GRE, TOEFL Suspended in Nigeria due to Insecurity

Filed in GRE, TOEFL by on November 12, 2013 0 Comments

The suspension of the conduct of Graduate Record Examination and the Test of English as a Foreign Language in Nigeria by the United States-based Educational Testing Service unsettles Nigerian candidates

Nigerians seeking undergraduate and post-graduate degrees overseas, especially in North America, are now in a quandary.

On Thursday, the organisation that administers the Graduate Record Examination and the Test of English as a Foreign Language, the Education Testing Service based in the United States, announced on its website that it has suspended the conduct of both examinations indefinitely in Nigeria.

The GRE and TOEFL, two major tests required for university education in North America, will no longer be conducted in the country.

While TOEFL measures the ability of non-native speakers of English to use and understand North American English as it is spoken, written and heard in college and university settings, GRE measures the abilities of graduates in tasks of general academic nature, regardless of their fields of specialisation.

The ETS, which develops, administers and scores the two tests in more than 180 countries, at over 9,000 locations worldwide, cites ‘security concerns’ as the reason for the suspension of the examinations.

Although the ETS, which is headquartered in New Jersey, United States, notes on its website that the tests have been suspended indefinitely, it does not elaborate on the type or source of security breaches the administration of the tests is facing in Nigeria.

“Due to security concerns in Nigeria, GRE and TOEFL testing in the country has been suspended for an indefinite period. Candidates who have appointments to take the TOEFL or GRE Tests will be contacted by ETS to process a refund,” ETS, which prides itself as the world’s largest private non-profit educational testing and assessment organisation, states.

Investigations by our correspondent reveal that candidates planning to take the tests had initially been barred from individually registering for it online. Individual registration used to be the norm.

Our findings reveal that intending test takers have to go through accredited testing centres, which conduct biometric registration for candidates, to enhance the credibility of the test administration in Nigeria.

Our correspondent who visited the Ikeja, Lagos office of First Logic, one of the major accredited centres for GRE and TOEFL, observed that intending test takers who visited to make inquiries on the two tests were disappointed on being informed about the suspension of the tests in Nigeria.

A senior coordinator of the tests at the centre, who craved anonymity, explained that they received a mail from ETS last week informing them of the suspension of the tests in the country.

The officials who was seen responding to enquirers on the tests on the telephone during the visit, politely advised the enquirers to go to neighbouring anglo-phone countries to take the tests.

She said the mail received from the firm stated that ETS intends to conduct an “administrative review” of the tests conducted in the country in the last few years.

She noted that they were also taken aback by the development, adding that they had started sensitizing members of the public to the ways in which the suspension would not jeorpadize their dreams of studying abroad.

The official said, “Apart from the information posted on the ETS website concerning the conduct of GRE and TOEFL in Nigeria, we also received a mail stating that the test has been suspended indefinitely to enable it (ETS) carry out an administrative review of the tests conducted in Nigeria in the last few years.

“This development will not only affect us here, but also about 15 other centres in Nigeria, including our branches in Victoria Island, Abuja and Port Harcourt. For the avoidance of doubt, the credibility of the tests taken in this centre is never compromised. We subject our candidates to biometric registration as required to reduce the possibilities of fraud.

“Besides, apart from our dutiful invigilation of the tests by our members of staff, ‘observers’ from ETS also disguise as examinees and take the tests too. For instance, if you have 20 people taking any of the tests in a day, five of them are likely to be observers and this will be unknown to all of us.

“For emphasis sake, we can’t say for a fact what the issue is. Only ETS can provide answers to many of these questions.”

It was gathered that ETS had been contacting examinees on the phone and via electronic mail on the development. One of the registered GRE candidates, Hawa Abu, told our correspondent that she was shocked to be informed on the telephone on November 1, by an official of ETS from the US, who briefed her that her test scheduled for November 2, had been cancelled.

Abu, who said she registered for the test through First Logic, noted that she was given an option by the ETS agent who called her to either get a refund or reschedule the examination for a later date in another country.

Abu, a medical doctor, who said she is planning to enrol for a Master of Public Health degree programme in an American university, lamented that the development was making life more difficult for test takers.

She said, “With the way things are going, Nigerians may be asked someday to go to Ghana to take the West African Senior School Certificate Examination or how do we place this?

“The GRE test itself cost me N38, 500. Now if I have to travel to Ghana, the flight alone to and fro will cost me N52,000, needless to talk of the cost of hotel accommodation.

“Since I was informed about this suspension, things have been very difficult for me. I have been running helter skelter to adjust my schedules in order to be able to sit for the examination in Ghana. My productivity at work is now at stake. The suspension of GRE and TOEFL clearly reflects the state of affairs of our country. It is so unfortunate.”

Another prospective candidate, Emmanuel Olawusi, urged the Federal Government to seek diplomatic solution to the problem, adding that with a suspension many Nigerians planning to further their education abroad would be discouraged.

Olawusi said, “That I’m disappointed is to say the least. I have some admission deadlines to meet and as things are, my educational plans are being disrupted. We are not sure of the security concerns they cited.

“Is it the issue of Boko Haram insurgency or is it cyber security? ETS as an organisation has a right to suspend its examination in any country once they feel the conditions for the test administration is unsuitable. However, I strongly wish that the Federal Ministry of Education as well as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs liaise with it (ETS), so that the issues of concern are addressed.”

For Olamide Folorunsho, another prospective candidate, the suspension of TOEFL and GRE in Nigeria has further dented the image of Nigeria internationally. He said it was unfortunate that examinations which Nigerians sat for in their “comfort zones” are now to be taken in a foreign land.

Folorunsho, who had rescheduled the GRE examination for a later date next year, said, “This is unfortunate and this cannot be unconnected to one fraudulent practice or the other, as well as the technicalities of the examination process.

“At a point, ETS stopped Nigerians from paying directly from Nigeria online due to Internet fraud. Now that we have taken solace in making payments through accredited test centres, the examinations are being suspended in the country.

“The image of Nigeria is at stake here and something urgently needs to be done to salvage our image. I don’t think it’s the security concern raised borders on terrorism. At least, Lagos, Port Harcourt and Abuja where the tests are usually taken are peaceful.”

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