The debate to extend the validity period of the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) examination from one to three years has been ongoing for some time. The quest intensified considering the alleged mass failure in this year’s exam. Though JAMB has rejected the move, saying it will not be good for the system, some lawmakers and other Nigerians think it will be a good development for candidates and the system. Daily Trust Saturday examines the issues.
“As a secondary school graduate seeking admission into one of the reputable tertiary institutions in the country in 2003, I wrote my first Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB) exams and scored 230 points but I never got admitted,” said Oluwabunmi Anani.
Anani wrote another JAMB exam in 2004 and recorded less than 230 points and yet did not secure admission in any of the universities “despite passing all the SSECE subjects at credit levels.” She is now an English teacher with Concordia College Yola and explained to Daily Trust Saturday that then, her parents made her believe the universities would contact her for her admission letter. They were wrong.
“That fairy tale talk, however, came to reality providentially in 2007 when UNILAG published results in the newspaper. Now, don’t be mistaken, I have been chasing other universities like Obafemi Awolowo University, Ife and the University of Ilorin and I was told I had the wrong subject combination for the course I wanted. This was in 2006,” she said.
Anani is now calling for courses to be assigned to admission candidates who hit the general cut-off, “rather than leaving them to wallow in confusion without any avenue for clarifications or even alternatives to decide on.”
She said there is the need to review the current practice of the JAMB score being valid for only one year.
This forces the candidate to register for another qualifying examination into the higher institution.
The implications of this practice, she said is “the candidate re-invests his time and money in a system where admission is never guaranteed, especially for citizens of humble means.”
Secondly, in an unpredictable system, there is always a backlog of admissions to deal with – the old candidates and the fresh secondary school leavers.
While it does not make a difference whether or not a candidate is given an extension of three years for his or her results to retain its validity, the policy or extension must apply to Post-UTME results in schools that still practice it with a transparent system that would enforce it, without the influence of the ‘big shots’.
She said “we must stop encouraging mediocrity and laziness. It is killing our structure as a people. Let’s begin to put an end to disparities in cut off marks. Let there be a uniform standard. Let the private institutions uphold a standard cut-off mark with the public institutions. Let schools in the six geopolitical zones uphold the same uniform standard.”
Anani is one of the millions of admission seekers who wrote JAMB more than once yet admission into the universities delayed longer.
For Esther Jacob, a teacher, after writing JAMB exams for four consecutive years and not getting admission, she was forced to go to a polytechnic.
“I did not get admission because I scored below the cut off mark. In 2005, I scored 239 points and sought admission into Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) Zaria. After I got to the school, the then Head of Department told me he cannot guarantee my admission even though I scored that high. And the cut-off mark then was 200 points to study Mass communication. He said he could only compile the list but does not know what will happen at the end of the day.”
She said extending the validity of JAMB results is the right thing to do because it is the average Nigerian that suffers while the rich “secure admission for their kids anytime in the best private university.”
A parent, Mrs Eucharia Azubuike, said if the validity period of JAMB is extended to three years and a fixed cut off mark is established, it will make intending candidates put in their best to get to pass, knowing that the result will serve in the next years.
“My son wrote his first JAMB and could not secure admission with it and he felt bad because his friends got admission and he had to write another one the next year before he got admitted.”
The financial and psychological implication is huge as the students tend to feel they are failures, especially when children of the rich who scored low marks get admitted into private institutions because they can afford it financially or they have the connection.
Mrs Azubuike said: “If these are in place, then the extension would help in no small measure: candidates would no longer lose their financial investments, there would be order, less anxiety, and a regulated system where every citizen is considered.”
Meanwhile, the clamour for the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB) to officially make their results valid for three years has been ongoing for a while, after the Senate in 2016 passed a bill seeking to extend the validity period of the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) conducted annually from one to three years.
The JAMB’s Registrar, Professor Is-haq Oloyede, had urged the Senate to rescind its decision, saying the bill will do more harm than good.
Oloyede, who appreciated the good intentions behind the proposal, said the approach may not solve the problem it seeks to address, saying, “my appeal to the House of Representatives and the President is that it will do more harm to students than good.”
He explained that going the way of three years’ validity, there will be a change of infrastructure. “If they change the syllabus, our exam must change and that will not synchronize with the three-year policy.”
However, Sen. Ajayi Boroffice then said the policy would help to improve the educational standard in higher institutions in the country if adopted eventually, while adding that the bill had passed the second reading and would soon undergo public hearing.
Later, the Senate obliged and suspended legislative action on the bill to allow for adequate consultations.
This is five years after and nothing has been heard about the bill again.
Meanwhile, this year’s UTME has come with a lot of argument over the performance of candidates as many believed that there was mass failure following a data shared online by an unknown person to indicate so. The exam body, JAMB, has however denied the claim.
Speaking recently on the alleged poor performance by candidates in the 2021 UTME, Oloyede said UTME is not a certification exam, hence, there cannot be an issue of mass failure.
“Some people don’t know that in the ranking exam, there is no pass or fail. You can’t fail it; you are just ranking them because what qualifies candidates for university education is not UTME, what qualifies them is five O’level credits,” he said.
The JAMB boss said, “when we released the last results, those making noise are the proprietors of schools and tutorial masters because of the money they have collected from the parents and their ability in the past to cut corners and get inflated results for people.”
He said the issue of determining cut off marks was because of competition, adding that even if the marks are reduced to 120, institutions will not be able to fill up to 50 per cent of their carrying capacity.
When contacted on the issue of the validity of the result, the spokesperson of JAMB, Dr Fabian Benjamin, said the board is not the proponent of the bill and “we are not averse to any law that NASS will make.”
On different cut off marks every year, he said: “There is nothing like a cut off mark. What we give is a minimum acceptable score for admission. If we do the JAMB examination and the highest person gets 50 over 400, we will still do admission with that result. What that means is that others will have 40, 30 and so, we will still do admission with it, that is why it is called a ranking exam,” he said.
He, however, refuted the claim that it is reducing the quality of education, saying, making it higher will also not help the system because people are looking at the reward system.
“Someone who scored 300 will not want to read education because of poor salary of teachers and you can’t force them, so they run to Engineering and Medicine because they feel the reward system is better.”