BY EMMANUEL EDUKUGHO
AT last, examination malpractice that seemed an intractable problem afflicting the conduct of public examinations over the years can now be effectively checked. Thanks to the introduction of Biometric Capturing System (BCS) being used by the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) for the 2011 Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME), a combination of Universities Matriculation Examination (UME) and Monotechnics, Polytechnics and Colleges of Education Matriculation Examination (MPCEME).
The exponent of this innovation is Professor Dibu Ojerinde, Nigeria’s first professor of Tests and Measurement, first Director of Monitoring and Evaluation of the National Primary Education Commission (NPEC), first Registrar of the National Board of Educational Measurement (NBEM), first Registrar of Nigeria’s indigenous examination body, National Examination Council (NECO) and currently the Registrar/Chief Executive, Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB).
Under his leadership, JAMB has devised means to checkmate impersonation, absenteeism, lateness and examination malpractice among candidates through Biometrics fingerprints capturing. Professor Ojerinde spoke with Vanguard Education Editor, Emmanuel Edukugho in this interview.
What is this Biometric registration all about as some candidates are complaining already?
Students will complain about something that is new. They should go to people who have expertise on the equipment – just about thumb printing. Just thumb print and data captured. We are using Biometric Capturing System for registration of candidates for the 2011 Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME).
It is designed to separate the candidates on the basis of centres and therefore candidates are expected to be captured in their various centres and not any other place.
JAMB thumb printing captures the unique data in your body and when you thumb, your picture will come up instantly showing the real person.
The Biometric System has been test run to ensure its validity and reliability. Thumb printing done during registration would be repeated at all examination centres before candidates are admitted into examination halls. They must not to do anything that can prevent their thumbs from being captured. The process is similar to the voters registration by Direct Data Capturing machine.
Why have you introduced such a system for the registration process?
It’s a way of curbing examination malpractice, impersonation, lateness to examination hall, and to have a data base of all the candidates so that in future can be used against them if they misbehaved; because they can be caught.
Have you been getting any feed back since the exercise started?
Yes. The feed back had been very glowing. Two schools participated in the pilot scheme and did well in the demonstration of Biometric registration using the students. Federal Government Girls School, Bwari, with 334. Government Secondary School, Kudura, with 274 candidates registered. They are all doing well.
Some thumbs can be captured. Toes are used to register. Immediately you put your finger on the machine, it will come out.
When a candidate is at an examination centre, the system will tell if you are at the right place or not. Special centres have been cancelled.
What are the challenges encountered?
Thumbs that are dirty may not be captured. Also thumbs that are chopped off. Identifying people with problem. When thumbs are burnt, or dirty, people register with toes. Index fingers are supposed to be used. But the challenges are not much. Problems accompany new things. They are surmountable. Over one million candidates have been registered so far.
We’ve done preliminary field work pranks are being played although we are trying to meet up with some peculiar traits.
The Biometric System can forestall cheating, impersonation written off. Biometrics will tell us if you are late. Your examination will be cancelled for lateness, because you may be looking for clues hence you are late. There are scanners – body scanners used to detect handsets, wrist watches spectacles, etc in which answers can be hidden, although there have not been such cases.
What about candidates without arms, no legs, are to be denied taking the examination? Such people who don’t have arms, no legs, are therefore not destined for university education.
Can you estimate the cost incurred by JAMB in conducting the examination?
A lot of cost — about 55,000 personnel involved in the administration of JAMB examination; 18 invigilators in one centre, co-ordinator, supervisor, 3 attendants. There are 3,000 centres, 69,000 may be around. If you add personnel from universities, colleges of education, etc, coming also, we will have about 75,000 in all. Payments are categorised. From N50,000, down to N3,000 for attendant.
Can you let us know your experience so far on conducting the UTME?
Conduct of the UTME is beautiful, no problem. Candidates don’t pay much. It’s like one examination for six institutions. But most people want to go to university. They don’t want to go to any other place. For UTME, if you can’t get university, go to polytechnic, or college of education. Go there. Some people have been taking JAMB for eight years, no change. There are different ways to kill a chicken. You can go there (Polytechnic, College of Education) for National Diploma, Nigeria Certificate of Education (NCE) and then to degree. Don’t just remain in one place.
You don’t fail or pass in JAMB examination. What happens to candidates after JAMB examination is based on available spaces. Nobody fails JAMB. But you can fail NECO, WAEC; the only problem is number of spaces. If there are spaces, more people will be admitted.
In the last examination, about 886 candidates scored above 180 which is the cut-off mark. But there 427,000 placements. The carrying capacities of universities are limited, not sufficient. Private, federal, state universities all helping.
If one million want to go to universities, they can go, provided there are sufficient carrying capacities.
Universities are delaying JAMB. Some universities (in South East) were on strike for so long that JAMB didn’t include their names for purpose of admission for 2011 academic session. Later we called them to come and see us. After discussing with them and they told us of their willingness to resume, we lifted the ban on them. They signed an undertaking to comply.
Which university in Nigeria has the largest carrying capacity?
Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria has the largest with 7,000 spaces, followed by University of Maiduguri, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, University of Lagos and University of Nigeria, Nsukka with 6,000 each.
There is need for counselling of students to know that not every person can go to university due to limited placements. Parents want their children to study law, medicine, engineering and like that. For instance, UNN had 7,000 qualified candidates to study medicine but it has only 150 slots.
Only 16 per cent of 1.4 million candidates seeking admission in 2011 can be offered placements. Carrying capacity not high enough. Compliance not above 6,000. We are worried. There are children who want to go to university, but can not go because the carrying capacity is defined by National Universities Commission (NUC), considering personnel, infrastructure, etc.
For example, in pharmacy, there are specific number of cubicles for students. Admission not beyond the number of cubicles available – course by course, department by department, faculty by faculty. If the intake is more, computer will reject.
Do you subscribe to the view that standard of education is falling and values compromised?
Quality can be improved. Bells University of Technology, Ota, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife are good, although some universities are substandard.
But NUC is to maintain standard and quality, ensure courses are adequate, teachers available, appropriate staff and equipment.
However, standards are high. You will be amazed compared to other countries. Our redeemer will come.
Why are we having high failure rate in public examination?
Students have been failing before, but not heard. People are now caught for cheating. Failure rampant in public schools. Private Schools doing well. Children pay fees. Parents run after teachers, proprietors run after teachers, students run after their books. It’s a cyclical problem. Private school students don’t fail like public school students.
Can JAMB actually commence e-exam in 2012?
Yes, JAMB is to commence e-examination in 2012. Necessary ICT infrastructure would be put in place for this. Candidates sitting for UTME in 2012 must be computer literate to be able to sit for the examination.
Again, to promote reading culture in our country, two books will be introduced in the 2012 UTME. It’s mandatory. We will give candidates titles of the books and will test them on the books. This is because people don’t read. I read everyday. If I don’t read, can’t sleep.