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Published On: Tue, Aug 19th, 2014

WAEC/WASSCE mass failure: Result of dwindling fortunes in education sector

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Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau

Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau

The issue of mass failure in public examination is worrisome to everyone, including the stakeholders that include parents and guardians, schools, exam bodies and the various arms of government. While there were noticeable, slight improvement of about eight percent in the just released West African Senior School Certificate Examinations (WASSCE) May/June released by the West African Examination Council (WAEC), over that of last year, the performance still remains abysmally poor. Adesoji  Oyinlola writes from Lagos.

The just released West African Senior School Certificate Examinations (WASSCE) May/June by the West African Examination Council (WAEC), further confirm the deterioration of student’s performance in public examination.

A direct breakdown of the recently released result shows that less than 40 per cent (38.81) of 1,695,878 candidates, who sat for the May/June exams, scaled through in the results said to be about eight per cent improvement on last year’s results.

The outgoing Head of the Nigerian National Office (HNO), Dr. Uyi Uwadiae, who announced the results, said that 649,156 candidates representing 38.81 per cent obtained credits in five subjects and above, including English Language and Mathematics, that is to say that over one million failed the exam said to be the best result in the past three years.

The poor result according to Nigerians is a direct result of the dwindling fortunes of our educational sector and it shows that foundation for human development is continually becoming weak with every passing day. Therefore, they called on the various governments to take active measures to address the ugly development.

While some are calling on the government to hastily find a workable solution to the crisis, others simply want the stakeholders to identify the root cause of the problem ravaging our educational system.

Apparently narrating the factors that are responsible for the consistent mass failure in public examination, the Image Maker of the West African Examinations Council Headquarters Mr. Yusuf D. Ari who was taken up on the issue had this to say on hearing the nature of the compliant.

 According to him, many of the candidates (generally) over 40 per cent of any typical sample, demonstrates grammar-related weaknesses in the following areas: Poor Manipulation of the articles (a, an, the, one) modifiers, especially ignorance of the use of zero determiner’ as in “The officer disliked the students.

In other words, Language testing and language learning are both a complex business. In both, we are engaged in an enterprise which is by certain teaching theories-known or assumed.  In both, our choices are underpinned by some sets of guidelines in the form of a syllabus or manual to guide the operators or beneficiaries associated with the task at hand.

“In both, we insist on theodologies expected to reduce the uncertainties that characterise our efforts in the given tasks. Both have a casual relationship.

Despite the above, communalisations of language testing and language learning manifest differences, some of which are strikingly fundamental.  In language testing, we get to certain points at which we expect differences to be extinguished so that all can accept an item as a correct answer.

“This is irrespective of the disagreements that might typically characterise the opinions prevalent at the test design stage.  In language testing, we identify consciously or covertly a particular variety of English and promote it as the corpus from which the selections will be made.

In the essay produced by the typical WAEC candidate in the English examination there is bound to be chaos in the selection of tense forms, disharmony in the area of subject-verb agreement and a high incidence of run-on sentences principally because of the candidate’s very limited attainment of grammatical fluency.  Invariable, such a candidate pays a heavy penalty for the manifested weakness or innumerable lapses.

Poor teaching and learning environment and teachers’ welfare should not be ruled out in this matter because these are areas whereby teaching becomes difficult for teachers thereby telling on the students.

It would also be noted that the sector was not insulated from painlessness, lack of commitment and the general malaise that has become the lot of governance at all levels in the country.

We should not rule out the possibility of miracle centers in the area as well, because those who operate the ‘Miracle Centers ‘are not teachers but businessmen whose main interest is financial.”

He added that the attitude of teachers and the general learning environment in schools were also contributory to the ugly situation, saying WAEC, was doing its best to tackle the situation. His words: “Some teachers also indulge in private ventures when they should be in their various classrooms teaching their students.

“In all, WAEC is not responsible for the failure.  Accusations of mass failure by candidates leveled against WAEC are thus misplaced because the rule of WAEC is that of standard-bearer.

It tests candidates based on the syllabus and ensures that standards are maintained

“The problem of mass failure in WAEC examinations should therefore be located where it really belongs and that is the classrooms.  A close look at the public schools and what goes on there shows that nothing good can come out of most of the schools as they do not have facilities, adequate and appropriate human material, to prepare the candidates for the WASSCE.

Lamenting the situation, he said it had been exacerbated by the fact that most of the students, had refused to take their studies seriously and had preferred to cheat at examinations, adding that the organisation, would neither lower its standards for the sake of such unserious students, nor close its eyes to the issue of cheating, which, in order to maintain its objectives, it would always punish vehemently.

“Most of the candidates are not prepared for the examination and so fail in large numbers or get their result cancelled for cheating.

Efforts should therefore be geared to provide more classrooms, recruit more teachers and pay them decent salaries and allowances as and when due.”

Harping on creating an effective learning condition in schools, he said facilities like libraries, laboratories, workshops for technical subjects and instrumental materials have to be provided in the right quantity to return the schools to their age-long role as sources of knowledge.

