From Fred Ezeh, Abuja
The recent call by the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) for the scrapping of unified cut off point, thus giving individual institutions of higher learning the freedom to decide their cut-off points has generated serious debate amongst stakeholders in the education sector.
Though the decision is still at the level of consultation, following Dr. Fabian Benjamin’s call, Head, Public Relations, JAMB, for a public debate on the issue, interested parties have began to bare their minds on the proposed plan.
Unified cut-off point is a mandatory score that a candidate must meet in the annual JAMB admission exams to proceed to the next stage of the admission process. For the 2016 admission exercise, JAMB and other relevant stakeholders agreed that every university in Nigeria will adopt 180 while candidates seeking admission into polytechnics and colleges of education would have 150 as their official cut-off marks.
But few weeks ago, the JAMB Registrar, Prof Ishaq Oloyede, through the Board’s spokesman, Dr. Benjamin, issued a statement, suggesting that institutions should be allowed to fix their individual cut-off marks for candidates seeking admission into their education portal.
Oloyede argued that the uniformity of the cut-off marks that was hitherto adopted by the federal government does not make much sense, particularly when colleges of education and polytechnics admit for NCE (Nigerian Certificate in Education) and diploma respectively, and universities do so for degree.
But the implication of this liberalization of cut-off marks, if eventually approved and adopted, according to JAMB, is that different universities would have different cut-offs for different courses they offer. “For instance, if a Polytechnic like Yabatech in Lagos wants 250 as cut off mark and Gboko Polytechnic in Benue State wants less than 200, they can go ahead and admit students,” Prof. Oloyede suggested.
The JAMB helmsman, who is of the view that institutions should be known for their individual academic quality and not for collective standards, believes that such decentralisation of cut-off marks, will foster positive competition for the overall good of the institutions. He, however, expressed worry over the wide gap that exists in social class opportunities, stressing how it affects the distribution of admission resources. “The rich have multiple options including foreign education, but the poor only have the opportunity of struggling for the scarce space within the Nigerian universities,” he noted.
On the JAMB suggestion to abolish the unified cut-off mark, Dr. Gregory Ibeh, the Chancellor, Gregory University, Uturu, Abia State, said he is in support of whatever step that JAMB would take to improve the quality and standard of education in Nigeria, including having a separate admission examination cut off mark for each tertiary institution, considering their carrying capacity and academic standard.
All the same, he was disappointed that such issue is dominating public discuss instead of seeking formidable ways to provide financing for education especially for brilliant students who cannot afford the high cost of tertiary education.
“Government should focus attention on ways it can provide pool of fund for brilliant but less-privileged students to easily access funds for the financing of their education to at least first degree level,” he advised. “It should put in place transparent and credible mechanism that would ensure that such loans are paid back after graduation, so that another interested student can access it for the same purpose.”
Dr. Peter Ogah, a lecturer in the Department of Sociology, University of Abuja, in his view, rejected the proposed scrapping of unified cut off mark, noting that “it is better to have the same entry requirement for all tertiary levels as it will discourage the strife for university education; again, the discrimination against non-university graduates will also collapse.”
But Dr. Ifeanyi Anorue, Head, Mass Communication Department, University of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN), argued that there was never a unified cut-off mark for universities, even when JAMB pegged 180 as cut off mark for admission into universities, and 150 for polytechnics and colleges of education.
“What JAMB is saying is no different from what has been going on in university admission processes,” he said. “Aside the fact that individual universities have cut-off marks for different faculties, different set of cut-offs is fixed for different courses. For instance, the 250 official cut-off marks that UNN set for mass communication candidates was not the decision of JAMB but the institution’s. So to my understanding, JAMB is obviously saying the same thing but in a different way. I want to believe that its decision is procedural and not in the real sense of it. It is true that JAMB might have proposed 180 or 200 as cut-off mark for mass communication candidates but UNN uses its discretion to fix cut-off for candidates considering the peculiarities of the institution.”
Prof. Sunday Agwu, Dean, Postgraduate School, Ebonyi State University (EBSU), kicked against the proposed scrapping, “considering our current level of development. I can assure you that scrapping of unified cut off point would have a ripple effect on the quality of students being admitted into tertiary institutions.”
Prof. Agwu, a curriculum expert, advised JAMB to consult widely to harness the views and contributions of all before taking final decision on the matter.