Concerns rise over teaching as over nine million fail UTME in seven years

The poor performance of students at the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination has raised concerns over system issues like unqualified teachers dotting the educational landscape,  ‘LAOLU AFOLABI writes

About 9.17 million out of a total of 11.9 million candidates who sat the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination conducted by the Joint Admissions Matriculation Board between 2018 and 2024 scored below 200 pass mark.

As the average failure rate in the seven years stands at 78.29 per cent, educationists have identified reasons for the poor performance.

Following the release of the 2024 United Tertiary Matriculation Examination results by the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board, Nigeria finds itself embroiled in a heated debate over the state of its education system.

The announcement, made by the Registrar, Prof Ishaq Oloyede, on Monday, April 29, 2024, stirred controversy and concerns among stakeholders nationwide.

With a total of 1,904,189 candidates sitting the examination, the revelation that 76.1 per cent scored below 200 out of 400 points sparked discussions on various fronts.

In the results released by JAMB, a total of 1,904,189 candidates sat the examination. While a few results were withheld, the board released 1,842,464 results, whereby 76.1 per cent of the candidates got less than 200.

Giving a breakdown, Prof. Oloyede noted that, “8,401 candidates scored 300 and above; 77,070 scored 250 and above; 439,974 scored 200 and above, while 1,402,490 scored below 200.”

On May 7, JAMB cleared and released the results of 531 more candidates.

A statement by its spokesman, Fabian Benjamin, said this was part of the 64,000 withheld results for further investigations into possible examination misconduct.

On May 15, the board released an additional 36,540 results, taking the total results released to 1,879,437, according to a statement by Benjamin.

Finally, on Sunday, June 2, 2024, JAMB released an additional 3,921 results and, in another statement by its spokesperson, Benjamin, the board said 24,535 would retake the examination.

From systemic flaws to student negligence, the reasons behind the alarming failure rate are under intense scrutiny.

The development generated a lot of controversies in the education system. While some are pointing fingers at JAMB for the poor conduct of the examination, others blame the students for the lacklustre performance.

Relatively a few parents too did not spare the Computer-Based-Test centres where the examinations were conducted nationwide, blaming system glitches as the reason for the mass failure.

However, a former Executive Secretary of the National Universities Commission, Prof Peter Okebukola, commended JAMB Registrar, Prof Oloyede and his team, saying that with the successful conduct, JAMB had brought respectability, transparency and credibility to the conduct of public examinations.

For the poor results in the 2024 examination, some education stakeholders blamed Nigeria’s educational system, the parents, students and social media for the failure rate.

The stakeholders, therefore, called for holistic reforms of the sector and called on the government to act fast to stem the downward trend.

Moreover, as the spotlight shifts to the quality of teaching personnel, statistics by the Universal Basic Education Commission shed light on the pervasive issue of unqualified teachers plaguing Nigeria’s basic education system among other multifaceted challenges facing Nigeria’s educational landscape in the aftermath of the 2024 UTME results.

Some education stakeholders lamented inadequate teaching force and an outdated curriculum, some of the factors they said contributed to the decline in the success rate Nigerian students were noted for.

In 2013, the CBT was officially adopted in Nigeria by the JAMB for the sole purpose of administering the UTME standardised examinations.

On Monday, March 9, 2015, JAMB imprinted a landmark in its then 37-year history by beginning the first total CBT. Though CBT was introduced in 2013, it was not made compulsory until March 9, 2015. The board had, until the period, relied on Paper-Based Tests.

A look at the history of JAMB shows that the federal military government set up the examination body with the legal instrument establishing it promulgated by Act No. 2 of 1978 of the Federal Military Government on February 13, 1978.

By August 1988, the Federal Executive Council amended Decree No. 2 of 1978 to empower the board to conduct matriculation examinations for entry into all polytechnics and colleges of education in the country and to place suitably qualified candidates in the available places in these institutions.

Since its establishment, the board has been solely responsible for the conduct of examinations in the universities and later, polytechnics and colleges of education across the country.

At the introduction of the CBT in 2015, there were observed glitches as expected of a new system with teething problems. In 2017, Prof Oloyede, while announcing the release of the result, lamented the widespread examination malpractices across the country aided by parents, teachers and CBT centres.

He disclosed that some of the CBT centres exploited the candidates by deliberately distorting their data so that they could come back to pay extra money for corrections. Over the years, the examination body has been able to stabilise the system.

The failure rate noticeable in the 2024 exercise did not just begin; it had been a recurring figure since, at least, 2018 when the examination body commenced reeling out figures of success and failure rates.

