“The current method of education is faulty” —Simisola Ogunleye
There can be no good sounding in the recent announcement of very low cut-off marks in Nigeria’s most important grading examination, the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination. The entire occasion reminds one of the Yoruba word, “ijamba”, which sounding like JAMB, the acronym of the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board, means something tragic.
The slash reflects nothing short of failure in the country’s educational sector. The examination recorded very woeful scores but it is not sufficient to lay claim to this as the entire reason for the cut-off reduction.
Upon hearing the announcement from JAMB slashing the cut-off marks as low as 140 for some tertiary institutions, the first question was to ask if they now grade the exam over 300 as opposed to 400 it used to be.
This situation only reflects that the desire to make educational attainment has disappeared in today’s Nigeria and has been replaced by a combination of bad educational policies and a deficient teaching and learning process.
While there are insinuations that the scores were reduced to accommodate a part of the country where there is seeming educational disadvantage and low scores so that people in those regions can access tertiary education, it still remains the case that the scores are a shame and there is no reputable examination anywhere in the world where a pass mark comes down so low.
Some argue that the cut-off reduction would encourage admission into courses where many candidates do not show interest and others suggest that the reduction would encourage private universities as they would be able to admit from the pool of low-scoring candidates.
However, for both instances, the purpose of an examination is defeated when the passing score has been dragged down below the surface.
Is JAMB telling the candidates who are preparing for the next examination that with a score of 140, they can still gain admission?
Does this reduction not erode totally the desire of the next set of candidates to score high marks and compete for the best slots?
Why should the official cut-off for a major examination that determines access to tertiary education come so low?
Why should anyone wonder when the best Nigerian university is ranked 800 and below in the world?
If the cut-off to gain admission comes so low and far below average, why should the world not view those in the institutions as simpletons and the entire university system only fit for the least positions in the universal ranking?
What good impression of a nation’s educational system can be given with very low admission cut-off into her tertiary institutions?
Examinations are designed as a form of assessment to show how well a candidate or student understands the syllabus. At the same time, it serves the function of population control to ensure only those who have distinguished themselves through the exams can proceed further. The purpose of an examination is therefore defeated when you can only pass it with a fail. The pass mark has come as low as 40 per cent.
The cause of mass failure is not far-fetched. It is found in the apparent conditions of the public schools in the country and the little motivation of candidates to face their academics as it appears education does not even guarantee daily bread.
In Nigeria, before gaining admission into a tertiary institution, a candidate has to take the UTME. The nature of this exam, as the qualifying test for the entire nation into tertiary education, ensures that the nation should instead encourage high performance among candidates and not pat low performance on the head by slashing the cut-off marks.
There is a need for an official release from JAMB on why the score has come so low. Of course, its recent remittances into the federal coffers are commendable. But how do you remit money into the coffers of government while remitting failures into her universities? This is handing Nigeria a poisoned chalice.
Some are deceived that first generation universities and other prestigious institutions will stick to high scores. However, they often end up admitting those with very low scores ahead of those with higher scores since the cut-off has been officially reduced so drastically to qualify even the low-scoring candidates.
Thus, those who can pay enough may be able to buy the slots ahead of those who could score enough even in the universities where the cut-off appears higher on paper than the JAMB cutoff. Since the cut-off is the standard, it is not impossible to still admit using it while beaming the use of higher scores to the public.
This JAMB tragic cut-off encourages in great ways corruption in the admission process. The danger in the cut-off reduction is that it further paves the way for admission racketeering as several would be able to gain admission ahead of those with higher scores once they make the cut-off and can produce the needed cash to see them through the rest of the admission process.
What is the purpose of the examination when failing it woefully below average does not debar admission?
Koye-Ladele Mofehintoluwa, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife.