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Published On: Mon, Sep 22nd, 2014

Being too clever by half

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WAEC-Logo-nThe Nigerian office of the West African Examinations Council (WAEC) has reported a “minimal decline” in the May/June 2014 West African School Certificate Examination (WASCE) results of Nigerian students, down from 2012 and 2013 results. Most national newspapers interpreted that as “mass failure”. One national daily, for instance, carried the story under the headline “Mass failure as WAEC releases May/June results”, quoting Head, National Office, Mr. Charles Eguridu, as reporting a mass failure in English and Mathematics.

“A total of 529,425 candidates, representing 31.28 per cent, obtained credits in five subjects and above, including English Language and Mathematics”, said Eguridu while reporting on this year’s WASCE performance at a press conference in Lagos. This number is out of the 1.7 million candidates that wrote the exam.  This means that, going by the requirements for admission to university degree programmes, more than 700,000 candidates are unable to meet the requirement.

However, Mr. Eguridu has since come out to contradict the newspaper reports and their interpretation of the result as “mass failure”. Speaking August 27 on a Channels Television programme, he said there was no mass failure in the exam but a “minimal decline” in performance in English and Mathematics compared to 2012 and 2013 which recorded 38.81% and 31.57% respectively. He said it was a “misnomer” to refer to failures in the two subjects as mass failure as they “do not determine success in some careers”. However, he admitted that the two subjects are the two “core subjects” Nigeria has opted for, unlike Ghana, another WAEC member, has four – Integrated Science, Social Studies, English Language and Mathematics.

Now, if fewer than a half of nearly 2 million candidates who sat for the May/June 2014 WASCE passed the two core subjects at the credit level, we wonder what to describe the failure rate but a mass failure.  What was Eguridu afraid of? Losing his job if he called a spade a spade? What he should have done was admit the WASCE result this year was dismal. Even the previous years’ results which he benchmarked were intolerable for a country with English as lingua franca.

Rather than defend the indefensible, Eguridu should, from his long experience of conducting the WASCE, explain why the perennial failure rates in English Language and Mathematics and what should be done to remedy this ugly situation. For instance, everyone knows that the low quality of teaching in most schools in this country is a reflection of the competency of teaching staff. This also is related to poor funding of the school system by the government. Poor remunerations have driven qualified teachers away and into better paying professions.

These are some of the causes of the mass failure in WASCE that Mr. Eguridu is trying to hide. This is very unhelpful of him.

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