April 5, 2012

UTME MASS FAILURE: Let’s salvage education sector now – Stakeholders

Nigeria, education

By Amaka Abayomi, Ebele Orakpo & Laju Arenyeka

Worried by the dismal performance of students in the recently-released results of the March 24th Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examinations, UTME, concerned stakeholders have expressed the need to take urgent measures to salvage the dwindling fortunes of the nation’s education sector.

Of the 1,503,931 candidates who sat for this year’s UTME, only three scored 300 and above compared to 2,892 that scored above 300 in the 2011 exam. 72,243 scored 250 and above while 336,330 scored below 170.

The Registrar, Joint Admissions and Matriculations Board (JAMB), Prof. Dibu Ojerinde, disclosed that 27,266 candidates in 52 of the 3,001 centres used for the examination had their results withheld by JAMB on account of malpractice.

Pointing out that the results are true reflections of the state of education today, the Public Relations Officer, JAMB, Mr. Timothy Oyedeji said the tight security measures put in place reduced the incidences of exam malpractice to a minimum, hence the mass failure.

“There are no shortcuts to success and these students must learn the importance of studying, not only to pass their exams but to improve themselves intellectually.”

When asked how the candidates would be placed into various institutions, Oyedeji said an enlarged committee would be set up to decide on the national cut-off mark so as to know how to place the students into universities, polytechnics, and colleges of education.

With barely five per cent of 1,503,931 students scoring above 250, stakeholders have deduced various reasons for the dismal performance of students in general exams.

Youths are distracted
In his reaction, Prof. Louis Egwari, Head of the Department of Biological Sciences, and Deputy Dean, School of Natural and Applied Sciences, Covenant University, Ota, said the major reason for the mass failure recorded in the last JAMB and NECO exams is that “we have ignored what is essential to the development of the people and the nation.”

In a telephone chat with Vanguard Learning, Prof. Egwari said the mindset of the Nigerian youth has been diverted to sports and entertainment, especially with the advent of social networking sites.

“Only two weeks ago,” Egwari said, “I heard they were organising beauty pageants in secondary schools. We are asking the children to forget about education and take the short-cut to stardom, fame and wealth. Therefore, no matter how good the teachers are, or how well equipped the schools are, as long as the mindset of the youths has been diverted to other areas apart from education, nothing can be achieved. We will continue to have mass failure in exams.

“The awareness being created in entertainment and sports is causing this problem. Today, students feel compelled to go to school. They say they are there just to satisfy their parents and once they are through, they will go into show business or sports.

“Go round the campuses and see what students are actually doing with their laptops, BlackBerry phones, i-Pad etc. It is nothing related to academics and it’s eroding our values. There may be other factors but these are the underlying factors,” he said.

We are all to blame
For Dr. Innocent Igwilo of the Dept. of Applied Biochemistry, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, the recent dismal performances in JAMB and NECO examinations are understandable “and are caused by multifarious factors starting from the students themselves, the teachers, parents, the society and government.

“The students are no more interested in reading at all but depend so much on examination malpractice. The teachers too, although, not well paid, have abandoned the classrooms for other activities irrelevant to academic pursuit. The parents have abandoned their function as custodians of sound education and moral character. They encourage their wards in examination malpractice by providing the money and participating directly in the abominable act.

Dilapidated buildings
“The society is only interested in the end result, only paper qualification, not what the students know. Government pays lip service to education and the total well-being of the educators. We have dilapidated buildings and no laboratories in science-based courses,” he lamented.

He called on teachers, government and students to go back to the drawing board. “We have to tell ourselves the honest truth, there must be real long-term planning in education for the situation to improve. Real money must be invested in education; it is a multi-trillion naira project, period.”

Reliance on leaked answers
For Taye Bakare, an English and Literature teacher, students fail because they rely on leaked answers.  “A lot of stories were going on that the paper leaked. I was at home when an unregistered number sent UTME results to me. I deleted them from my phone because I didn’t need them for anything.

“I think most students failed because of reliance on expo, and I think JAMB got wind of it and decided to change the questions. I think students are also distracted by a lot of things. This situation shows that the students need proper reorientation to take the longer route and study.”

JAMB is working
For an anonymous geography teacher: “I think the results show that JAMB is taking the issue of curbing examination malpractice very seriously. It also shows that perhaps the standard of Nigerian education needs to be stepped up, especially when it comes to the attitudes of the students. In the 1980s and 1990s, many students used to burn the midnight candle because it was the only way to pass, but things are different now. If students could just memorize in school, the way they memorize songs, they would do much better.”

We don’t study, we prefer to cheat
For a candidate, Ganiyat Alabi who scored 235, the failure is as a result of students not reading. “It wasn’t particularly hard but the questions were a bit confusing. There was expo in my centre but I didn’t use it. I think a lot of students did not read because they were expecting to cheat.”

Though Emmanuel Okwena’s result isn’t out yet, there were cases of exam malpractice in his centre. “Of course some people were cheating in my centre. I didn’t cheat. Of all my subjects, Physics was the hardest.”

For Nelson Nelson, physics was also the hardest. “My result wasn’t so encouraging. I got 224. It wasn’t particularly hard, but I think I didn’t carefully go through my work when I was done. People cheated in my centre but I didn’t cheat. I think the reason why people failed is a normal thing. It had to do with the lack of seriousness on the part of students. It wasn’t because they don’t have what it takes to make it.”

Let’s work at this problem —ACN
Calling on all to come join hands to uplift the declining standard of education, the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) said no nation can develop without a well-educated workforce.

In a statement issued in Accra, Ghana, ACN’s National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed said the party is deeply worried about the recently-released results of the SSCE conducted by the National Examination Council (NECO) in November/December 2011, and that of the 2012 JAMB/UTME.

“Results of the 2012 UTME are worse than last year’s, with only three candidates scoring above 300, compared to 2,892 that scored above 300 in the 2011 exam. While no one is in doubt that our country’s educational system has virtually collapsed, these results serve as a wake-up call to Nigerians, whether in or out of government, to rise up and do something urgently to revamp the system.”

Blame government
Laying the blame on the doorsteps of government, the Executive Director, New Rea Foundation, initiators of the Busy Bee spelling competition, Mr. Yemi Osilaja, said the students are taking after the leaders who have shown there’s always a shortcut to success.

“The only thing the youths know is that they want to be rich and successful without working for it. This shows that the foundation is faulty and we need to go back to the schools to reorient them and their teachers to give them new directions.”

NANS tasks FG
The National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), through its PRO, Comrade Clement Godwin Olusegun, has challenged the Federal Government through the Minister of Education, Prof. Ruqayatu Rufai, to take an urgent look at the falling standard of education in the country from the recently released of results of the just concluded JAMB-UTME examination nationwide.