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Thursday, August 11, 2022

Declining Performance of UTME Candidates

THE performance of candidates writing the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examinations (UTME) conducted by the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) has been on the decline in recent years. This is not a good development for Nigeria’s education sector. For instance, of the 1.8 million that registered for the exams this year, only 21 percent of the candidates scored above the half mark of 200. That means about 80 percent  of the candidates performed below average. While giving further statistics of the 2022 examination, JAMB Registrar, Prof Isaq Oloyede noted that 378,639 scored above 200; 520,596 candidates scored 190 and above; 704,991 scored 180 and above; 934,103 scored 170 and above;  and 1,192,057 scored 160 and above.

THE statistics showed that the bulk of the candidates scored between 160 and 169 representing 40 percent out of the 400 maximum score. The examination body has thus pegged 140 as the minimum benchmark for admissions in universities; 120 for polytechnics and 100 for colleges of education for 2022/2023 session. The Hope notes that the cut-off points approved by the Board in the last five years showed that candidates have been recording very low scores in the examinations. For instance, the examination body ratified 120 as the minimum mark for degree-awarding institutions for the 2017/2018 academic session. For the 2018/2019 session, it was agreed that the 2018 UTME cut off mark be pegged at 140 for universities, 120 for polytechnics and 100 for Colleges of education while it approved 160 as the minimum cut off mark for 2019/2020 admission into public universities and 140 for private universities. The board also retained 160 as a cut-off mark for 2020/2021 university admissions.

LAST year, JAMB canceled the use of general cut-off marks in all higher institutions in the country. This means the institutions were allowed to choose their own cut-off marks for 2021/2022admission. It however returned general cut-off points for admissions into higher institutions this year pegging it at 140 for universities. The reasons for the poor performance of candidates in the UTME is attributed largely to JAMB’s preventive measures against  sharp practices which made students to record high marks that they did not earn as obtained in the past. JAMB under its current leadership has no doubt introduced some reforms with the aid of technology to checkmate examination misconduct and sharp practices. These include the use of National Identification Number (NIN) by candidates to check impersonation, and thorough invigilation and monitoring of examination centers with remote sensors from JAMB’s offices. It stands to reason then that the scores of the candidates in the UTME in recent times are a true reflection of their abilities.

THE current situation calls for worry. This is because one may want to ask, is the standard of the questions now raised above the level of most candidates as against what obtained in the past? The answer is certainly no. As a matter of fact, JAMB has deployed technology to the advantage of the candidates in their preparation for the examinations. Nowadays, the Board has made materials available on three platforms to ensure that its syllabus was accessible to all candidates sitting its examination. The platforms are the Board’s Integrated Brochure and Syllabus System (IBASS); the CD, which was given to candidates after completion of registration; and the link https://www.ibass.jamb.gov.ng.  provided with the candidates’ profile code. It then shows that what went wrong is with the candidates, not the examination body.

THE low marks are further indicative that something is wrong with the education system in Nigeria which the government needs to look into. For instance, how do we place the high performance of students in the senior school certificate exams conducted by WAEC, NECO and NABTEB side by side with their dismal performance in UTME? Little wonder then that JAMB Registrar recently announced that the Minister of Education has approved that the NABTEB A’Level  GCE will no longer be recognised as a qualification for Direct Entry from 2022. This is a further proof that JAMB is gradually losing confidence in some of the examinations conducted by other bodies.

WHILE commending JAMB for sanitizing the system by putting its house in order, The Hope  observes that this low cut off mark is to cater for what JAMB calls educationally less developed states particularly in the north as well as helping to get students into the numerous private universities that we now have. Private universities have become a way to solve the problem of space but how many parents can afford to put their children and wards there given the high fees being charged except the financially buoyant ones? That is why some parents cut corners in their places of work in order to send and keep their children in private universities.

WE therefore call on teachers, school administrators, parents, government and other stakeholders to rise up to address the decline in the education sector for the sake of the nation’s future.

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