Lowering of standards for admission into varsities

Aare Afe Afebablola

The role of JAMB, NUC and the Senate(1)

It cannot be denied that the poor quality of candidates gaining admission into Universities also plays a very significant role as it has brought about a general lowering of standards with regards to admissions. jambed: Students from different parts of Lagos State, on the platform of Association of Tutorial Colleges of Nigeria, protesting the results of Joint Admission Matriculation Board, JAMB’s Computer-Based Test, CBT, at Lagos State House of Assembly, yesterday. Photo: Bunmi Azeez.

IT is generally agreed that over time there has been a drop in standard in the educational sector which had become more pronounced in the poor quality of fresh students enrolled every year into the various Universities after passing the Universities Matriculation Examination (U.M.E).

All that one requires these days is close interaction with many of the graduates who are churned out yearly by our institutions of higher learning. Such interactions will reveal that there is something wrong with what we have today. From lack of knowledge of even their supposed area of specialisation or qualification to poor communication skills, the Nigerian graduate of today is largely the greatest indicator of many things we have got wrong as a nation.

Yet in times past our educational system was the envy of many, here in Nigeria and elsewhere. In an article headed – EDUCATION IN NIGERIA: SAME PUTREFYING STORY OF ROT’ written by Sulaimon Olanrewaju and Kunle Awosiyan and publilshed in The Tribune of 3rd  October 2008,  I was quoted as follows:- ‘The products of our first universities, especially the six at Ibadan, Ife, Lagos, Benin, Nsukka and Zaria compared very favourably with those of any university in the world. They were sought after by universities at Harvard, Cambridge, Oxford and London for post-graduate degrees. When they were eventually admitted, they recorded record-breaking performances. They were offered the best jobs on graduation by the multi-national companies and other big corporate bodies. Those who chose to remain and teach in the universities either here or abroad ranked favourably with their foreign colleagues.’ Professor Mac Ade Araromi of Institute of Education University of Ibadan said:- ‘many university graduates cannot speak good English. Even at the post-graduate level, we find out that the communication ability of the students is declining. Imagine reading through a thesis and you still have to correct tenses. This is somebody who is going to be a Ph.D. holder.’ But the journey to the sorry pass was not an overnight flight.’ Many reasons have been identified as being responsible for this sorry state of affairs. The most prominent of these include: Poor funding; Strike actions and demonstrations by both students and university staff; Indiscipline among members of the university community; Cultism; Inefficiency of the Joint Admissions Matriculation Board; Scrapping of the Higher School Certificate, HSC; Bad economy and brain drain; Quality of students produced from secondary schools and admitted in the universities; and Quota system. Undue interference by the Visitor and Ministry of Education in the affairs of the university. I have written on several of the factors stated above with particular emphasis on funding. However it cannot be denied that the poor quality of candidates gaining admission into Universities also plays a very significant role as it has brought about a general lowering of standards with regards to admissions. In recognition of the deficiency suffered by fresh intakes due to the inadequacy of the quality of instruction offered at the Secondary School level, the National Universities Commission requires that fresh students take general courses in their first year so as to bridge the gap. Yet these students continually had a high drop-out and failure rate in the first year alone. As a result I consider it imperative to examine the role of certain bodies and institutions in the entire process of admission with a view to ascertaining how standards could be improved. Joint  Admission Matriculations Board In the past prospective candidates into Nigerian Universities applied directly to their Universities of choice which developed means of screening and selecting suitable candidates. This system however proved to be problematic. According to an online publication about the history of JAMB: “By 1974, there were seven federal universities in the country. Every one of these existing Universities conducted its own concessional examination and admitted its students. However, this system of admission revealed serious limitations and quite often waste of resources in the process of administering the concessional examination, especially on the part of the candidates. The general untidiness in the uncoordinated system of admissions into universities and the attendant problems were sufficient cause for concern to the committee of Vice-Chancellors.” The above led to the establishment of the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board was established in the 1970’s by an Act of Parliament with powers to administer a centralized admissions system for universities. Section 5(1)(a) of JAMB Act, provides for the functions of the Board as follows: The general control of the conduct of matriculation examinations for admissions into all Universities, Polytechnics (by whatever name called) and Colleges of Education (by whatever name called) in Nigeria Section 5(1)(b) provides as follows: The appointment of examiners, moderators, invigilators, members of subject panels and committees and other persons with respect to matriculation examinations and any other matter incidental thereto or connected therewith. Limitedness  of spaces The combined effect of Section 5(1), (a) and 5(1)(c)(ii) is that the JAMB is statutorily empowered to set and conduct examinations, appoint examiners and other invigilators for the purpose of the examination set by the board. There is no doubt that at its inception, and for many years thereafter, the Board performed admirably and creditably well and discharged its responsibilities to the satisfaction of its proponents. With the dwindling fortunes in national economy, the crash in educational facilities and the limitedness of spaces in the universities to accommodate the teeming population of secondary school leavers looking for spaces in the universities, competition became very keen. Then people began to cut corners.  JAMB officials were compromised.  The sacredness of examinations was rubbished.  The competition forced people to employ means, legal or illegal, to have an edge over competitors.  What the nation realised was that those who had the highest scores in the JAMB-conducted University Matriculation Examinations on the sole basis of which all candidates were admitted centrally into the universities by JAMB, performed poorest in their academic work in the university.  Some of them who made it to the end of their programmes graduated in the last classes of grades. To be continued

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