Nigeria’s Joint Admission and Matriculation Board, JAMB, has been in the news for what many has described as the encouragement of the erosion of the country’s educational standard. Recently, the body released a minimum value of 120/400 as the benchmark for admission into Universities, 100/400 was set for admission into Colleges of Education, while 110 was set for admission for Innovative Enterprising Institutes. According to JAMB, the idea was to encourage the admission of more students into these institutions. This development does not stop these institutions from having a cut-off mark higher than the recommended. It only stops them from going lower.
Different institutions and people have rejected this new position. Their has been many arguments against this new benchmark introduced by JAMB and most are born out of oversight. Let’s make some things clear. JAMB exams are simply ranking examinations and not qualifying examinations as some people think. What qualifies anyone to gain admission into any of our tertiary institution is not really his JAMB score but his O’Level credits. A minimum of five credit in five subjects is required for anyone to be offered admission. This is why anyone can get admitted into a private institution without a JAMB result.
The registrar of JAMB, Ishaq Oloyede, also said the reason was to discourage students from seeking crooked means of gaining admission into our tertiary institutions. Many disagree. Some have suggested that the last JAMB exams could also be responsible for this new move. It was the first time the exams was to go fully computerised. The exams resulted in so many problems and mishaps. In some centres, students weren’t able to write at the right time and experienced difficulty as a result of the poor internet network available. Very poor scores were recorded and their were thoughts on the addition of forty marks to help boost the grade of the candidates.
The role of JAMB is to recommend, by ranking, which student could be taken first. It doesn’t qualify but ranks. It simply recommends. On that basis, it becomes worrisome when you hear that some high institutions and bodies have rejected the new score. How do you reject something that wasn’t imposed on you? How do you reject the idea of not going below 100, 110, or 120 when you don’t even go below 100,110 or 120? How do you reject a recommendation and uphold it at the same time? These persons and institutions seem to ignore the fact that any attempt at establishing a cutoff mark not less than any of the above numbers is the same as accepting the recommendation.
Who Is Responsible For The New Score?
These decisions are the brainchild of Vice-Chancellors, Provosts, Rectors and was taken at the 2017 Combined Policy Meetings on Admissions into Tertiary Institutions in Nigeria which ended on the 22nd of August. Contrary to certain claims, it was not the brainchild of the Registrar or certain members of the current government to institute a mischief. These heads of institutions can then go back to their respective institutions and decide which score above 100, 110, and 120 they will benchmark for admission into their institutions. A student already qualified(by having at least five credits) then tries to rank well in JAMB exams to be able to get into a preferred institution.
Accusations of Bias:
Their have also been accusations that the decision was taken to help private institutions admit students with low JAMB scores and students of certain sections of the country. That the board was bought over by owners of private institutions and that some persons who don’t want to move forward don’t want to see others move forward. A lot of these insinuations boil down to ignorance. Like the registrar of JAMB asked in response to the question: “what is wrong in helping private institutions”? The argument falls flat because the examination is not qualifying but a ranking one. Meaning that you must qualify for admission before you are allowed to sit for it. In essence, what matters most is your O’Level results and not the outcome of your UTME(Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination).
What the proponents of this idea(that lowering the score was intended to help students of certain region in the country) fail to see is that lowering the score doesn’t automatically increase the number of persons from less educationally advanced region. The decision to admit students from these regions still lies in the hands of the institution responsible for the admission. The institution, not JAMB, is responsible for the cut-off mark. And the qualifying factor is the O’Level like the West African Senior School Certificate Examination, WASSCE, or the National Examination Council, NECO. To JAMB, this is non issue.
Let’s use an example. Let’s say Ali scored 160/400 in JAMB and got 5 Credits in WASSCE while Simbi scored 170/400 in JAMB with seven credits in WASSCE and the institution they applied for set a cut-off mark of 180. Let’s assume that both applied to study Mathematics. Neither Ali nor Simbi will be admitted even though, that by virtue of their credits, they qualified. This is because a minimum of five Credits in WASSCE and a score of 180 in JAMB is required to be admitted into the institution. Often times, these students are not admitted and the spaces allocated for such position is left vacant. 100 students could be needed in the department of Mathematics of that institution but only 30 are admitted. Why should Ali and Simbi be left with such experience?
Because JAMB is a board mandated to help reduce the number of persons into Nigerian Government’s institution, they are simply trying to help increase the number of persons in school. Students like Ali and Simbi often apply to study in Private institutions and are admitted based on the five and seven respective credits they have. Some even travel abroad to school based on these credits. The Board is simply trying to reduce the likelihood of such scenario happening. If SSCE is the main factor for gaining admission into tertiary institutions why should students be denied on the basis of average JAMB result? This is the question JAMB is indirectly asking. In the past, JAMB had a minimum score of 160, 200, etc and this influenced the cut-off mark of most tertiary institutions. By this act, they are trying to influence them again. Not to control or force them.
How Will This Benchmark Affect Nigeria’s Education?
Their have been concerns about this new introduction. Some genuinely concerned persons have assessed the impact of such introduction. Some of these concerns are genuine and born out of understanding of the new system. This takes us back to what the argument here has been all about. JAMB doesn’t qualify one and since it doesn’t qualify anyone for admission, its impact on the educational level of the country is not what we’ve been hearing. If we don’t trust the standard of our O’Level exams, it would have been a good argument. Of course, majority of us don’t and you would have to be forced to ask if the persons responsible for conducting JAMB are any different. That shouldn’t be the argument now.
On the psychological level, it could be argued that the lowering of standards lower the zeal to strive harder and make change. Here, because the principal qualifier is the O’Level, JAMB’s Benchmark has little impact on the level of education. It could also be argued that a student is more psychologically harmed when he passes the main exam but is held back by a little hurdle. More students, who ought be in school, stay back home and this even affects their intellectually capacity to a great deal as a result of disuse. It would not help us that a course, with slot for 200 students in a particular department of an institution, is filled with only 75 students, when their are 125 other qualified students whose JAMB scores are just a little shy of the benchmark. This is the angle JAMB is coming from. And there is some sense in it.
What do you think?