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Why Nigeria must abolish examinations in its education systems – Emeritus Prof Jegede

Emeritus Professor Olugbemiro Jegede is a Professor of Science Education and Open Distance Learning at the National Open University of Nigeria. In this interview, he…

Emeritus Professor Olugbemiro Jegede is a Professor of Science Education and Open Distance Learning at the National Open University of Nigeria. In this interview, he spoke on the need to revolutionize the education system in Nigeria, especially as examinations are no longer the vogue in assessing students and more. 

Why the call for the abolishing of examination in schools and how can that be actualised in the Nigerian education system? 

Examinations in schools have never been true tests of learner’s full capabilities. Think of a student taking examinations at the worst emotional time of his life, probably lost his mobile phone with all information, or lost one of his parents or has been battling with malaria all week before examinations. How do you expect such a student to do well or perform to the optimum of his intellectual ability? At best, examinations and tests are good for ranking learners. But no system should exist just to rank students because learning should never be a competition.

In education, the progress of a whole class is dependent on the slowest learner. If you, therefore, rely on examination as a yardstick to measure real learning, we shall never make the comprehensive progress needed in our educational system. That is why Singapore has done away with examination and especially ranking of performance in the primary and secondary school levels and considered doing the same at the tertiary education level.

What that country and other progressive countries, especially in Asia, are doing now is using qualitative descriptors such as a learner’s discussion participation, homework, group work and other less competitive means to assess learning by individuals. At the secondary school level, even though learners may still be graded, including decimal points in any marking scheme is a waste of time. What is being done is to use the portfolio system which will contain a learner’s performance in group projects, the learner’s proficiency in demonstrating skills acquired in any learning situation.

The current century no more looks for marks grading or ranking of students to decide if learning has taken place. That is why our first-class graduates cannot perform as well as a third class graduate on the field where the use of our hands integrated with brainpower is required. It is what skills you can demonstrate with the mathematics or science or geography you have learned that employers now look for. In any case, the new development in the recognition of learning achievement is to use learning badges.

A learning badge (digital or physical) is a validated display of accomplishment, skill, quality or interest that can be earned in any learning environment. Badges can represent traditional academic achievement or the acquisition of skills such as collaboration, teamwork, leadership, and other 21st century skills.

What kind of change are we expecting when exams are abolished?

Examinations encourage unhealthy competition in our learning environment and this is an inherent threat to the total development of a child. Encourage a learner to use all his or her senses, hands and brain in an integrated fashion to demonstrate innovation and creativity.

That is why in interviews, it is no more adequate to show a certificate from a business centre that you are computer literate; they put the computer before you and ask you to word process something or do some excel spreadsheet or whatever to demonstrate your proficiency and skills in the use of the computer.

We need to abolish examinations in schools and devise other means to replace entrance and final year examinations. We must borrow a lesson from the latest developments around the world in an industry where Google, Apple and 12 other companies no longer require employees to have a university degree to be hired.

In fact, they say they will now hire accountants, historians and non-scientific qualifications and train them hands-on in computer science and information technology. Many of the world’s most popular global companies that young ones now rush out of Nigeria to work for, don’t require a university degree, and certain jobs are more likely to be filled with non-college graduates than others, as the World Economic Forum tells us with regard to the world’s most sought-after skills for the 21st century.

As reported in many pieces of literature around the world, top business executives have begun questioning whether degrees or certificates from institutions of higher learning really prepare workers for careers, while some are starting to hire more and more non-tertiary graduates.

We must rethink everything about our examination systems and what they portent for our education system in Nigeria. How come most of our youth are excelling exceptional well outside of Nigeria than within? It is because the environment is quite conducive and there is no stress about examinations but a lot of emphasis on what you can do with your acquired skills.

 In general, our examination system at all levels should have been goal-based, process-based and outcomes-based but a critical analysis of the examinations we give to learners in Nigeria shows it is not.

If we do not revise our examination systems and indeed our education system by 2030, Nigeria will be left at the train station or most probably at the motor parks.

Of course, any parent would be pleased that his son or daughter has come first or second in class or level, and in a system where our prize-giving ceremonies are traditionally to recognize student’s achievement, based on what students crammed and regurgitated for examinations. And yet, they say education is what is left in your head when all you crammed for examinations have disappeared!

If exams are abolished, by what parameters would learners be assessed in Nigeria?

For now, we must throw our archaic examination system out through the window and welcome with a broad and huge bear hug the need to use proficiency, performance badges simulations, open question, one on one sessions, online forums and discussion groups, group projects and peer-based feedbacks, and scenario-based assessment and case studies to instil self-discipline in our children to enable them master for all skills needed for life. 

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