Why it’s impossible to cheat in NECO exams – Okpala, Registrar

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By Emmanuel Edukugho

THE National Examinations Council (NECO) has the mandate to conduct five major examinations, namely, National Common Entrance Examination (NCEE), National Entrance Examination into Federal Unity Senior Secondary Colleges (NEEFUSSC), Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE) and Senior School Certificate Examination (SSCE) (Internal and External).

At a recent media parley, Professor Promise Nwachukwu Okpala, Registrar/Chief Executive, National Examinations Council, NECO, Nigeria explained major achievements and activities of the Council in 2012, efforts in effectively tackling certificate forgery and problem of examination malpractice.

On conduct and Release of Results
The results of the 2011 SSCE (External) November/December were released on 28th March 2012. About 110,724 candidates in the 36 states and FCT in 978 centres sat for the examination. The 2012 National Common Entrance Examination (NCEE) for Primary School Pupils for admission into Federal Unity Colleges involving 81,497 candidates in 456 centres across the 36 states and FCT, while results were submitted to the Federal Ministry of Education, Abuja within seven (7) days.

Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE) in which a total of 113,056 candidates in 2408 centres took the examination from 21st May to 5th June 2012 and the results released on 20th July, 2012 to schools. The 2012 National Entrance Examination into Federal Unity Senior Secondary Colleges (NEEFUSSC) conducted on 7th July 2012 throughout the country and results released within seven (7) days.

The Senior School Certificate Examination (SSCE) for School-based candidates took place from 1st June to 12th July, 2012 involving 1,122,084 students in 13, 496 schools. Results were released on 27th September, 2012, just within 60 days. A total of 83,755 candidates in 422 centres in the 36 states and FCT took the 2012 SSCE (External) for private candidates which commenced on 29th October, 2012 and ended 6th December 2012.

*Students during an examination

*Students during an examination

On Accreditation of Schools
The first phase of accreditation of schools for 2012 took place from 27th January to 12th February, 2012 in 500 Senior Secondary and 250 Junior Secondary Schools for SSCE and BECE respectively. This is a Quality Assurance measure which ensures that schools/centres comply with requirements for NECO’s examinations in terms of adequacy of school facilities, carrying capacity and process of generating continuous assessment data.

On Release of NECO SSCE Certificates
The Council successfully printed and distributed a total of 971,090 SSCE (internal) and 280,582 SSCE (external) certificates for year 2007 to schools through its state offices since 10th February, 2012. The 2008 NECO SSCE (Internal and External) certificates have been printed and will be released to candidates in the next couple of weeks. We want to close the gap in backlog of certificates. It is more difficult to forge our current certificate than the national, currency notes. There are 15 security devices on the certificate. Even if we cannot stop people from forging our certificate, but very difficult to forge correctly.

What are the Challenges and Constraints NECO is facing?
Our achievements, as highlighted above, were not without some challenges and constraints. These challenges include: Funding, insufficient manpower of experts as commissioned item writers, employing senior staff to monitor marking of scripts done by senior academic staff of universities.

Inadequate infrastructural facilities, equipment and materials, inadequate utility vehicles, poor logistics. Still highly needed are state offices, stores, storages, vehicles, boats. About 60% of our vehicles are sourced from outside. If these challenges are tackled, NECO will provide more efficient services. Government should give special consideration to council to buy utility vehicles for our operations to reduce reliance on hired vehicles.

About 80,000 graduates who mark our scripts are poorly paid. They are doing the work just to get experience which is a kind of encouragement. They are paid N20,000 in four weeks. Quality of work can only be equated to good pay. In 2011, we’ve increased the pay by 30-40%. Getting professional experience is not enough. You cannot get quality service without good pay. So we need increased funding. Training of staff essential through workshops, seminars and short term national and international programmes on how to conduct examinations.

Prof. Promise Okpala

Prof. Promise Okpala

How are you tackling exam malpractice?
In keeping with our mission of delivering examinations whose results are trusted worldwide for their credibility, we’ve put in place some measures to check examination malpractice. In the first place, we are using the Nigeria Security and Defence Corps (NSCDC) and lecturers of tertiary institutions to effectively monitor examinations. Deploying Senior staff to “man” custodian points, adopting daily distribution of sensitive examination materials.

Using coded and customised answer sheets or booklets for different subjects provided only on the examination day thereby eliminating importation of answered sheets into the examination halls. Providing effective logistics as over 400 vehicles and 52 boats carry materials to examination centres and adequately control their distribution across the country.

Also, is the use of Biometrics/Validation Data Capturing Technology which identify persons by their unique physical characteristics. More so, our papers arrive on exam day, not sleeping anywhere – not even in Banks because parents can besiege them and bank staff can bargain the papers. If examinations are properly, conducted and well organised, there won’t be malpractice, Our procedure is tightier.

Can you attribute these measures to the mass failure by candidates taking NECO?
Students don’t actually feel comfortable with us. They now prefer other examination bodies. Our procedure has become stringent. People use answer sheets to cheat. But our coded answer sheets change from year to year. Our zeal in combating malpractice may be responsible for this difference. We bring in invigilators to check excess of students. If not there, it means that the examination is managed by the school. Most teachers cooperate with students. But we insist we want people responsible to NECO to be represented in the examination hall.

There are rules and regulations in examination. Students are supposed to be obedient. We tell them not to get answer sheets from outside. We can provide extra sheets if needed during the examination. Invigilators know the rules clearly. They cannot turn round to satisfy the intention of candidates. We don’t allow use of calculators.

What about Miracle Centres?
I can’t explain. Are these examination centres? Unless there is evidence of approval by government to be a centre, then it is difficult to say. Who approved them? I think it’s a loose term. There is no evidence that miracle centres exist. Let those who know tell us. It is a loose terminology. If seen in Aba or anywhere in the country, let’s know and we will move in. May be it’s a place where malpractice is widespread.

Do you have withheld results?
Nothing like that. What we have is: Result released, pass, failed or canceled. But there are committees to look at the level of candidates involvement in malpractices. We don’t act without the committees’ recommendations.

Are you thinking of e-testing in NECO also like JAMB is trying to do?
Not now. E-testing is possible in multiple choice examinations, but in NECO we do essay-type. We can do a lot of examinations through e-testing. Is it possible to implement e-testing now with biro and paper? Only possible 100% in multiple choice exams.  How do we do practical or do essay in e-testing? Our exams are taken with biro and paper. Unless we want to test knowledge of computer. So school should teach children about use of computer before talking about e-testing.

Why is NECO still hard sell and does NECO examine students differently from what WAEC is doing?
NECO and WAEC share some things in common – equity, access, quality assurance, assessment, etc. NECO began with one examination. There cannot be a monopoly. Children now have option either to sit for NECO or WAEC or even both. Now our children can be exposed to two examinations – in parallel. Monopoly is not good for any consumer. Federal Government has provided more opportunity for Nigerian children. It’s possible for children from privileged homes to enter for 2,3, or 4 examinations. You can go anywhere if you have money. People can take WAEC, NECO, London GCE, Cambridge, etc. Choice is compulsory.

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