Teacher education is a continuous process and does not terminate with pre-service education. Therefore the need for test and re-testing of teachers cannot be over-emphasized. It has the capability to point out gaps in education already undergone by individuals and thereby assist to determine the efficacy of existing teacher education and the future training needs of the teachers. In this respect, the assessment is not a punitive exercise for candidates but to ensure that there is appropriate data and informed opinion about teacher competences in the country.
The PQE may play similar role but goes far beyond that in its significance because it should be more rigorous and the preparation for the examination should be additional learning experience for beginning teachers. Indeed, since most candidates are very examination conscious, the desire to excel in the PQE will encourage them to expand their learning efforts and horizon and engender a great deal of self-development efforts. One other importance of re-testing is that the institutions that produce the teachers will be kept on their toes knowing that another independent test (the PQE) would be conducted to check the quality of training and initial examination given to the candidates.
A case of “test-retest” of candidates was the re-examination of candidates seeking admission into Nigerian universities after they had sat for JAMB‟s UTME (Unified Tertiary Institutions Matriculation Examination). The re-testing by universities popularly called Post-UTME was at a time one of the most controversial issues in the Nigerian education system. However, the test has now become institutionalized and a “normal” practice. People wondered why universities could not totally rely on the UTME to admit candidates, but the universities argued that they required a parallel test for the candidates for quality assurance which includes determining the correlation between the scores of candidates in the UTME and Post-UTME administered by the universities. This correlation clearly showed candidates parading UTME scores that they did not merit and apart from the opportunity the university now has to deepen the screening of students before admission. This re-testing has largely succeeded leading to its wide application throughout Nigeria.
It needs to be put on record that teachers in Nigeria had earlier (in 2008) successfully commenced PQE as an entry requirement for the teaching profession. However, that first PQE took the form of a pilot exercise to help determine more realistic and practical bases for future administration of the examination. The PQE was therefore suspended after the first attempt in 2008 in order to develop a benchmark (which is this document) that will eventually institutionalize it.
In 2008, all the 50,136 candidates who applied between the months of August and October that year for registration wrote the PQE. This included teachers at all levels from primary to secondary school teachers, university lecturers and those in colleges of education and polytechnics. A National PQE Committee was constituted by TRCN chaired by the Dean, Faculty of Education, University of Nigeria, University that coordinated the development of test items. Then TRCN went into partnership with JAMB in order to print and mark the questions using JAMB advanced technologies. Every state capital in Nigeria including the Federal Capital Territory had a PQE. In a single day the questions were administered nationwide, supervised by the National PQE Committee, TRCN and JAMB officials.
The PQE had 100 objective/multiple choice questions and printed exactly like JAMB UTME questions. It was therefore easy to use machines to mark the answers and results for all 50,136 candidates were released online within 24 hours after the examination. It was an unprecedented examination administration feat that was hailed by the public.
Results showed that 57% of the candidates passed the PQE with pass mark put at 40% while 43% failed. The results sent several signals about the quality of teachers. By the rules guiding the PQE, the 43% of the candidates who could not score up to 40% were denied registration and asked to wait for the next batch of PQE – because the PQE was then scheduled to hold twice a year. Incidentally, when the PQE was suspended, all those candidates got registered without retaking the examination and generations of teachers before and after them had escaped the PQE. But with this new benchmark, PQE has come back to stay and candidates will no longer get registered unless they comply fully with the provisions of this benchmark including passing the PQE.
In accordance with best practices, the PQE did not attempt to re-invent new curricula or new academic standards but rather to blend existing National Academic Minimum Standards which have already been approved by TRCN and the other agencies supervising teacher education in Nigeria. Such curricula standards were also the same ones used by the teacher education institutions in producing beginning teachers who will write the PQE. Therefore, it is a test of what is expected of teacher education institutions to have imparted on their beginning teachers.
This benchmark further ensured that all candidates do not write the same test but instead write test in accordance with their category and minimum standards used during their teacher education. For instance, a Category D teacher whose highest academic qualification is the Nigeria Certificate in Education (NCE) is expected to focus attention on the NCCE Minimum Standards for NCE teachers; a graduate teacher (Category C or B) is to focus attention on the First Degree Academic Benchmarks for Education issued to universities by the National Universities Commission or the Post Graduate Diploma in Education (PGDE) and Professional Diploma in Education (PDE) regulated by TRCN; while very advanced teachers with PhD and Professors should take special note of the Post-Doctoral Diploma in Education (PDDE) also regulated by TRCN. In all of these cases, all candidates have the same courses to write but the level and depth increases from the Category D to Category A teachers.
Basing the PQE on existing benchmarks does not however preclude candidates from being examined in any other curricula or subject matter thought fit for teachers of the twenty first Century. Therefore, candidates are not to overlook any curricular specifications in this Benchmark or other related national and international curricular specifications even if such is not found in the actual syllabus used during their pre-service days.
In summary, the following documents are the key National Minimum Standards utilized and blended for this Benchmark:
(i) Nigeria Certificate in Education (NCE) Minimum Standards for Early Childhood Care and Primary Education (2012) – by the National Commission for Colleges of Education (NCCE);
(ii) Nigeria Certificate in Education (NCE) Minimum Standards for General Education (2012) – by NCCE;
(iii)Benchmark Minimum Academic Standards for Undergraduate Programmes in Nigerian Universities (2007)– by the National Universities Commission (NUC);
(iv) Post Graduate Diploma in Education (PGDE) National Benchmark (2011) – by Teachers Registration Council of Nigeria (TRCN);
(v) Professional Diploma in Education (PDE) National Minimum Standards (2008) – by TRCN;
(vi) Post Doctoral Diploma in Education (PDDE) – by University of Ilorin in collaboration with TRCN;
(vii) Professional Standards for Nigerian Teachers (2011) – by TRCN;(viii) Minimum Standards for Basic and Senior Secondary Education (2008) – by the National Educational Research and Development Council (NERDC);
(ix) The National Policy on Education (2008) – by the Federal Republic of Nigeria;
(x) National Policy on Teacher Education – by the National Council on Education;
(xi) Minimum Standards for Basic and Senior Secondary Education (2008) – by the National Educational Research and Development Council (NERDC);
(xii) Information and Communication Technology in Education: A Curriculum for Schools and Programme of Teacher Development – by Division of Higher Education, UNESCO, Paris (2002).