Scrapping second NCEE test is apt
Minister of Education Malam Adamu Adamu recently announced the cancellation of the second interview test for the National Common Entrance Examination, NCEE. A statement by the Federal Ministry of Education said cancellation of the interview test would take effect from the 2017/2018 academic year. The statement said the minister could not establish the rationale for a second test for NCEE organized by the National Examinations Council, NECO.
Adamu was quoted as describing the second test as an unnecessary additional burden on parents and guardians. He said “the era of multiple examinations attracting prohibitive fees cannot be accommodated by the President Buhari-led administration.” This, according to the minister, “is against the backdrop of government’s determination to increase access to education as a platform for breaking the circle of poverty.” The minister then directed NECO to strengthen its procedures and instruments for the administration of all examinations conducted by it with a view to achieving quality and credible examination results in the first NCEE test for admitting candidates into federal unity schools. Malam Adamu also said multiple examinations do not necessarily translate into admission of quality pupils into secondary schools.
Minister Adamu also said 2016/2017 academic year remains sacrosanct as the effective date for the ban on post-UTME and he advised vice chancellors to adhere strictly to the policy. It would be recalled that the minister had in June this year announced the scrapping of post-UTME during a stakeholders’ meeting held in Abuja to determine the cut-off mark for candidates seeking admission into Nigerian tertiary institutions. NCEE is the achievement test administered by NECO for candidates seeking admission into Federal Government Colleges. It is a written test for pupils in their sixth year of basic education. From its results, candidates that meet the cut-off marks fixed for each state of the federation are invited for a second interview test before final selection into the 109 federal unity colleges.
Just like the scrapped post-UTME, NCEE interview test is widely seen as a needless duplication of effort for one admission exercise. Parents take a lot of risks to travel with their children to write a second test after having passed and obtained the required cut-off point in the NCEE. The decision to scrap the second stage of the common entrance test is therefore apt and highly commendable. In spite of the second test proponents’ arguments, experts in educational tests and measurements assert that it is not the number of times a candidate is made to write an examination that really matters. The most important thing, according to educationists, is the quality of the test items and the overall credibility of the examination. A single but credible examination is better than multiple tests that lack integrity.
Public examinations have become an exploitative means used especially by private schools to extort money from parents and guardians. School proprietors and managers similarly exploit the ignorance of parents about some educational policies of government to overstretch the latter, compelling them to register their children for the NCEE as if it were a requirement for transition from primary to junior secondary stage of basic education. The 9-year basic education programme is free and compulsory in Nigeria. This means that transition from primary to junior secondary school requires no examination. The existing NCEE administered by NECO is exclusively for candidates interested in seeking admission into any of the federal unity schools. The choice of writing NCEE is therefore optional for pupils transiting from primary to junior secondary school but many parents don’t know this.
While we urge the Federal Ministry of Education to ensure that respective examination bodies comply with the ban on second tests, examination bodies should work hard to improve upon their examination procedures to meet up with global best practices. Parents are encouraged to enquire from relevant agencies including LEAs and State Universal Basic Education Boards (UBEBs) each time they are asked to pay for examinations on which they lack adequate information.