by Ore Fakorede
It is safe to say that since its inception, the Joint Admissions And Matriculation Board-conducted University Matriculation Examination (UME) has guaranteed the failure of more students than the success of others. Notoriously marred by exam malpractice every year, the UME has come to be regarded as a courtroom in which the qualification of aspiring university attendees is unfairly judged. This has prompted universities to conduct post-UME oral and written examinations aimed at weeding out the undesirables e.g. candidates who passed in flying colours but cannot identify the hues that make up the rainbow’s colour spectrum. While these post-UME exams are steadily building up a notoriety of their own, they have at least helped to ensure that mostly candidates of a higher pedigree are admitted into Nigerian universities every year.
The question is, where has JAMB failed? While several cosmetic changes have been made in such areas as the use of technology and the geographic coverage of the UME, for an organisation established over thirty years ago, not much has changed at the very core of JAMB’s orientation. For example, there appears to be a blatant disregard for the history of mass failure that has dogged the UME’s steps over the years. As more students register to take the exam every year, ‘miracle centres’ with sworn claims of guaranteeing success in the UME continue to sprout at an alarming rate. Yet, after every exam, thousands of results are withheld or cancelled due to an assortment of discrepancies.
Clearly, the nature of the UME defeats the very purpose for which it was created: to test a student’s readiness for university. Rather than toe that self-drawn line, JAMB has allowed the exam to grow into a necessary evil and students have acquired the erroneous mindset that the most important thing is not developing the skills needed to excel in university, but passing the UME by any means necessary. A revolution is desperately needed.
Since Nigeria is so keen on importing everything- from its style of government to the dustbins in Abuja, can the country’s JAMB not take a simple cue from the United States’ College Board-conducted SAT Reasoning Test? Compared to the UME, the globally-endorsed SAT exam is an actual test of students’ intelligence, not a measure of how crafty they are in evading invigilators. Rather than confuse candidates with a mind-numbing plethora of possible subject combinations, the SAT is composed of three straightforward categories: writing, mathematics and critical reading. The first and last categories are a test of students’ comprehension and communication skills while the second category measures their ability to solve problems. And it works. Furthermore, the College Board clearly intends for students to excel at its exams as it publishes scores of books to help them prepare. In contrast, JAMB’s prime publication is a measly brochure littered with typographical errors and oblique information that often misdirects candidates. A shame is what this is.
As myriad candidates flock to examination centres today, the abysmal trend is expected to continue. Perhaps someday, JAMB will cry out after the fashion of this article’s not-so-subtle title and get help for its illness.