The results of the May/June 2015 West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) were published a fortnight ago, and there was not much to cheer. The results of this examination are important because they provide a glimpse of the overall outlook of our secondary school education and the preparedness of our high school graduates to face the future, either in tertiary institutions or in the workforce.
The Head of the Nigerian Office, Mr. Charles Eguridu, reported that of the 1,593,442 candidates who sat for the examinations, only 616,370, representing 38.68 per cent, obtained credits in five subjects including English Language and Mathematics. The attainment of credit level passes in five subjects, including Mathematics and English Language, has for decades been the minimum requirement for admission into many of the nation’s universities.
Giving a further breakdown of the candidates and how they fared, Mr. Eguridu noted that 1,605,248 registered for the examinations, of which 1,502,442,consisting of 864,096 males and 729,346 females, eventually took the papers. Results of 118,101 candidates, amounting to 7.4 percent, were withheld in connection with various examination malpractices now being investigated. The reports of the investigations would be presented to the Nigerian Committee of WAEC for consideration. A further performance analysis reveals that 758,849, that is 47.62 per cent, obtained six credits and above, while 949,802 representing 59.61 obtained five credits and above. A total of 1,114,998 or 69.97 per cent obtained credits in four subjects and above.
A few conclusions can be deduced from these figures. First, it is clear that examination malpractices are still alive and well in our system. WAEC must be commended for its efforts to check them. The council must not rest on its oars. Dishonest candidates would always devise ingenious methods to cheat but the council should strive to always be one step ahead of them. The integrity of the examinations is their greatest virtue. Lose it and the whole edifice crumbles.
Had all the candidates who obtained five credits and above also recorded credits in Mathematics and English, the results would have been more cheering. However, the high failure rate in Mathematics and English Language is not new. What is frustrating is its persistence. Every state ministry of education theoretically knows what to do. It is that good teachers are needed to teach English and Mathematics – teachers who can make these subjects interesting to students, teachers knowledgeable and committed enough to push the students to score the required credits and finally end this annual lamentation about poor performances in the subjects.
In the current electronic age, there is no avoiding Mathematics. The world of today is a much more knowledge-driven place. How can we compete with the rest of the world if our boys and girls are deficient in the basic language and skills of knowledge? These results are coming at a time the Federal Government is mulling the hire of 500,000 graduate teachers. We suggest that whenever this is going to happen, special attention should be paid to those who will be recruited to teach Mathematics and English.
One other unfortunate aspect of these examination results is the very poor performance of candidates of some of the geo-political zones. While the South-East and South-South states put up a fair performance with Abia, Anambra and Edo, coming first, second and third respectively, eight northern states, namely Yobe, Zamfara, Jigawa, Gombe, Katsina, Kebbi, Bauchi and Sokoto, brought up the rear. The performance in the South-West was also largely unimpressive. Although Lagos State came sixth out of Abuja and the 36 states, Osun and Oyo placed 29th and 26th respectively. This is a most unfortunate decline, considering the South-West’s history of good educational performance.
Let all state governors hold special sessions with their education authorities and design strategies to improve performance of their candidates in the examinations. The performance of some states is so embarrassing that in other climes, the education commissioners and school administrators would simply be dismissed. These states should declare education emergencies and begin to work hard at improving their candidates’ performance in future editions of the examinations. We also believe that until the performance of school administrators are tied to the performance of their students, we will continue to see this type of lacklustre results.
Why, for instance, would the principal of a federal government college where not one candidate obtained five credits including Mathematics and English be retained? Four Unity Schools recorded this ignominious distinction. State governors should call a conference of their secondary school principals and read them the riot act. The states should provide enabling environment for good performance, while the principals who cannot get 50 per cent of their candidates to pass national public examinations ought to be changed.
In many of the advanced countries, state governors do all they can to recruit good teachers and administrators who can deliver results. They do not bat an eyelid relieving those who are non-performing of their jobs. No school system should retain teachers and administrators who are ineffective. Teachers who cannot help failing students should be re-trained, monitored, and dismissed if they are incapable of helping students improve their scores.
There is no alternative to raising our education standard, for that is one sure way in which we can reduce unemployment. Good jobs require good skills and good skills come from good education. The nation’s survival and prosperity depend on the good education of our children who are the future of the country.