Management of Joint Admisssions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) has sparked fresh controversies over academic standards, with the approval of low cut-off marks for this year’s admission into tertiary institutions.
However, JAMB Registrar, Prof Ishaq Oloyede absolved the agency of blame, in approving 160, as the minimum score for entrance into public universities.
Speaking recently at a meeting in Osun State, Oloyede said ‘the commssion was not solely responsible for the cut-off marks. It is a joint decision by institutions and other relevant stakeholders. The admission process would be guided by the approved institutional/programmes cut-off marks and minimum Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) score. The minimum UTME score for admission will be as prescribed by each institution.’
Just as in 2017 and 2018, when the administration was seriously criticised for lowering the pegged the cut-off at 120 and 140 respectively, many institutions and stakeholders have condemned this year’s minimum entry score as ‘retogressive and destabilizing.’ University of Ibadan swiftly rejected the directive, saying the institution’s minimum entry remained 200. Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Idowu Olayinka, in a statement said ‘the cut-off mark for admission into the university remained 200. For the avoidance of doubts in the minds of our prospective admission seekers, their parents and guardians, our alumni and alumnae and the general public, the minimum mark for any course at the University of Ibadan, and all its affiliated Institutions, remains 200 out of the maximum of 400.’‘This has been the position of the Senate of the University since the matriculation examinations into Nigerian Universities commenced in 1978,’ he noted.
Founder of Afe Babalola University Ado Ekiti, Chief Afe Babalola (SAN), in 2017, accused the regulatory body, of double standards and queried the rationale for the outrageous reduction of the cut-off below 200. ‘Are we now saying there will be no uniform standards in our tertiary education in this country? Is the government or its agencies encouraging double or multiple standards? It portrays us all as not having an acceptable limit for setting standards.’“Will it give international recognition to the degrees awarded by the Nigerian universities which, in any case, are already being questioned? Is the reduction a deliberate ploy to make things worse?’ Babalola asked. In justifying these paltry entry requirements, Prof Oloyede said ‘ last year only 25 percent of those, who sat for the 2018 UTME scored above 200, totalling 414,696 out of 1,603,181 candidates.’
Obviously these controversial regulations, invariably erode confidence, in the entire process riddled with crises. Other categories were also affected, as minimum score for private universities is 140, while admissions into government and private polytechnics were pegged at 120 and 110 respectively. Critics and some parents have described this oscillatory measure as a ploy, to offer admission to unqualified applicants and devalue literacy across the country.
Invariably, these inconsistencies, will further diminish standards and prospects of Nigerian graduates in the employment market especially at international levels. With the nexus between quality of admissions and performance, discriminatory regulations in academic settings would, inevitably, undermine standards, productivity and the economy. Those in favour of the policy believe it is for national equity and greater access to learning.
Critics however argue that it is a surreptitious move to compromise academic excellence and destabilize the system. Over the years, Nigeria has entrenched mediocrity, in the public sphere, particularly in appointments, through the controversial quota system, federal character and nepotism.
These aberrations, which often compromise merit, also show up in admissions into unity schools.
Sadly these irregularities, seem to worsen the nation’s chronic stagnation, infrastructural deficiencies and economic misery. Consequently, Nigeria has gained the notoriety for mass production of half-baked graduates, that are ill-equipped for the challenges of professionalism and competitiveness.
Indeed unstudious candidates admitted with low scores tend to join cults and criminal groups to cause mayhem and perpetuate crisis in campuses. This decline requires urgent and holistic reviews, in order for Nigerian scholars to excel in international circles. Government will do well to align its objectives, with best pedagogic practices in funding and procedures. Many international agencies and stakeholders have severally challenged successive governments, to boost budgetary allocations to literacy programme.
Regulators in the industry need to domesticate the benchmarks for education outlined in the fourth Sustainable Development Goal(SDG). ‘Obtaining quality education is the foundation to creating sustainable development. In addition to improving quality of life, access to inclusive education can help equip locals with the tools required to develop innovative solutions to the world’s greatest problems,’ it stated. ‘Reasons for limited access to teaching and learning are due to lack of adequately trained teachers, poor conditions of schools and inequitable opportunities, particularly in rural communities.’ Last year’s allocation of about N6 billion to education, representing seven percent of the budget, was generally seen, as ‘paltry and inadequate.’ Sadly most countries at par with Nigeria allocate about 20 percent of their budgets to the sector.
Increased allocations will, definitely, mitigate the rot in the system, mired by strikes, wage crises, high population of out-of-school children and drop-outs, especially in the north. Access to quality education is a human right, which every government should uphold for societal peace and progress. The persistent depreciation of teaching and learning across the country, has immensely contributed to the poor rating of indigenous certificates. Several international organizations discriminate against Nigerian graduates, because of these discrepancies, paucity of staff and technological dearth.
Ojukwu, a Hubert H. Humphrey fellow and journalist writes from lagos via [email protected]