In 2018, around 1.19 million students, making 74.1 per cent of candidates who sat the examination, scored below 200. By 2019, the figure rose to 1.40 million, 77.0 per cent of students who sat the examination. It further increased in 2020, with 1.54 million students failing to score at least 200 marks in the UTME, with a 79.2 per cent failure rate.

By 2021, the post-COVID-19 year, 1.14 million candidates scored below 200, resulting in an 87.2 per cent failure rate. The 2022 and 2023 results were not encouraging either, as 1.33 million and 1.17 million, representing 77.8 per cent and 76.6 per cent of candidates, scored below 200 pass marks.

A 76.1 failure rate in the 2024 UTME is equated to 760,000 students out of 1,000,000 scoring less than 50 per cent in the exercise. The development also means that for every 100 students, about 76 scored below average and could, therefore, not compete favourably with their counterparts.

In a report by Saturday PUNCH, some parents and teachers argued that there was no justification for the results as released by JAMB, as some registered candidates could not sit the examination due to network glitches and a shortage of computer systems.

They thus wondered how JAMB concluded that 76.1 per cent failed while some were yet to write the examination.

However, as of the time JAMB released the results on April 29, 2024, the examination body had concluded the conduct of the examination.

It announced the total number of 1,842,464 results out of the over 1.94 million candidates that registered for the examination on April 29, 2024, the last day of the examination.

By Tuesday, May 7, 2024, the examination body released the results of an additional 531 candidates, taking the total number of results released to the public to 1,842,897.

Beyond the system glitches and other reports, some Nigerians blamed the poor performance on social media.

Most of the students were accused of wasting precious study time on TikTok, Instagram and others. They were busy creating content, instead of giving the examination the concentration it required.

As usual with examinations, while some will have good results to show, some other categories of students will lament failure. As JAMB released the UTME results, some parents and schools celebrated the successes recorded by their wards. Even some state governors celebrated their high performers.

A student of St. Anthony’s Secondary School, Ikenga, Imo State, Master Chijioke Alexander Onuorah, reportedly got a cumulative score of 324, scoring 91 in Physics, 74 in Biology, 92 in Chemistry and 67 in English.

In Kwara State, Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq on his X handle announced the result of Master Samuel Olanrewaju Oluwasemilore of Government Secondary School, Omu Aran, who scored 358 in the exams

The PUNCH reports that the governor congratulated the Great 30 (students) during a visit to the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus Model College, Ilorin. The students got between 300 and 355 marks in the examination.

Former President of ASUU, Professor Biodun Ogunyemi, in an interview with Arise TV, lamented that students attend schools with inadequate learning facilities. He also blamed the political leaders for failing to prioritise education, especially for the poor.

He said the majority of those who performed poorly in the UTME came from severely disadvantaged backgrounds and were left in the care of untrained teachers.

Unqualified teachers in basic schools

Teachers in Basic Education in Nigeria, from statistics obtained from UBEC, culled from @StatiSense, showed there were 1.69 million total teachers in Nigeria, with those qualified being 1.19 million. The unqualified teachers were put at 493,000.

The report further stated that 29 per cent of Basic Education Teachers in Nigeria are not qualified to teach.

Breaking it down, public schools have a total of 789,000 teachers, with 652,000 qualified and 137,000 not qualified. In public schools, unqualified teachers are 17 per cent.

For private schools, there are 897,000 teachers altogether. Of this figure, 541,000 are qualified, while 40 per cent of the figure, totalling 356,000 not qualified to teach.

The basic education covers Early Childhood Care Development and Education, primary school and junior secondary school.

According to the 2022 UBEC report, the top five states most affected by having unqualified teachers for the ECCDE are Bayelsa at 56 per cent, Ondo, 49 per cent, Taraba, 48 per cent, Lagos, 47 per cent and Rivers, at 45 per cent.

For primary schools, there are 40.4 per cent of unqualified teachers in Kebbi, 40.4 per cent in Lagos, 38.3 per cent in Bayelsa, 37.8 per cent in Borno and 37.3 per cent in Rivers.

For JSS classes, Edo leads with 37.2 per cent of unqualified teachers, followed by Bayelsa, also with 37.2 per cent. Rivers has 34.8 per cent, Akwa Ibom has 34.5 per cent, and Kaduna has 32.5 per cent.

In Bauchi State public schools, there are 15.21 per cent unqualified teachers in ECCDE, 14.22 per cent in primary schools and 10.03 per cent in JSS classes, while for private schools, there are 31.25 per cent in ECCDE, 33.32 per cent in primary schools and 31.68 per cent in JSS classes.

Anambra State in the South-East has in its public schools, 23.97 per cent unqualified teachers in ECCDE, 15.96 per cent in primary schools; 20.61 per cent in JSS classes, while there are 50.32 per cent unqualified in ECCDE private schools, 35.95 per cent in primary schools and 28.61 per cent in JSS classes.

