By Adesina Wahab
Recently, the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board, JAMB, held its policy meeting where the benchmarks (cut-off mark) for admission to tertiary institutions in the country were arrived at.
Though the meeting was a virtual one due to the coronavirus pandemic in the country, stakeholders, including heads of tertiary institutions in the country were still able to assess the performance of candidates in this year’s Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examinations, UTME, to arrive at their conclusions.
After their deliberations, the Registrar of JAMB, Prof. Ishaq Oloyede, announced to the world, the benchmarks arrived at. For Colleges of Education, the benchmark is 100 marks, Polytechnics, 120 marks and Universities, 160 marks.
What that means is that no candidate who scored below 160 marks in the UTME would be considered for admission for any course in any Nigerian university.
Since the announcement, reactions have been coming from different quarters as to what the benchmarks portend for education in the country. Last September, a former Minister of Education, Prof. (Mrs) Ruquayyat Ahmed Rufai, while delivering the 2019 Faculty of Education Annual Lecture at the Lagos State University, LASU, Ojo, said as long as teaching is seen as a job for the dregs of the society, or a last resort for job seekers, the profession will continue to be dominated by unqualified persons in the country.
The former minister said the drastic steps should start from the admission of students to study education courses. She had said:
“When it is people with the lowest of marks in JAMB’s UTME that are admitted to study education courses, or people who see studying education or working as teachers as the last resort, what are you going to get? The cutoff points for education courses should be raised to attract brilliant students.
“Also, training of teachers should be given priority attention. There should be a special scholarship for those being trained as teachers, especially females.
“Nobody who is not a trained teacher should be allowed to be in charge of the class. They can serve as assistants to trained teachers and understudy them before they go for training.”
The Founder of CPE, Mrs. Yinka Ogunde, said the benchmark, which is 40 percent of the total marks available, called for a revisit of how education is run in the country. She said: “In those days, if a candidate scored 190 or 200 out of 400, he or she would be apprehensive that he or she might not be admitted for a course of his or her choice.
“We have played games enough with education in this country and we must wake up now. We should not allow the sector to disintegrate further. A lot of unpleasant things are happening in the sector.”
National President of National Parent Teacher Association of Nigeria, NAPTAN, Haruna Danjuma, said though the benchmark was just to guide the tertiary institutions in the country, it indicated poor performance by candidates who sat for the UTME.
Danjuma who called for a revamp of the sector and the adoption of steps that would give education the needed boost, said:
“Though the benchmark is to guide the institutions on screening candidates for admission, it still indicates that the performance of the candidates in the UTME was poor.
“If they scored well, the benchmark would have been higher. A lot of things must be put right as far as education in the country is concerned.”
However, the National President, Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, Prof. Biodun Ogunyemi, said JAMB possibly bent backward to accommodate private universities and that the benchmark should not be used to judge all tertiary institutions.
“I don’t see any public university admitting any candidate who scored lower than 180 marks in the UTME. JAMB did what they did to accommodate private universities that are having problems attracting students.
“Private universities account for less than six percent of our students. That is why we are calling on the government to adequately fund public universities and education generally at all levels,” he said.
A private school owner, Esther Omame, saw the development from another angle. She said: “Please the late Gani Fawehinmi came out with Third Class from the university but became a very brilliant lawyer. The emphasis on exams and scores is much in Nigeria.
“The admission process is frustrating. We keep comparing Nigeria with foreign countries, is this how they make their students go through horrible series of exams?
“You people should stop condemnation but lay emphasis on quality teaching as it’s done in foreign countries. Nothing is wrong with the cut-off mark. It is time to redefine the education sector.
“A rich man’s child graduates from a college in Nigeria and heads straight to America or London university, the poor man’s child graduates and begins to write JAMB and post UTME because of cut-off mark and secures no admission for years. My take, let’s face teaching that will build Nigeria.”