(BY DENNIS OKORO)
“If government is sincere and has the political will to transform the system of entry into tertiary institutions, let the Senior Secondary School Certificate be used to process entry into tertiary institutions. For many, who tout about “standards”, this may sound ridiculous but the idea is not new but has lots of merit to be seriously considered. It was canvassed when the late Professor Babs Fafunwa was the Minister of Education but persistent crises in the universities then made it difficult to pursue the idea to its logical conclusion before he left office.“
For a couple of weeks now the media have been awash with the news of the Federal Government’s purported intention to scrap the National Examination Council and the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination. The news emanated from the recommendation of the Steven Orosanye-led Presidential Committee on Rationalisation and Restructuring of the Federal Government Parastatals, Commissions and Agencies. Among other recommendations contained in the report is the scrapping of NECO and UTME.
NECO was legally established by government as a national examination body to conduct final examinations at the end of senior secondary school course for Nigerian pupils. Prior to this, the West African Examinations Council was the only body handling examinations at that level. In addition, WAEC is an international organisation, which, is not controlled by Nigeria.
At a point in its history, WAEC was overwhelmed by the sheer number of candidates sitting for its examinations in Nigeria. It lacked the capacity to cope. The results of its examinations took months to be released to candidates. Consequently, many candidates failed to gain entry into higher institutions while waiting for their results indefinitely. The disaffection with WAEC then made government opt for an alternative examination body of equivalent standard. Thus, NECO was established by an Act of Parliament.
Since it came into existence, NECO has grown to be an efficient organisation. It does not in any way duplicate the work of WAEC. Its legitimacy has been affirmed to be not in doubt. What needs to be pressed home is that WAEC is an international examination organisation; NECO is Nigeria’s national examination organisation. It conducts an alternative examination for pupils at the end of secondary education. It is not mandatory for a pupil to take the two examinations. A pupil can choose to take only NECO-conducted examination or WAEC’s. Both examinations are, however, of equal rating and approved by the Nigerian government.
It is my considered view that it will, indeed, be a very bad policy to scrap NECO at a time it has really come of age and performing efficiently just to save cost!
A lot has been written and said about the UTME and its twin, the Post-UTME for tertiary institutions. On a critical reflection, it will not be out of place to say here that the importance attached to the two examinations is totally misplaced. In the first place, there is no correlation between success at the UTME and performance at the university level. Researches carried out by two Emeritus Professors, Yoloye and OC Nwana say so. Secondly, the costs to parents and to governments in preparing for these two examinations, as well as the trauma, frustration and anxiety students go through before the examinations are not necessary. Thirdly, in spite of this, none of the examinations can override the results obtained from WAEC or NECO. In final analysis, it is the five credits and above, obtained in WAEC or NECO that hold the key for matriculation into tertiary institutions.
Why then do candidates have to go through the obstacles of two examinations just to enter tertiary institutions? In my opinion, both the UTME and the Post-UTME test are obstacles and have only succeeded in making the Nigerian Education System an examination system. Schools are no longer learning institutions but coaching establishments where the teachers now base their teaching on examination syllabuses. Let the UTME and its twin, the Post –UTME be scrapped. They have no added value to entry into tertiary institutions. Even with 100 per cent score in any of the aforementioned examinations, a child cannot gain admission into any tertiary institution in Nigeria.
“Confusion now” will certainly “make his masterpiece’’ if the tertiary institutions are not spared the burden of conducting their own selection examinations. This nation cannot be perpetually in denial about the parlous state of our tertiary institutions. It is of recent that the Presidential Committee on Needs Assessment in the Universities submitted its report to the Federal Government. The report exposed the unfavourable conditions in the system. What other evidence do we need to show that there is a lack of capacity both in staff and the level of available infrastructure in the universities to embark on conducting individual selection examinations? This certainly will be a major distraction.
If government is sincere and has the political will to transform the system of entry into tertiary institutions, let the Senior Secondary School Certificate be used to process entry into tertiary institutions. For many, who tout about “standards”, this may sound ridiculous but the idea is not new but has lots of merit to be seriously considered. It was canvassed when the late Professor Babs Fafunwa was the Minister of Education but persistent crises in the universities then made it difficult to pursue the idea to its logical conclusion before he left office.
The Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board has a role to play which is consistent with its mandate. It will collate applications for admission from applicants who have obtained their WAEC or NECO results in relevant subjects to the course of study and are prima facie qualified for matriculation; score the grades obtained appropriately; rank them in order of merit and forward the result print-out to the tertiary institutions of first and second choices of the candidates. It is from the print-outs from JAMB that selection for admission is made by individual establishments in the tertiary institutions. In this way, coordination by JAMB becomes meaningful. It has the record of applicants and so will be in a position, in collaboration with the various institutions, to mitigate the cases of wastage due to double or treble admissions.
By this method the goal of cutting costs by the Federal Government will be met. The colossal cost of running the UTME and the Post-UTME will disappear from the budget. The personnel costs will be reduced. Parents will be relieved of the anxiety of their children and wards running from pillar to post just to take examinations, which, with hindsight, in my opinion, has no value added to admission requirements into tertiary institutions.
The essence of using the WAEC or NECO as a basis for entry into the university will bring about a number of benefits to the nation. First, it will improve access to tertiary institutions, which, is the main plank on which the justification for the establishment of new universities stands. Second, students will be more focused and the teachers will have more time to plan their lessons and help the students learn rather than be driven by various examination syllabuses.
•Okoro wrote in from Magodo GRA, Lagos
Opinion pieces of this sort published on RISE Networks are those of the original authors and do not inanyway represent the thoughts, beliefs and ideas of RISE Networks.”