Written by the Editorial board of The Guardian Newspaper
By scrapping the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME), otherwise called Post- JAMB (Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board) examination, the Federal Government once again advertises inconsistency in Nigeria’s educational system and quest for development. Lack of an enduring education system has always been a serious minus for Nigeria and not even the admission of candidates into educational institutions is spared the malaise. This is sad.
Virtually, every new administration, indeed, Minister of Education, throws up a new system that sets aside what was in place, often, with dire consequences.
The latest jolt came from the Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, who, the other day, in Abuja, announced the scrapping of Post-UTME after the 2016 combined Policy Committee meeting on admission into degree-awarding institutions, National Diploma, Nigeria Certificate of Education and National Innovative diploma-awarding institutions.
The meeting also set a flat cut-off point of 180 for an examination that carries 400 points. This lowering of standards is a shame that sets Nigeria up as a haven of mediocrity.
According to the minister, the Federal Government has confidence only in the examinations conducted by the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB).
He recalled that Post-UTME was introduced by many universities and polytechnics as further pre-requisite for admission irrespective of whether the students passed the JAMB examination or not.
The minister then directed that universities should not be holding examinations and if they had any complaint against JAMB, should bring it forth for resolution. He said tertiary institutions in the country must observe “the admission criteria based on merit, catchment area and educationally less developed states.”
The Federal House of Representatives has agreed with the decision and directed the Federal Ministry of Education and the National Universities Commission (NUC) to ensure the abolition of Post-UTME forthwith. It lamented that the examination had become subjective, streesful and exploitative to poor candidates and their parents.
UTME was introduced in 2005 without enough interrogation and analysis by the then Minister of Education presumably, to bypass alleged inefficiency of JAMB. But since then, no respite came the way of candidates and their parents.
Ten years later, the same UTME became even a more controversial examination by the way the universities and other tertiary institutions turned it to a money-making venture. The quality objective that informed its introduction was overlooked. At some point, universities differed on what they charged candidate against the flat N1000 rate fixed by government, with some charging as much as N5000 or more.
Turning what was supposed to be a screening exercise of candidates, with no strings attached, into another examination that clearly overrode the JAMB entrance requirement, was in bad fate and candidates as well as their parents were blatantly ripped off.
The UTME had all the trappings of the same gross malpractices that are often found in JAMB examination in the first place. Allegations of bribery, corruption, nepotism and favoritism were rife. Mounting complaints therefore prepared the ground for what has been done which is to scrap the test.
The decision, therefore, was absolutely necessary. As a matter of fact, it was long overdue. The inconveniences were unbearable and the purpose of introducing the pre-admission screening was defeated
Also the very low cut-off mark is deplorable and cannot produce the best brains that the country needs. With standards so low, Nigerians are celebrating mediocrity.
There must be a sensible way of setting standards. One is to go back to Advanced Level system in which higher school certificate education of two or more years prepares all students for university.
Also what is being done now is no more than dragging one part of the country down for another. Granted, a gap exists between the North and the South of the country in education, this is not the way to bridge it.
Reducing the entry point to the barest minimum is wrong as an attempt to ensure uniformity in the country.
It should be recognised that the level of educational penetration differs in different parts of the country and the way to raise the backward parts is to have special arrangement for them rather than push everybody at the same time.
In the United States, for instance, there are community colleges that were set up to see to the needs of candidates with lower academic capacity. From those colleges, they graduate to the universities. After some time, the system harmonises.
A similar arrangement once existed in the North through the schools of basic studies. That should be revived as there cannot be a single standard for all institutions.
University education is about excellence. But Nigerian universities have been reduced to less than their worth. Nigeria cannot excel when all universities are placed on the same level. Each university should be free to set its minimum entry point based on the standard it has set for itself. That would be the beginning of raising the standard of education in the country.