Friday, 22 July 2016
JAMB and admission criteria
Written by the Editorial board of The Guardian Newspaper
The raging controversy over what criteria should be used to admit candidates into tertiary institutions and who determines it is unnecessary and embarrassing as it advertises Nigeria as a nation without a clear system and without standards.
For more than five decades, universities and other tertiary institutions in the country have taken in students without any hitch. It is, therefore, incomprehensible that the 2016 admission exercise is so mired in crisis.Indeed, contrary to claims, the scrapping of post-UTME tests is not enough to cause chaos in this year’s admission process. Prior to the introduction of the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) and its allied post-UTME which came much later, tertiary institutions in the country were admitting candidates without contention. Qualified candidates applied to the individual institutions and the best were offered admission.
The final authority on admission should be the Senate of each university and not JAMB. JAMB’s assignment should end with the conduct of the entrance examination and release of the results. The institutions have the legal right to admit qualified and suitable candidates based on their established standards as part of their autonomy.
The setting of a flat cut-off mark of 180 by JAMB is also an aberration. Ideally, JAMB, after releasing its results, should allow the universities to determine their minimum cut-off marks, which ought to vary from one institution to another as the difference between institutions distinguishes them. All the universities cannot, therefore, have the same standard or adopt the same criteria for admission.
The current contention arose after JAMB was alleged to have approved a point system as an option for admission, insisting that the Federal Government gave the nod. It, however, stated that the point system being peddled was a mere illustration. The point system, of course, has been in use by some institutions for some time in place of the post-UTME.
But JAMB clarified the position that rather than resort to the much-touted point system, the Federal Government had approved the re-enforcement of the admission guidelines as recognised by law. The three admission pillars, according to JAMB, are merit, catchment area and educationally disadvantaged states. But that is stating the obvious for there has never been a time the so-called three pillars were ignored in the admission process. Even at that, the concept of “educationally disadvantaged states” needs to be redefined since every state of the federation now has no less than two universities.
The nation will, however, return to the old order by re-introducing Advanced Levels (A/L). Age is an important issue when it comes to tertiary level education because there is little supervision of the student. Only a mind that is fully developed with a vision of what he or she wants can’t easily be influenced. The prevalence of cults in Nigeria’s educational institutions is partly due to the immaturity of the students.
The universities should be allowed to brand their admission the way they want. In the United States and UK, there is the scholastic aptitude test (SAT) and A/Levels, that some universities require a certain grade as precondition for admission. The monopoly of university admission by JAMB has lowered the admission standards and that is why 180 score over 400 is deemed acceptable for admission. Nigeria with its current educational system is merely promoting mediocrity in a world where competition is keen and there is no room for sloppiness of skills.
This newspaper insists that the very low cut-off mark for entrance into Nigerian universities is deplorable and can never produce the best brains the country needs. With standards so low, this country is only institutionalising 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 prepare all students for university.
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. Again, each university should be free to set its minimum entry point based on the standard it has set for itself.