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The recently released results of the November/December 2014 Senior School Certificate Examination (SSCE) for private candidates conducted by the West African Examination Council (WAEC) which indicated an unabated trend of poor performance by the candidates underscores the need for the nation to tackle the problem decisively.
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According to statistics released to the Press by the Head of WAEC National Office, Mr. Charles Eguridu, out of 241,161 candidates whose results were released, only 72,522 candidates representing 29.37 percent obtained credits in five subjects and above including English Language and Mathematics. This means that about 70 percent of candidates who sat for the examination could not make five credits including English Language and Mathematics. In 2013, of the 298,971 candidates who sat for the SSCE Examination, 86,612 candidates representing 29.17percent had credit in 5 subjects and above including English and Mathematics.
Results of the schools based 2014 May/June SSCE was even worse. Of the 1,692,435 candidates who sat for the Examination, only 529,425 representing 31.28 percent obtained credits in five subjects and above, including English Language and Mathematics. This is a consistent decline from the results of 2012 and 2013 May/June SSCE, which recorded 36.57 and 38.8 percent respectively of the candidates obtaining credits in five subjects and above including English, and Mathematics. This undesirable trend of poor performance by the candidates in these public examinations is worrisome because they are the average mandatory qualifications for employment in the formal sector and pursuit of tertiary education in universities, polytechnics and colleges of education as well as some institutional professional examinations in Nigeria and abroad. Furthermore, possessing the SSCE is also the basic qualification for contesting elective offices in the nation’s polity.
Besides, the SSCE is a quality control measure that helps the nation to ascertain whether or not the nation is getting value for the colossal investments of public and private funds in education. We dare say that if the SSCE results over the years have been this bad despite malpractices, then the nation’s primary and secondary education system are in shambles. Sadly, this is not even a campaign issue in the charade that passes as political campaign for the 2015 elections. Frankly, the steady trend of poor performance by the candidates in the SSCE cannot justly be blamed on the examining body WAEC alone because the outcome is the sum of the extent, which all the stakeholders – governments, schools/teachers, parents/guardians, students, and WAEC- played their part. It is garbage in, garbage out.
While the federal and many state governments have enforced free education with a lot of investments in schools infrastructure, policy framework and curriculum development, they need to do a lot more in terms of providing and equipping schools libraries, and science laboratories which are non-existent in most schools. There is the problem of teachers’ motivation arising from poor and irregular remuneration in public and mostly private schools where teachers are overworked and underpaid. As we write, teachers in Akwa Ibom, Benue and Ogun States have been on strike ranging from months to a few weeks over conditions of service. Teachers need to be better remunerated, paid regularly and to exposed to training and retraining for optimum performance. All governments need to revive the Inspectorate Departments in the ministries of education from where Inspectors are sent to schools for unscheduled and scheduled inspection visits to monitor compliance with policies and standards. Through such visits, schools administrators, teachers, and students are either rewarded for remarkable achievements or sanctioned for unapproved conducts.
This newspaper, however believes that contrary to popular view, parents in rural areas and the cities are largely to blame for the poor performance of their wards in schools and pubic examinations like the SSCE. It has been established by scholarly authorities that parent/guardian motivation and the home environment significantly affect the performance of students. Most rural parents are not only poor but also illiterate and do little or nothing to motivate their wards in schoolwork. On the contrary, many city parents do not invest quality time in following up the educational pursuits of their children either by visiting schools regularly, interacting with their teachers, providing textbooks and school requirements promptly and teaching or supervising the children’s school work at home or even enforcing the minimum discipline of regulating the distractions of television, satellite, the ubiquitous GSM phone and internet. No excuse of being too busy at work or business can justify a parent or guardian for abandoning his or her crucial role in the training of the child at home only to blame the teacher, school, WAEC or government for the ward’s failure in examinations.