At a policy-making meeting in the Abuja office of JAMB in July there was a consensus to slash down the once sky-touching cut-off marks for admission into Nigerian tertiary institutions. Let us take note that the policy makers were representatives of Nigerian higher institutions and Nigerian Ministry of Education. I do not differentiate between representatives of government and those of JAMB because they have always been the same to me. JAMB officials, representatives of tertiary institutions and officials of the Education Ministry have mostly been drawn from our higher institutions. So where is the difference?
The collaboration of these interest groups resulted in the knocking down of scores: 180 for degree-awarding institutions, 150 for institutions that award National Certificate in Education and National Diploma.
This means goodbye to the days of having to score between 250 and 300, 140 -150 if you must be offered admission into a higher institution of learning in Nigeria. Please also note the children that the breakneck scores gave birth to: Special Centres and Special Candidates.
If you could not pass JAMB you were not bright enough for higher institution. And when graduates who were dealt with by these exam bodies got through with school and could not secure employment they were quick to point out the evils of exam bodies. They thus came up with the money-spinning ‘mercenary’ business idea. Coaching centres soon popped up. These Centres were not really interested in imparting knowledge but how to cut the long road to school short.
Also, students got smarter every year. They would rather spend a year or two doing pre-degree/diploma at the university of their choice than go through the theatrics of failing JAMB. The fact that many students who can afford to do away with JAMB are doing it in their thousands, I suspect, is a big issue for JAMB. It is a big issue because the number of students sitting for the exam continues to decrease and the money made too is falling.
This I believe is the reason the body would go as far as bringing down the bar. Our Higher Institutions too are getting richer, thanks to post-UME exams. But if JAMB dies, post-UME too dies and the money snores in the grave. This points to why representatives from higher institutions could agree to be accessories in the decision-making process of reducing the cut-off marks.
JAMB and post-UME are two good evils that must not be allowed the pleasure of dying the death that threatens them. We put the Nigerian student in greater danger if we allow such occurrence for it would then mean the Higher Institutions will become Almighty fate determiners and students would constantly be at thier mercy. Of course if JAMB dies our great citadels of ignorance have a trillion other ways of exploiting students and parents. But we recognize, by this moral support of theirs, more money seems to come in through post-UME exams. We should not even think of another body replacing JAMB because it will experience the same fate. We may dare to think of having more than one body that performs the exact functions of JAMB so that the rivalry would create a breathing space for the average Nigerian student. There are many other African countries that also subscribe to regional exam bodies but who still have more than enough exam bodies within their countries to create good competition for the regional exam bodies.
Let Nigeria break up the power of JAMB; let her multiply the number of exam bodies. Let each state be responsible for its academic life; let these bodies have enough autonomy to generate their funds and conduct their exams while being supported by the federal government. These bodies could be answerable to a national governing body for checks and balances. South Africa’s IEB (Independent Examinations Board) is in charge of examinations such as NSC (National Senior Certificate) which happens both at IEB and provincial levels. Who says Nigeria cannot borrow a leaf from countries like Albania, Hungary, Austria, and Macedonia etc who make their secondary school finalists sit only for Matura and gain admission into higher institutions right away without further examinations? But can we have such one formidable and credible exam body which would completely nullify the need for JAMB and post-UME exams?
Maybe we can even make the best of our current examination policies only if the parties involved can be serious with the implementation. Or can we yet devise a believable means by which students’ intelligence could be tested without making them go through the rigours of examinations? Did I hear you say that is a debate for another day?
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