Wassce, UTME Mass Failures and Education in Nigeria

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The mass failure recorded in the result of the May/June West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) conducted by the West African Examinations Council (WAEC) raises serious alarm about the standards and quality of education in Nigeria. The result released on Monday showed that only 529,425, representing 31.28 per cent of the total number of candidates, who sat for the examination, obtained credit and above in five subjects, including English language and Mathematics, the minimum requisite academic qualifications to secure admission into tertiary institutions in the country.According to Charles Eguridu, the Head of the Nigeria National Office who announced the release of the results in Yaba, Lagos, head office of the council, 1,705,976 candidates registered for the exam but 1,692,435 candidates participated. Of this figure, 1,605,613 candidates (representing 94.87 per cent) had their results fully released, while 86,822 candidates (representing 5.13 per cent) had a few of their subjects still being processed for various errors and omissions solely traceable to candidates and their schools. 145,795 other candidates, representing 8.61 per cent results are being withheld for cases of alleged malpractices.

The WAEC boss said the overall performance of candidates in this year’s exam shows a steady decline over the last two years. The statistics he presented showed a decline from 649,156 (38.81 percent) and 610,334 (36.57 percent) of the total candidates who sat for the exam scoring credit pass and above in five subjects, including English language and mathematics, in 2012 and 2013 respectively to 529,425 (31.28 per cent) this year.

As a matter of fact, WASSCE is not the only examination where students performed poorly in recent time.

The result of the 2014 Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) conducted across the country by the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB) released in April showed that of a total of 1,015,504 candidates consisting of 990,179 candidates for the Paper Pencil Test (PPT) and 25,325 candidates for Dual Based Test (DBT) modes of the examination, only 47 candidates scored 250 and above, consisting of 24 and 23 candidates in the PPT DBT respectively.

The falling standard of education in the country has become a serious worry to stakeholders and analysts in the education sector. The Head of the WAEC National Office in Nigeria attributed this to many factors that include parents’ neglect of their children’s education.

Other factors analyst noted that led to the fall in education standards include inconsistent and unfavourable government policies. For instance, the federal government has yet to adopt the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) recommendation that 26 per cent of annual budgets of member countries be allocated to education.

Victoria Ibezim- Ohaeri, an activist on national issues agreed that the overall student performance ratings in national examinations have been on a downward spiral in the last two years.

She observed that in the 2011 UTME about 2, 892 candidates scored 300 and above in the examination in which a total of 1, 493, 000 candidates participated. Two years after, Nigeria recorded the highest-ever mass failure in the same examination. The 2013 results released by the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB) showed an unprecedented decline in the standard of education, with many students scoring below 150 out of the 400 marks based on the four papers each of the candidates sat for. Compared to the 2, 892 that scored above 300 in 2011, only ten candidates scored 300 marks and above in 2013.

Although 47candidates scoring above 250 in 2014 may appear a slight improvement over the 2013 performance where 10 candidates scored above 300 marks, Ibezim-Ohaeri said “the grim statistics sharply contrasts with Nigeria’s millennium development goals as well as the aspiration to join the top 20 economies of the world. No country with that kind of tall ambition jokes with the education of its citizens. That is why a strategic ministry like that of education should never ever be used for rewarding political loyalists and or settling bigoted hangers-on.”

The government and indeed all stakeholders need to do something urgently to redress the declining standard of education in the country. If Nigeria indeed wants to rank among the top 20 economies, then the government must take note of former South African President, Nelson Mandela’s words that “Educating all of our children must be one of our most urgent priorities. We all know that education, more than anything else, improves our chances of building better lives… Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

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