing the news as a welcome development, the group said it would put an end to the generation of revenue that does not get to the government coffers.
In a statement signed by the Secretary General, Sunday Attah, it described the examination as a loophole for corruption that allows tertiary institution staff to admit preferred candidates by technically voiding the UMTE scores.
It stressed that most institutions have turned the exercise to a corrupt means of impoverishing innocent Nigerians; while also describing it as an exploitative practice to “extort admission seekers under the guise of screening them for competence.
“We therefore see the scrapping of this controversial examination as a boost to the anti-corruption fight in the education sector as it will end the generation of revenue that does not get to the government coffers.
“We all know the state JAMB was in before Professor Dibu Ojerinde stepped in to revamp and reposition the place. Today, the confidence of the government is such that it was able to argue that there should be no need for universities to conduct internal examinations to determine the fate of candidates seeking admissions because of the absolute confidence in JAMB. The minister of education also confirmed that JAMB has built a level of confidence in terms of conducting the UTME.”
the statement added: “We know that those who favour the post-UMTE test will soon mount a campaign for its sustenance or reintroduction. The influential parents who must manipulate the admission process for their children, owners of miracle examination centres, admission racketeering cabals in tertiary institutions are a few of those that we know we put pressure on the authorities to reverse this laudable directive.
“But we want to put them on notice that Nigerians will not accept a return to writing post-UMTE test now that JAMB is perfecting the Computer Based Test (CBT) that renders it unnecessary to the extent that the government did the needful by scrapping it.”
The group commended Ojerinde and his team for bringing about the change that restored the credibility of the examination body and urged him to surpass the bar he has set by consolidating on the changes he has brought to JAMB.
It also appealed to the minister of education to put machinery in motion to expand the tertiary education system to be able to handle more students, adding that this would reduce the pressure on the limited available spaces.
However, university administrators have described the news of the cancellation of post-UTME as untrue, saying that the minister only expressed concern that universities are conducting examinations that are similar to that of JAMB.
According to the Pro-Chancellor and Chairman, Governing Council of Crawford University, Igbesa, Ogun State, Prof. Peter Okebukola, “the correct position as reported by the vice-chancellors is that the minister directed that universities should no longer conduct the same type of test as JAMB, but are free to further subject candidates to screening to meet their local peculiarities.”
Okebukola, a former Executive Secretary of the National Universities Commission (NUC) said: “The VCs expressed satisfaction with the current nature of JAMB’s UTME testing leading to the conclusion at the meeting not to duplicate UTME at the university level. This development is very gladdening for me as it now takes us back to the original model of post-UME which NUC initiated in 2004 while I was serving as executive secretary.”
He said the 2004 model had a screening component, which was agreed with all vice-chancellors to be through oral interview and essay which JAMB assessment does not cover.
“More than ever before, we need to admit into our universities, secondary school leavers, from the large pool, those who have at least two characteristics: attained minimum cognitive competence in the relevant subjects in the discipline they wish to study and competence in written and oral English, critical thinking and ability to present ideas in logical sequence befitting of undergraduates in Africa’s most-expansive and well-regarded university system. JAMB’s UTME targets only the first characteristic; while the university-level screening should measure the second.”
Also an advocate of post-UTME is the Vice-Chancellor of Edwin Clark University, Kiagbodo, Delta State, Prof. Timothy Olugbemiro, who described post-UTME as a further weeding process to peg the number of students into a given academic programme for efficient service delivery and quality education, adding that it should not be scrapped.
“It is a way of validating the students’ JAMB exam result for entry in view of students’ desperation for university degree. It should not be scrapped. Anyone who believes in standards should embrace this credible scheme, more work needs to be done to perfect the system.”
Similarly, the Vice-Chancellor of Fountain University, Osogbo, Prof. Bashir Raji, believes that JAMB has done a lot of re-engineering by the introduction of paperless testing and doing away with paper examination, this he said has reduced examination malpractice. However, he said more work needs to be done to perfect the system.
“JAMB is on the right path and if sustained we might see the end of examination malpractice. I need to warn that the human element that is prone to corruption should be critically assessed so that it does not become the weakest link in the process. Some universities would still continue with the original concept of ‘screening’ and not actually writing examination as it is currently done.”
A lecturer in the department of Mass Communication, University of Lagos, Dr. Ismail Ibraheem, said the decision of the government to scrap the post UTME is ill conceived and not well thought out, saying that the decision to introduce the screening was informed by the lapses in the administration of the UTME by JAMB.
“Before the government will scrap it, there should be evidence to show that those lapses have been addressed. The decision signals a pedestrian and lazy approach to public policy on the part of the government.”
Another university administrator against the scrapping of UTME is Chief Afe Babalola, the founder of Afe Babalola University, Ekiti State who was quoted as saying that the post-UTME was initiated in 2003 when it was discovered that most of the students admitted into Nigerian universities through JAMB were not only academically deficient, but could not justify the high marks they scored.
According to him, “the post-UTME has proved to be a veritable quality control measure, which I believe had been working and working well.
He stressed that every university has the right to screen the candidates it wants to admit, as well as the right to embark on other exercises, whether written or unwritten to make it and its products stand out.