From where I sit - Failed state of education

December 8, 2011

For far too long, Nigeria's leaders have ignored the hidden factors underpinning the dismal performance of the country's university system.

Recently, the newspapers quoted Namadi Sambo, Nigeria's vice-president, as saying that education in the country will be radically overhauled and "improved".

But when considering the administration's failed efforts, one can't help wonder whether the country really deserves an academy.

Let's look at the dwindling performances of prospective university students in the Senior Secondary School Certificate Examination.

To say the least, these results do not reflect a nation committed to higher education.

The failure rate among candidates this year was incredible. Of 1,160,561 students who sat the English language paper in summer 2011, only 0.2 per cent passed with distinction; 22.7 per cent passed with credit; 6.6 per cent failed; while 4.4 per cent were alleged to have committed various forms of malpractice and had their papers cancelled.

The remainder received only certificate passes and therefore must retake their papers to secure university admission.

So only a minority of Nigerian students are qualified for university or any tertiary education, since English is one of the sector's main entry requirements.

The record in mathematics was not much better.

Of the 1,156,561 candidates who sat the exam, 0.3 per cent passed with distinction, 25.6 per cent did so with credit and 62 per cent scraped through.

The highest failure rate was recorded in core science subjects such as chemistry and biology.

Sadly, these are the skills that Nigeria desperately needs right now.

In a country that truly cared about education, these disastrous results would have led to mass wailing, the gnashing of teeth and a wave of sackings - but what the people witnessed instead was the usual empty rhetoric from politicians who appear to be out of touch with reality.

The reason for the appalling results given by the registrar of the National Examination Council, Promise Okpala, was that students entered the exams without being properly prepared for them. That isn't much of an explanation.

Candidates seeking university admission in Nigeria are required to obtain at least five credits in subjects including English language and maths. After these results, it is clear that not many will make it to university. What will happen to the vast majority who have failed to meet the entry requirements?

In light of the results, perhaps it is fair to say that Nigeria doesn't deserve an academy. The majority of its students have demonstrated their inability to survive the rigours of intellectual pursuit, while its leaders continue to pass the buck and do nothing to arrest the nation's educational decline.

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