Re: JAMB’s medi­ocre cut­off: An un­con­ven­tional view

Weekly Trust - - Weekend Magazine - By Ibrahim A. Kolo fa­rooqkper­ogi@ya­hoo.com Twit­ter:@fa­rooqkper­ogi with Fa­rooq Kper­ogi

No doubt, Fa­rooq Kper­ogi’s “un­con­ven­tional view” (Daily Trust Septem­ber 2, 2017) on the above sub­ject mat­ter made an in­ter­est­ing read­ing as one of the pos­si­ble ap­proaches re­quired by the Joint Ad­mis­sions and Ma­tric­u­la­tion Board (JAMB) for ad­dress­ing the UTME/Uni­ver­si­ties ad­mis­sion co­nun­drum. I cer­tainly agree with Fa­rooq that the ap­proach of us­ing “… rec­om­men­da­tion let­ters, … ad­mis­sion es­says … in­ter­views for cour­ses that re­quire it, in ad­di­tion to WAEC/NECO re­sults and UTME scores” to be weighted and con­sid­ered by rou­tinely con­sti­tuted Uni­ver­si­ties Ad­mis­sions Com­mit­tee is much bet­ter than ar­bi­trary low­er­ing of UTME cut­off marks. Some crit­i­cal clar­i­fi­ca­tions are, how­ever, nec­es­sary in his sub­mis­sion.

Fore­most, ex­cept where Vice Chan­cel­lors choose to over­mo­nop­o­lize the en­tire ad­mis­sion process (and there are in­stances of such), it is al­ready a con­ven­tion in most Nige­rian uni­ver­si­ties that Uni­ver­sity Cen­tral Ad­mis­sions Com­mit­tees (UCACs) are charged with the re­spon­si­bil­ity of draw­ing up ap­pro­pri­ate cri­te­ria and se­lec­tion of prospec­tive can­di­dates for ad­mis­sion. The cri­te­ria used by the UCACs em­brace value as­sess­ments of can­di­dates O’ Level re­sults (WAEC, NECO, NABTEB), in­clud­ing the UTME cut­off marks of re­spec­tive uni­ver­si­ties which in most cases are of­ten above the min­i­mum na­tional cut­off mark set by JAMB.

For all Nige­rian uni­ver­si­ties, the Post-UTME Ex­er­cises of prospec­tive can­di­dates also in­cludes screen­ing of can­di­dates cre­den­tials and in most cases in­ter­views and (or) fur­ther ad­min­is­tra­tion of writ­ten tests set by re­spec­tive De­part­ments of the Uni­ver­si­ties. The prob­lem, how­ever, for most uni­ver­si­ties is the non­stan­dard­iza­tion of the Post-UTME Ex­er­cises which leads to abuses of the se­lec­tion cri­te­ria.

Se­condly, it is im­por­tant to note that from psy­cho­me­t­ric point of view, stan­dard­ized tests are not oneshot de­vel­oped tests. They do re­quire items de­vel­op­ment and build­ing over a pe­riod of time. And in­deed, psy­cho­me­tri­cians and de­vel­op­ers of any kinds of tests (in­tel­li­gence, aca­demic achieve­ment, cre­ative think­ing, ap­ti­tudes, etc.) never make claims that the out­comes of such tests pro­vide “… ac­cu­rate in­di­ca­tors…” of what­ever they are pur­ported to mea­sure (aca­demic pre­pared­ness, in­tel­li­gence, cre­ativ­ity, aca­demic ap­ti­tudes, etc.) at any lev­els of the Ed­u­ca­tion Sys­tem.

Hence, whether as Fa­rooq tried to il­lus­trate, the UTME and O’ Level re­sults may or may not be ac­cu­rate pre­dic­tors of per­for­mance ca­pa­bil­i­ties of can­di­dates in Nige­rian uni­ver­si­ties is not the is­sue at stake in the low­er­ing of UTME cut­off marks by JAMB to abysmally poor lev­els. In­deed, con­trary to Fa­rooq’s cited stud­ies in the US (which do not val­i­date any sim­i­lar co­in­ci­dences in Nige­ria), tracer stud­ies (in­clud­ing those by JAMB) in Nige­ria shows sig­nif­i­cant cor­re­la­tions be­tween uni­ver­sity stu­dents’ UTME and O’ Level re­sults on the one hand and aca­demic per­for­mance in the uni­ver­si­ties on the other hand.

The is­sue is that low­er­ing of UTME cut­off marks by JAMB sim­ply amounts to pro­vid­ing a wider field for uni­ver­si­ties to ad­mit medi­ocre can­di­dates with poorer aca­demic com­pet­i­tive val­ues in the sys­tem. That is where the worry lies about the im­pli­ca­tions of the fail level UTME cut­off marks (whether de­ter­mined by JAMB or the Heads of Ter­tiary In­sti­tu­tions who knew they would not ad­mit stu­dents with such ridicu­lous cut­off marks, yet went on to en­dorse it?).

Thirdly and most im­por­tantly is the is­sue of whether JAMB should con­duct aca­demic achieve­ment or aca­demic ap­ti­tude tests. In­deed, the ex­am­ples of Scholas­tic Ap­ti­tude Tests (SAT), Amer­i­can Col­lege Test­ing (ACT), or even the Bri­tish ver­sions as used for ad­mis­sion ref­er­ence by uni­ver­si­ties that so de­sire in those climes pro­vide the il­lus­tra­tion of how stan­dard­ized forms of psy­cho­me­t­ric tests are used by uni­ver­si­ties, col­leges and even pro­fes­sional bod­ies for ad­mis­sion and in­duc­tion se­lec­tions re­spec­tively.

