From its application to obviously mundane tasks to its use for the noblest of all human endeavours, the place of information and communication technology (ICT) in today's world cannot be over-emphasised.The fate of individuals, businesses and countries largely depends on how fast they latch on to the ICT revolution and stay ahead in the game. It is the 21st Century equivalent of the scramble for land and territory most races of humankind have been involved in from ages past.
Against the backdrop of the importance of ICT to the modern era, we welcome the recent disclosure by the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) that it plans to phase out the use of the paper and pencil method for its examinations in favour of computer-based tests, by 2015. An alarming proportion of graduates in the country today are not computer literate and for this reason many of them are unemployed and in fact, unemployable. This would not be so, however, if all gatekeepers in the education chain had been proactive in embracing ICT, specifically in testing candidates over the last two decades. Today's workplace is ICT-driven and anyone not trained in this direction is hopelessly unfit to take on many tasks in the corporate world, which can only get more sophisticated, as technology is being daily improved to work more for the human race.
No prospective undergraduate in Nigeria should have less than an average mastery of the computer and no student should leave any of our higher institutions without being versed in the practical application of ICT to his/her course of study. The way to fast track the acquisition of this vital skill among young Nigerians in order to prepare them for life in the new millennium, is to make ICT a prerequisite subject at every juncture in the education chain and back this with essential infrastructure.
We commend JAMB on its ICT scheme and urge all examination bodies in the country to toe the same path. JAMB must go the whole hog, albeit incrementally. It should consider making its examinations available all year round under this new scheme. This would reduce the pressure under which candidates take the yearly tests, especially the desperation and the cheating-inducing knowledge that they would lose one year of their progress in life by failing the tests. The Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) and Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) are veritable examples of examinations taken the year round in the United States in the manner JAMB must aspire to.
While JAMB's registrar, Prof Dibu Ojerinde, appears eager to make the new system work, we envisage a situation where a paucity of funds could hold the Board back and delay the rollout of ICT infrastructure for it across Nigeria and beyond. JAMB would do well to partner the private sector to overcome this formidable challenge from the outset, so that the whole country would be covered in no time for prospective candidates to take their examinations as near their homes as possible and even online, without undue physical or financial discomfort.