Recently, the West African Examinations Council released the 2012 Senior Secondary Certificate Examination results nationwide.
Again, in spite of the marginal improvement in the number of candidates with good results this year, thousands of candidates who sat for the exams came out with poor results, with many of them failing to attain the minimum five credits including English and Mathematics — a prerequisite for further studies.
The continuous and dismal performances of pupils in national and international examinations in recent years provide a sad statement on the failure of our public school education and the educational system in general. The breakdown of this year’s result shows that an overhaul of our education system urgently needs to take place to stem the tide of examination failures among pupils in our public schools. After all, the pupils of today are the future leaders who will form the bulk of tomorrow’s professionals and thinkers.
According to the results released by WAEC, the 2012 results recorded a marginal improvement in the overall performance of candidates compared to previous years. However, this marginal increase in performance is insignificant. The general failures recorded in the last few years cut a grim picture of the general decline in our education system. According to WAEC, only 649,156 candidates, representing 38.81 per cent of those who sat for the May/June 2012 SSSCE examination, obtained credits in five subjects and above, including English Language and Mathematics. This represents an eight per cent improvement when compared with that of 2011 May/June results, which had a pass level of 30.91 per cent. In 2012, 1,695,8788 candidates registered for the examination out of which 1,672,224 candidates, consisting of 923,974 male and 748,250 female candidates, sat for the examination. Out of the total number of candidates, 1,545,004 candidates, representing 90.10 per cent, have their results fully released, while 150,874 candidates, representing 8.90 per cent, have a few of their subjects still being processed.
The examination body also stated that 112,000 candidates’ results, representing 6.70 per cent, are being withheld in connection with various cases of examination malpractices. The point to note in the result is that there is nothing significant or different in the performances of candidates that are presented by schools to sit for the examination every year. The downward slide in the quality of education as reflected in the poor outcome in examinations such as those conducted by WAEC and NECO has been the case in recent years. Beginning from the late 1980s, parents, educators and the government have expressed concern about the poor performances of students and the slide in quality of education. It is however interesting to note that in spite of the endemic rot, none of these stakeholders is willing to accept the blame for the poor results being churned out yearly. Why are pupils failing? What role has the government played in ensuring that standards are maintained in our schools? Are parents playing their roles in the proper upbringing of their children? How have educators and schools contributed to the decline in the quality of instruction in schools?
The first step in finding an enduring solution to this national shame is for the stakeholders to accept the blame and make amends. Who really should take the blame for the poor runs of candidates in SSSCE and other examinations? The government, parents and teachers cannot also exonerate themselves from the joke that the Nigerian education system has become.
Pupils fail because public school education has suffered neglect by government for several decades. In spite of the change in education policies and systems from the 6-5-2-4 to 6-3-3-4 system of education, the situation keeps getting worse. The education sector for many years remained the least funded. In recent years when funding of the sector slightly improved, allegation of corruption has dogged efforts to revamp the sector.
For several years, the Nigerian government has consistently failed to meet the United Nations Educational and Scientific Organisation prescription that national education should be funded to the tune of 26 per cent of overall budgetary allocation. With poor funding, public schools began a downward slide resulting in dilapidated and overcrowded classrooms, absence of functional libraries, laboratories and low morale educators. For several years, teachers in public schools were owed backlog of salaries. This led to the bastardisation of the profession and low self-esteem, with the pupils suffering the aftermath. The government thus failed in its primary responsibility of widening access to public education and providing an enabling environment for learning to take place. In some parts of the country, pupils were made to learn under the trees which served as classrooms. Conditions in public schools were worse than those of detention camps. The social status of teachers’ which also suffered decline for several decades began to take its toll on their productivity.
As a result, teachers were no longer dedicated to their profession. They sought instant gratifications and no longer looked towards the heavens for the divine reward. Massive brain drain hit the sector and pupils’ learning suffered. Parents are also part of the problem. Poor economic situation in most homes means that they stayed late at work and were no longer in charge of their children’s activities. But it is a known fact that parents are their children’s first educators.
Poor reading culture among students and the influence of the media have also contributed to failures in examinations. With the boom in the entertainment industry, pupils prefer to be celebrated musicians than exert themselves in useful academic endeavours. For the situation to improve, the government needs to play its role. Proper funding of education at all levels through the provision of functional libraries; laboratories and an environment that is conducive to learning in public schools are the first step for improved performance in examinations.
Second, there should be appraisal of teachers both in the private and public sectors. Teachers should not just be employed because they need a job, they should be employed because they are qualified to teach the subject for which they are employed. Teachers empowerment should not just be limited to professional development alone; it should cover their reward system and job environment. Gone are the days when they say a teacher’s reward is in heaven. Preparation for external examinations should start early, as it is discovered that most teachers are not able to complete the syllabus before the examination.
Teachers should also be made to handle subjects in their area of expertise so that they can deliver effectively. Parents also have a role to play. Proper monitoring of the children from the cradle will ensure that they are focused when they become ripe to take examinations. The current practice where some desperate parents will buy exam questions and engage in malpractices should be discouraged. Corrupt parents will ultimately breed corrupt children. Public schools should also strengthen the guidance and counselling department so as to guide students to the right career path. In the final analysis, to stem the tide of failure in future examinations, government at all levels must ensure that the school environment is welcoming to pupils.