While stan­dard­ized aca­demic achieve­ment tests are what UTME and the O’ Level Ex­ams rep­re­sent, aca­demic ap­ti­tude tests are not in use in Nige­ria by any ex­am­i­na­tion bod­ies (not even NABTEB that was so es­tab­lished to do so) for pur­poses of de­ter­min­ing can­di­dates’ po­ten­tials for uni­ver­sity or ter­tiary in­sti­tu­tion cour­ses of their choice. The rea­son SAT and ACT are not com­pul­sory for use in Amer­i­can uni­ver­si­ties and col­leges is be­cause the bod­ies which de­velop, stan­dard­ize and ad­min­is­ter th­ese tests, par­tic­u­larly the ap­ti­tude ones do so not just for ad­mis­sion pur­poses, but also for se­lec­tion into aca­demic and pro­fes­sional pro­grammes as well as for de­ter­min­ing ad­mis­si­bil­ity and suit­abil­ity for pro­fes­sional prac­tices by pro­fes­sional or­ga­ni­za­tions.

For pur­poses of clar­ity, while aca­demic achieve­ment tests (as in the case of UTME by JAMB and the O’ Level Ex­ams by WAEC, NECO and NABTEB) are stan­dard­ized to de­ter­mine the ex­tent of mas­tery of knowl­edge of var­i­ous sub­jects as ex­pected to have been taught at Se­nior Sec­ondary Level of the Ed­u­ca­tion Sys­tem, stan­dard­ized aca­demic ap­ti­tude tests are usu­ally de­signed to de­ter­mine the cog­nate aca­dem­i­cally re­lated skills po­ten­tials which can­di­dates pos­sess to be able to cope and main­tain the rel­e­vant cog­ni­tive ca­pac­i­ties and mo­ti­va­tion to ac­com­plish tasks re­quired for suc­cess in aca­demic or pro­fes­sional pro­grammes at the higher level (i. e. ter­tiary in­sti­tu­tions).

The prob­lem in Nige­ria is that JAMB, NECO, WAEC and NABTEB make no dis­tinc­tion be­tween aca­demic achieve­ment and aca­demic ap­ti­tude tests. Un­for­tu­nately too, the Post-UTME tests are any­thing else, but cer­tainly not stan­dard­ized or ap­ti­tude tests by any cri­te­ria of psy­cho­me­t­ric test prop­er­ties. And this means that prospec­tive ter­tiary in­sti­tu­tion stu­dents are sim­ply barged by three to four aca­demic achieve­ment tests which over­all do not de­ter­mine their po­ten­tials for pro­grammes they ap­ply to read, par­tic­u­larly the pro­fes­sional cour­ses like the med­i­cal sci­ences, en­gi­neer­ing, ac­coun­tancy, teacher ed­u­ca­tion, etc.

In­deed, if the un­con­vinc­ing rea­son (i. e. that the UTME scores are meant for rank­ing pur­poses and not for de­ter­min­ing ad­mis­si­bil­ity of can­di­dates for uni­ver­si­ties) as re­ported to have been given by the JAMB Regis­trar is any­thing to go by, then JAMB could as well al­low uni­ver­si­ties to set their own cut­off marks. The chal­lenge for JAMB is to re­po­si­tion it­self to be­com­ing more of de­vel­op­ing “Ter­tiary In­sti­tu­tions Pro­grammes Pre-ad­mis­sion and Pro­fes­sional En­tries In­duc­tion Ap­ti­tude Tests” rather than re­sort­ing to low­er­ing of cut­off marks to ridicu­lous lev­els and thereby mak­ing mock­ery of our al­ready poor ter­tiary ed­u­ca­tion stan­dards.

Prof. Kolo is for­mer Vice Chan­cel­lor, IBB Uni­ver­sity, La­pai, Niger State.

My Short Re­sponse

You claim that stud­ies in Nige­ria show a di­rect re­la­tion­ship be­tween UTME scores and suc­cess in un­der­grad­u­ate ed­u­ca­tion. But you didn’t cite the stud­ies. Nor did you quote from them. A Nige­rian ed­u­ca­tion­ist wrote to tell me that the US study I cited last week was repli­cated in Nige­ria and that the re­sults were sim­i­lar. Why should I be­lieve you and not him?

Yet again, you said the ob­ject of stan­dard­ized tests isn’t to de­ter­mine suc­cess in un­der­grad­u­ate ed­u­ca­tion. That’s a con­tra­dic­tion. So what’s the point of the tests, then? You can’t, in the same breath claim that UTME tests pre­dict suc­cess in un­der­grad­u­ate ed­u­ca­tion and claim that the tests are not in­tended to mea­sure suc­cess in any­thing. On the ba­sis of claims that do not add up log­i­cally and that un­der­mine each other, you pro­ceeded to sug­gest that, “The is­sue is that low­er­ing of UTME cut­off marks by JAMB sim­ply amounts to pro­vid­ing a wider field for uni­ver­si­ties to ad­mit medi­ocre can­di­dates with poorer aca­demic com­pet­i­tive val­ues in the sys­tem.”

You can’t have it both ways. If tests, in­clud­ing the UTME, are not in­tended to be ac­cu­rate pre­dic­tors of suc­cess “of what­ever they are pur­ported to mea­sure,” how can a low­er­ing UTME cut­off cause “medi­ocre can­di­dates with poorer aca­demic com­pet­i­tive value in the sys­tem”?

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