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News ANALYSIS: On the tracks of mass failure in NECO exams


It is sad to note that for five consecutive years, candidates writing the National Examination Council (NECO) exams have recorded mass failures. Apparently, the scenario is becoming worrisome to education stakeholders as nobody knows at whose door-steps to place the blames, students or NECO.

Going down memory lane, it was discovered that in 2002 at NECO’s maiden edition, most candidates passed  their registered subjects including English Language and Mathematics which led to  the public accusing  the examination body of awarding cheap results to students.

However,  after  2007 NECO November/December examination where 65 per cent had credit passes in Mathematics and  85 per cent credit passes in the English Language, performances of candidates  have subsequently deteriorated every year, down to 11.3 per cent in 2011/2012 result, a situation which calls for concern among stakeholders.

During  NECO June/July 2011 SSCE school-based examination, less than 25 per cent of the 1,160,561 candidates had passes at credit level in subjects, including the two core subjects of Mathematics and English Language across the country.

A statistical breakdown of the awful trends revealed that in June/July 2010 Secondary School Certificate Examination conducted by NECO, 79 per cent failed to get credit passes in English Language, while 24 per cent failed Mathematics.

In the 2009 May/June Senior Secondary School Certificate (SSCE) examinations, only 12 per cent of candidates recorded the mandatory five credits in subjects including the compulsory Mathematics and English Language. Details of the result further showed that only 4,223 candidates out of the 234,682 candidates had five credits that include English and Mathematics, representing 1.8 percent of the total.

Cross section of candidates during an exam

Also, in  NECO Nov/Dec 2009 Senior School Certificate Examination results, 98 per cent failed to clinch five credit passes, including Mathematics and English Language. What went wrong and why the examination body that was a toast of students before, suddenly go sour?

Bothered by the downward trend in NECO results, Professor Ngozi Azuka Osarenren of the Department of Educational Foundations, Faculty of Education, University of Lagos, said that the failures recorded in NECO results in the past five years were predominantly from external candidates of November/December NECO.

School based examination
She said: “Nov/Dec (GCE) NECO is designed for external candidates and is not a school-based examination. These are examinations for people who have other competing variables with the examination. Most of these candidates are working class people who have been out of school for some time. The kind of attention that normal students writing May/June give to their studies is missing in working class students.

Analysing the 2011 Nov/Dec (GCE) NECO results where a mere 11.3 per cent of students scored credit passes and above in English Language and Mathematics, Osarenren noted that when you look at the detailed results, you may likely see a situation where some of those students scored seven credits including English Language without Mathematics or Mathematics without English. Some other students could even have six credits without English Language or without Mathematics.

Admitting that the 11.3 per cent credit passes was not a good performance, the Professor of Counselling asked: “How many of those students are aspiring to use the results for tertiary admission?” According to her, “when you talk about  five credits effective pass, it refers to the credit passes requirement for university admission. Many universities insist on students having English Language and Mathematics at one siting before admission.”

Again, she asked: “What preparations did those NECO external candidates make before their examination, how were their primary school, junior secondary school and senior secondary school levels like? It is the cumulative of 11 years study that is reflecting on the final year examination.

She added: “If there have been fundamental hiccups, errors, gaps in knowledge and learning, there must be difficulty with the students passing very well.”

Downward spiral of candidates’ results
Osarenren who lamented the downward spiral of NECO candidates’ results in the past five years reiterated that the fundamental issue is not addressed. “What fundamental things have we done in the education sector?” Osarenren asked.

Soliciting for the need to have quality qualified teachers, she noted that there is a gross shortage of qualified teachers especially in core subjects like Mathematics and English Language.

In a subject like Mathematics, she pointed out that there are four key concepts which many of the Mathematics teachers themselves do not know. Because the teachers do not know, they avoid teaching students. Her words: “There are some aspects of the syllabus which come out in their examinations that are not taught by teachers because they do not even know it themselves.

For all I know, some of these people studied on their own. There are many schools in this nation that do not have Mathematics teachers. In some cases, a whole school with SS1 and SS3 having about 1,000 students, may just have one Mathematics teacher. What can that single teacher do? If we do not invest in education, we will not reap in education. We are not talking of providing funds for education but investing funds in education.

It’s all about investing funds in those key areas that will enhance productivity and success. Teachers should go for training and retraining to enhance productivity.

When was the last time, any state of this nation did recruitment of teachers, or when last did they conduct retraining exercise for their teachers? This is a nation where people obtain certificates without attending class. That is why some universities do not admit NCE graduates from certain institutions.


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