The incessant failure of students in WAEC and NECO Senior School Certificate Examinations (SSCE) has always been a veritable source of worry for the Federal Government, which organised a two-day summit in Abuja last December to discuss the issue.
The summit, which had participants drawn from all areas of the education sector, was mandated to examine the reasons behind the students’ poor performance in the examinations and make recommendations that would be forwarded to the government for consideration.
The Minister of Education, Prof. Ruqayyatu Rufa’i, who expressed the Federal Government’s displeasure at the students’ poor performance, noted with regrets that less than 30 per cent of over a million students, who sat for the examinations within the last six years, obtained credits in five subjects, including English Language and Mathematics.
The minister observed that the trend was even worse in NECO examinations, saying: “The implication of this is that more than 70 per cent of our school leavers could not be considered for higher education.
“This, in many ways, leads to the stunting of the dreams and aspirations of a great number of our young citizens.’’
Rufa’i also noted that it was more of an irony that Nigerian students had to wait expectantly for the release of WAEC, NECO and National Business and Technical Examinations Board (NABTEB) examinations after sitting for them.
She noted that the results of these examinations largely determined the future course of the academic career of the students because they needed to obtain credits in a minimum of five subjects, including English Language and Mathematics, to enable them to pursue higher education.
The minister noted the growing concern among students, parents and the government about the declining performance of students in WAEC, NECO and NABTEB examinations.
Rufa’i said that the flagging performance of students in these examinations had largely eroded the students’ self-confidence, while compelling parents and guardians to seek alternative means of keeping their wards focused.
She stressed that the mass failure of students in the examinations was very much unacceptable since the future of Nigeria lay in the hands of the youth.
“These are people on whose shoulders the future of this nation lies,’’ she said, adding: “The actualisation of our national objectives is dependent on ensuring that the talents of our citizenry are fully exploited.’’
Rufa’i noted that all stakeholders had individual roles to play in proffering solutions to the challenges facing the education sector, adding that the poor performance of students in public examinations was one of the major challenges which portended a lot of danger to the country.
She reiterated that the fulfilment of Nigeria as a nation was largely hinged on its capacity to produce adequate human capital to support all sectors of the national economy.
She, however, noted that if there was a dislocation in the human capital supply chain at the secondary level of the education sector, there would be a serious disruption in the overall manpower supply for the economy.
Rufa’i particularly noted that large numbers of Nigerian youths were currently idling away because of their lack of access to higher education, adding that the situation portended a great danger to the social coherence of the society.
The minister said that the Federal Government, therefore, found it expedient to convene a stakeholders’ summit to critically and comprehensively examine factors that contributed to the poor students’ performance in external examinations.
Rufa’i urged the stakeholders to proffer practical solutions to all the perceptible challenges, saying that responsibilities should also be assigned to specific government agencies for the implementation of the proposals.
Rep. Faruk Lawan, the Chairman of the House of Representatives’ Committee on Education, also stressed the need to discuss the mass failure of students in external examinations so as to provide lasting solutions to the problem.
He particularly noted that the outcome of the summit would help his committee to initiate pragmatic ways of developing the education sector, saying that the National Assembly was also looking into the poor performance of students in examinations to ascertain where things went wrong.
On his part, Mr Nyesom Wike, the Minister of State for Education, said that the fruitfulness of the Federal Government’s investments in public education could only be gauged via the students’ performance.
He urged all the stakeholders in the education sector to justify the huge investments of the government in public education by correcting the anomaly.
At the 36th UNESCO Conference in Paris in October 2011, Wike told journalists that President Goodluck Jonathan in his “Transformation Agenda’’ had initiated programmes that would expand the access of the less-privileged citizens to quality education, while addressing issues relating to the students’ poor performance in examinations.
“Our commitment to addressing the challenges of education is borne out of our desire to develop a highly literate society that would eliminate growing insecurity and poverty through improved capacity for our people,’’ he said.
Besides, Wike gave the assurance that the Federal Government would continue to partner with UNESCO and other international development agencies to improve the standard of education in Nigeria.
The minister, nonetheless, noted that the decay in the education sector began some years ago, saying that the positive outcome of the Jonathan-administration’s investments in education would somewhat take some time to manifest.
Miss Sarah Agbede, a SSS 2 student of Federal Government College, Ilorin, who attended the summit, stressed that while every citizen had a role to play in improving the students’ performance in examinations, the students themselves had a greater role to play in efforts to put things right.
“Parents are doing well enough to send their children to good schools; teachers, on their part, go extra miles to impact knowledge to the students but no one could force the students to read their books,’’ she said.
However, Mrs Nimota Baba, a teacher in Federal Government College, Kabba, was of the opinion that more efforts should be directed at providing public schools with good infrastructure.
“The infrastructure of most unity schools is in a sorry state. However, the minister of state for education has been going round these schools to see for himself the level of infrastructure decay in these schools.
“I believe that when the necessary things are in place, the schools, and even the students, will no longer have anything to pin the incessant failures on,’’ Baba said.
All the same, there is a consensus of opinions that there is an urgent need to tackle the causative factors of the declining quality of education in Nigeria, which has lately manifested itself in the terrible performance of students in examinations.
Dawodu writes for NAN