 However, the former Executive Secretary, National Universities Commission (NUC), Prof. Peter Okebukola, has given a hint on what government and various stakeholders in education can do to curtail the scourge of dwindling fortunes in education in Nigeria.

The former Lagos State University (LASU) vice chancellor recently spoke in the light of mass failure recorded in the West African Senior School Certificate Examinations (WASSCE) May/June results released by the West African Examination Council (WAEC).

Reiterating that less than 40 per cent (38.81) of 1,695,878 candidates, who sat for the May/June exams, scaled through in the results, said to be about eight per cent improvement on last year’s results and while the Federal Government through the Federal Ministry of Education, awaits comprehensive details of the results before taking any official stance, Prof. Okebukola has urged governments at various levels and education stakeholders, especially corporate sponsors like oil companies, telecommunications, etc, to adopt the South African formula, if we are willing to see, if not the end, at least a minimization of the mass failure recorded every year in public exams.

Okebukola who was answering questions from reporters at the just concluded 2012 Mobil/Science Teachers Association of Nigeria (STAN) national science quiz competition for schools, urged governments to emulate South Africa by setting up dedicated TV channels and radio stations to teach science and other school subjects to our children. He believed that if this is done diligently and consistently it will go a long way in impacting on their performance in public exams such as WASSCE.

“The South Africans have a dedicated channel, Channel 319, for teaching Chemistry, Biology, Physics, English, Mathematics, Economics, everything,” he said during the chat. “I advise every child in secondary school to watch that programme. It is on DSTv Channel 319.

You go and check it. It is a good educational programme. I will like to see a situation whereby the Federal government, state government or whatever will also mount up that kind of programme in Nigeria for our students. If we get more funding support, STAN can move in that direction. Let me tell you what it did for South African students.

When that programme started, their performance in their equivalent of our GCE/SSCE in South Africa topped several percentage points and it is still improving.” Asked to say what extent the Mobil/STAN national science quiz competition on sciences can go in improving the teaching-learning situation, Okebukola, who is the foundation member of STAN where he helped to birth the idea of the competition, said: “We are trying but we are just scratching the surface; we need several more of these efforts.

Like I said, if you have a dedicated TV channel that I am talking about or FM stations scattered all over the place, running educational programmes in Math, English, etc, it will help because our youths tune to these channels for music and other programmes. Since they are attracted to them, I feel we can use that opportunity to catch them and teach them a few things.

So, STAN intervention is helping. If we had 20 per cent pass rate, consider a scenario whereby this intervention was not there, I could see the situation getting worse. So, I think we are doing our own little bit but everybody should contribute so that we can go beyond the stage where we are now.”

Because of that, there is the motivation to work harder in the private than in the public schools. But I have been able to see some bright rays in some states like Lagos that are showing some promise in terms of revamping their primary and secondary schools. I can see that. So, the simple answer is that private is doing better than public and it is good for competition.”

In his own reaction, a member of the House of Representatives, Mr. Robinson Uwak, asked the Federal Government to declare a state of emergency in the educational sector as mass failure in numeracy and literacy in the last 11 years had become a threat to achieving the ideals of Vision 20:2020.

Rep Uwak, who represents Oron/Mbo/Okobo/Udung/Uko/Urue in Akwa Ibom State, said “the consistent failure of students in the final qualifying examinations showed that the future of the country is in trouble.

“A major reason this should be seen as a state of emergency is that as a country, we have set the goal of being among the 20 industrialized nations by year 2020, as we cannot desire this when our children are failing in numeracy (Mathematics) and literacy (English) examinations?

Uwak, however, blamed the Federal Government for not properly funding the sector, saying “between 1985 and 2005, on the average, the budgetary allocation in Nigeria is on the decline and in some cases; we spent less than 10 percent of the national budget on education as opposed to the UNESCO recommended 26 percent.

“So,  years of neglect in this sector have led to a serious decline in the quality of our students and today, we are not only facing unemployment, we are also seeing a problem of youths being unemployable (a case where graduates are not fit for employment because they cannot prove their education).

“Take, for instance, the recent case of about 80percent failure for applicants in the NNPC recruitment test where those claiming to have a 2.1 certificate scored less than 20percent, this further confirms the lack of functionality in our education, quoting the Group Managing Director of the Corporation.”

Uwak suggested that “to solve this problem, we need to do more than create policies as it must be tackled head-on by both the executive and legislature, many experts and organisations have proffered solutions to manage the crisis.

 “Some include adequate funding, massive investment in infrastructure, promotion of child-friendly and teacher-friendly school environment, revival of Parents Teachers Associations and empowerment approach to education.”

 It would be recalled that last week, when the Minister of State on Education, Mr Nyesson Wike, visited Speaker of the House, Waziri Tambuwal, the speaker  promised to help fast-track all education related bills in a bid to checkmate the deplorable state of the sector in the country.

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