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Sunday, 26 June 2011

JAMB and The Failure Of Public Exams

The Joint Admissions and Matriculations Board otherwise known as JAMB had last wek released its results for candidates seeking admission into Nigerian Universities. The poor results didn't come as a surprise to me; a worrying trend that has seen candidates' performance being on a downward spiral ever since I first sat for the exams myself over a decade ago. To gain admission into a Nigerian univesity, at least as I had previously known it to be, a candidate needs to score at least over the 200 mark something 56% of the over a million students who sat for the exams did not manage to achieve. It is also of utmost great concern that just under 3000 students which represents 0.2% of the entire candidates achieved a score of 300 and above.

So why are our young people increasingly doing so poorly in public exams in Nigeria? We need to first take a long hard look at what type of education is on offer in primary and secondary schools. As I write this piece, it has almost been impossible to get hold of what is called the new basic education curriculum for primary and junior secondary schools, launched in 2007. Four years after its launch, not even the Federal Ministry of Education's non-functional website can something as basic as the National curriculum document can be found ~ a topic for another day perhaps. However, from what I understand, the new curriculum will have an emphasis on voctional education and enterpreneurial skill. This is all well and good but the trouble is we are never short of good policy formulation but our biggest nemesis is to actually make it to work. The failure by successive governments to invest heavily in both infrastructure in schools; teaching and learning resources and more importantly a rigorous teacher training programme. The unattractiveness to teaching because of poor remuneration and other conditions of service has left the profession with a negative perception as one that is for people who perhaps didn't do well enough to go to university.

If you sum up all these issues coupled with corruption and ineptitude in the way our schools are run, it comes not as a surprise why many of our young people are failing because of an educational system that has failed and refused to reform. The decades of neglect has led to the chickens finally coming home to roost in the rot that pervades every aspect of education in Nigeria typified by the recent JAMB results.

We also need to ask ourselves if a test with only multiple choice questions by a single exam board is a true measure of the ability of students who end up going to university? Are the questions in line with what is being taught in schools? Do schools and Universities make any input in questions or at least the way they are set? There needs to be some deep soul searching by govt at all levels and they should begin to take steps to fix the mess that our educational system has become if we are to avoid headlines that portrays the educational underachievement that sadly our children have become known for.

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