The recent results of the May/June West African Senior School Certificate Examination have further underscored the dwindling fortunes of education in the country, writes ARUKAINO UMUKORO
Over one million students were left lamenting following the release of the results of the May/June, 2014 West African Senior School Certificate Examination by the West African Examinations Council on Monday.
This was because out of the 1, 692, 435 candidates, comprising 929, 075 males and 763, 360 females, that sat for the examinations in the country, only 529,425 which represents 31.28 per cent, obtained credit passes in five subjects and above, including English Language and Mathematics.
Credit passes in five subjects, including English Language and Mathematics, in WASSCE or the National Examinations Council, is the requirement to gain admission into universities in the country.
Announcing the results in Lagos, the Head, National Office of WAEC, Mr. Charles Eguridu, said out of the total number of candidates that sat the examination, 791,227, representing 46.75 per cent obtained six credits and above, while 982,472 representing 58.05 per cent, obtained five credits and above.
“A total of 529,425 candidates, representing 31.28 per cent, obtained credits in five subjects and above, including English Language and Mathematics. When compared to the 2012 and 2013 May/June WASSCE diets, there is marginal decline in the performance of candidates,” Eguridu said.
Many had hailed the slight improvement in the last two years as a possible renaissance of the country’s secondary education sector. However, with the current result, these now appear to have been a false dawn, especially for public secondary schools.
According to an education consultant, Dr. Olusegun Omisore, the marginal decline could have been avoided if pupils are prepared for the WASSCE examinations right from the primary school level.
Omisore especially blamed the declining state of infrastructure in public schools around the country as a reason for the poor performance of candidates this year.
He said, “A situation where you have about 100 pupils in a classroom to one teacher is not the best. They are just too many for the teachers to control. The environment is not conducive for learning. How do we expect them to learn? They are just going to school to simply write and pass exams. Hence, it is not surprising that they have the 31 per cent pass rate in the WASSCE this year.”
“The main problems are lack of infrastructure, teachers and scholarly environment for pupils in public secondary schools. There are no libraries, no adequate laboratories, teachers are being owed salaries and they are forced to go on strike or they have to augment their salaries by selling of provisions like groundnuts and biscuits.”
In the same vein, an educationist, Dr. Ademola Azeez, said the recent WASSCE result showed that there is much work to do towards improving secondary school education in the county.
“It’s very sad that the candidates could fail such an exam to that magnitude. I think the challenge is for the school administrators and teachers to be concerned about the mass failure. I’m aware that WAEC regularly reviews the syllabus in conjunction with the schools, but it is one thing to have a good syllabus and another to follow that syllabus to the letter. That’s why I don’t think the problem is with the syllabus, but whether it was covered or not,” he said.
Some candidates who wrote this year’s WASSCE exams also shared their views with our correspondent.
Although 17-year-old Tobi Akinyede called for a review of the syllabus for the examination, she noted that the problems ran deeper than that.
She said, “The examination scheme should be revisited because most of the subjects are just theoretical, they don’t put into practice some things they have been taught. So, when the candidates get to the examination hall, they don’t know what to do or write, and they have to resort to cheating. That’s why most people rely on cheating.
“Also, I think there is need for tremendous improvement. Teachers don’t really ground the students again on the basics in these subjects. They just teach students to pass examinations, but that only works with internal examinations because they (teachers) are the ones who set the questions. This method does not work for external examinations like WAEC. Pupils are not sure of which questions would come out eventually. And for those people that rely on cheating, most of the leaked exam answers are always wrong.”
Similarly, a 17-year-old student, Akinyemi Lawani, said pupils in private secondary schools may also have an edge over their public schools counterparts because they have better facilities.
“I feel I have more advantage as a pupil in a private school than those in public schools. Those in public schools don’t really have books on some subjects and their teachers don’t really care if they pass or not. Also, I am really shocked (at the poor performance of candidates this year) because the questions were very cheap compared to previous years,” he said.
Lawani, who is confident of making all his papers because he ‘prepared well’, said the employment of more qualified teachers in the public education sector would help students do better in their studies.
This, Omisore agreed to but urged the federal and state governments to invest more into public education by providing more educational infrastructure, funding researches, as well as training and re-training of teachers.
“There is a big disparity between private and public schools also. Pupils in private schools could go anywhere and excel because they have better learning facilities than those in public schools, but their tuitions are expensive and not every parent can afford to send their wards there.
“In the UK, where I trained, there are private schools but there are public schools which rival these private schools in terms of educational facilities. It is up to the individual to choose, whichever one he or she decides, private or public, you are going to get value for money. In Nigeria here, we don’t have that.
“We need to look at the sector holistically. We need what I call a general surgical operation for our education. We should realise that we are trying to train future leaders and to do this, we need to give them proper training, not just for them to go to school and pass exams.”
The Public Relations Officer, WAEC, Mr. Yusuf Ari, told SUNDAY PUNCH that, despite the recent statistics, these candidates, who did not get the minimum requirement of credit passes in five subjects, should not be considered as ‘failures.’ According to Ari, not every higher institution requires a candidate to have a minimum of five credits in subjects, including Mathematics and English Language.
He said, “Every candidate must not get a minimum of five credits, including English Language and Mathematics, to say he or she has passed that examination. Candidates who did not get five credits in subjects including English Language and Mathematics, shouldn’t be considered as having failed because the person with three credits can still go to a college of education. So, it wouldn’t be right to call them failures simply because they have less than five credits. Having three credits or not going to a university doesn’t make one a failure. We don’t consider those who got less than five credits, including English Language and Mathematics, as failures.”