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JAMB 2024: Good trends, Bad trends

In the US, there is something called ‘Match Day’.  Each year, medical students await Match Day with anticipation. On the third Friday of every March,…

In the US, there is something called ‘Match Day’. 

Each year, medical students await Match Day with anticipation. On the third Friday of every March, thousands of graduating medical students will learn where they will be training for residency for the next several years. Residency is where doctors train in a specialty, so “The Match,” has a huge impact on the student’s future. For most students, Match Day is ultimately a cause for celebration. The better prepared you are for the process, the more confident you will feel on Match Day.

In a way, it’s a lot like JAMB. The match has several parts as it unfolds from September to March. For medical students, it begins at the start of their fourth year. Prior to this, students have learned about different areas of medicine through clinical rotations. These rotations help them determine what specialty they would like to practice. Medical students choose three specialties in order of importance that they would like to specialize in and in which teaching hospital. They submit their applications which includes their transcript and medical students’ performance evaluation. The MATCH is managed by the National Resident Matching Program (NRMP). 

Match Week ends on the third Friday of March with Match Day. It is one of the most memorable and consequential days in the life of a medical student when they find out where they have placed at noon. Social media is flood with pictures of people smiling and dancing with their loved ones. Parties are thrown, tears are shed, and parents swell with pride.

Like I said, a lot like JAMB. And just like JAMB, not all students match.

This week has been a particularly gruelling one for Nigerian students. Between Friday, 19 and 29 April, more than 1.9 million candidates took the computer-based examination to rank candidates seeking admission into Nigerian tertiary institutions. Professor Ishaq Oloyede, JAMB Registrar in his press conference, gave us the low down of the depressing statistics. 

Only 8,401, representing 0.5% of candidates, scored 300 and above in the examination. The maximum score obtainable in the UTME is 400. He said 77,070, representing 4.2 %, scored 250 and above and that 439,974, representing 24%, scored 200 and above. 

And then the icing on the cake: 1,402,490, representing 76% of candidates, scored below 200.

Mass failure. That’s what this is.

Immediately I heard the news that the results were out, I called my cousin with a sinking sensation in my stomach. How far? I asked. ‘I am sorry’, he replied. ‘I scored 151’. 

I hissed and dropped the phone.

Later on, after a chilled glass of zobo and some deep thinking, I asked myself- why was I angry? What did I expect anyway?

The poor chap had attended a very shabby government primary and secondary school in the northeast, spoke passable English and had been out of school for three years until someone sponsored his JAMB exam this year. What chances did he have?

Having thoroughly examined the results and statistics of this year’s JAMB, I have come to the conclusion that the examination, akin to contemporary life, is aligning with the trends of the 21st century.

Let me explain.

For the first time in JAMB history, this year’s registration had more female than male candidates. According to the data provided, 1,007,275 (50.6%) female candidates registered for the examinations compared to 982,393 (49.4%) male candidates. Last year, 49% of candidates were female. In 2022, they represented 48.4% of the total candidates. Therefore, there has been a gradual, steady increase in the number of girls writing this exam over the years.

I, for one, am incredibly happy with this development. This is an indication that all the advocacy programs for girl-child education is paying off! Worldwide, this is the trend. The global gender parity index for primary education is 0.99, meaning near-parity between boys and girls. It is a sign of hope that, despite the many challenges that still exist, the world is moving closer to a future where boys and girls have equal access to education. This statistic is a reminder that, with the right investments and policies, we can create a more equitable world for all. And if this past JAMB registration is anything to go by; ergo, Nigeria is following positive global trends.

Every year, while arguing about JAMB results, Nigerians bring up the age-old argument about public versus private schools. Never mind that most of us would never dream of sending our kids to a government school, we are just a people that love to argue. Anyway, in the popular argument, we discuss the futility of spending heavily on tuition when it’s the children from public schools that do better in JAMB, WAEC and NECO. 

Well, that trend too, is changing. 

When analysing the top ten highest JAMB scorers this year with scores of 320 and above, NONE of them came from a public school. The problem with the initial statistics, is that the sample size is skewed from the beginning: there are millions of more children in public schools than in private schools. Therefore, what happens is, on an average, more children in public schools will been seen to getter better results (i.e 150 upwards). Yet, if we were to critically look at the <0.5% that scored 300 and above, you will be hard pressed to find a student who went to a school that is purely owned by the Nigerian government.

This aligns with the global trends: Schools that are funded better have better educational content. This is an open secret. In India, Computers have been present in private schools in the early 2000s to showcase the increasing benefits technology offered to teaching and learning. With the rise of ed-tech platforms like edumilestones, ByJu’s etc. Schools are integrating technology into their teaching methodologies to keep students up-to-date with the progress being made in the modern world as well as acclimatise them with the practical objects and systems used in the job market when they seek a future career. 

This is the same in Nigeria. The quality of education delivered in private schools is incomparable to the one administered in public schools. My cousin had never used a computer in his life prior to the short training they received before the CBT. How the hell was he supposed to score more than 151?

There is a huge gap in resources, infrastructure and ultimately quality of education in private versus public schools as well as between rural and urban areas. Teachers are often underqualified and a general lack of discipline in monitoring the progress of students leads to high dropout rates and incompletion of courses in schools and universities. Instead of us to dwell on this reality, we would rather expend our energy fighting a school that charges N42m per session. How is that one our business?? Are those kids also writing JAMB? They will not even write WAEC! Not while IGCSE still exists.

Solution? pump more money into public institutions. India did that in the sixties. See where they are now? 

Finally, the elephant in the room: Nigeria’s massive JAMB failure.

I have read many reasons for this year’s mass failure: Social Media challenges (TikTok to be precise), pop culture, yahoo-yahoo, get-rich-quick schemes, phones, poor family dynamics, Nigeria’s economy etc. On Naira land, one person even blamed Baba Buhari! There is no rest for the wicked! 

Globally, there has been a decline in the quality of education. In a paper titled: The Long-Run Decline of Education Quality in the Developing World by Le Nestour, Moscoviz, and Sandefur, they found that education quality, defined as literacy conditional on completing five years of schooling, stagnated or declined across the developing world over half a century, with pronounced drops in both South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.

Is it surprising??

Is it not in this country that an adult will complete secondary and (Wallahi it hurts me physically to say this) university education and be able to complete a single sentence, let alone comprehend a passage in a book?? Are those ones literate??

Nigeria is not the only country facing a global decline education, but if these JAMB results serve any purpose at all; then it should be to wake us from our collective slumber.