In Kaduna State public schools, there are 12.96 per cent unqualified teachers in ECCDE, 14.04 per cent in primary schools and 27.53 per cent in JSS classes, while for private schools, there are 38.54 per cent unqualified teachers in ECCDE, 40.85 per cent in primary schools and 36.48 per cent in JSS classes.

In Akwa Ibom public schools, there are 6.73 per cent unqualified teachers in ECCDE, 6.21 per cent in primary schools and 31.60 per cent in JSS classes, while in private schools in the state, there are 40.8 per cent unqualified teachers in the ECCDE, 36.90 per cent in primary schools and 37.43 per cent in JSS classes.

According to the data, 12 states topped the list of unqualified teachers in their primary schools. Kebbi leads with 40.44 per cent, followed by Lagos, also with 40.44 per cent. Bayelsa came third with 38.3 per cent, followed by Borno, 37.8 per cent, Rivers, 37.3 per cent, Sokoto, 35.2 per cent, Ondo, 34.0 per cent, Yobe, 32.7 per cent, Taraba, 31.2 per cent, Ogun, 31.0 per cent, Zamfara, 30.8 per cent and Gombe, 30.7 per cent.

For JSS classes, Edo leads the top 12 states with 37.2 per cent of unqualified teachers, a position shared with Bayelsa, with 37.2 per cent as well. Rivers has 34.8 per cent, Akwa Ibom has 34.5 per cent, Kaduna has 32.5 per cent, Ogun, 31.4 per cent, Lagos, 31.3 per cent, Niger, 28.6 per cent, Taraba, 28.3 per cent, Osun, 26.5 per cent, Delta, 26.3 per cent and Cross River, 26.3 per cent.

The top five states with the highest unqualified teachers in ECCDE are Bayelsa, with 56 per cent, Ondo, 49 per cent, Taraba, 48 per cent, Lagos, 47 per cent and Rivers, 45 per cent.

For primary schools, the top five are Kebbi, 40.4 per cent, Lagos, 40.4 per cent, Bayelsa, 38.3 per cent, Borno, 37.8 per cent and Rivers, 37.3 per cent, while the top five in JSS classes are Edo, 37.2 per cent, Bayelsa, 37.2 per cent, Rivers, 34.8 per cent, Akwa Ibom, 34.5 per cent and Kaduna, 32.5 per cent.

Zonal distribution of the statistics shows that in the South-West, there are 42.58 per cent unqualified teachers in ECCDE, 39.89 per cent in the South-East, 35.80 per cent in the North-Central, 35.46 per cent in the South-South, 35.19 per cent in the North-East and 30.79 per cent in the North-West.

Distribution by region shows that Northern Nigeria has 33.72 per cent unqualified teachers, while Southern Nigeria has 40.04 per cent unqualified teachers. Overall, for ECCDE, according to the 2022 statistics, Nigeria has a total of 37.51 per cent unqualified teachers.

The question is: ‘What are the measures put in place to address this issue of unqualified teachers in our educational system in Nigeria?’ The basic education system rests more on LGAs. The data shows that more than one in every four teachers in Nigeria’s basic education system is not qualified to teach.

In public schools, it is almost one in every five teachers, while in private schools; it is two in every five teachers. From the data, there are more unqualified teachers in every level of basic education in private schools than in their public school counterparts.

What educators say

Speaking on the development, the pioneer Vice Chancellor of First Technical University, Ibadan, Oyo State, Professor Ayobami Salami, “When the foundation is destroyed, there is nothing that can be done.”

Speaking with The PUNCH, he said the rot had been there over the years but it was just manifesting, adding that the rots in many other stages of the education sector would manifest with time.

He lamented the poor investment in education by successive governments, neglect of the sector, non-recruitment of teachers and provision of facilities for a conducive learning environment.

“I will point out my alma mater here as an example. It is the old boys responsible for employing teachers and for the provision of infrastructure in the school.

“Now since the government is not paying teachers handsomely well; some qualified ones have pitched tents with private schools, instead of helping to resuscitate the public institution,” he said.

He said for primary schools in the country, there was nothing to write home about anymore.

A former Vice Chancellor of Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Prof Eyitope Ogunmodede, passed a vote of confidence in JAMB but blamed the students and their parents for the failure rate.

“JAMB has been conducting entrance examinations into higher institutions since 1978, 46 years ago now and has been consistent with its excellent performance and will not trade its standards. So, I passed a vote of confidence in the ability of JAMB to sustain the standard over the years,” he said.

He said his experience as a school administrator had made him understand that some students deliberately wanted to fail the examinations because they did not want to attend public higher institutions.

He stated further, “Two issues – Some students really wanted to fail the examinations – because they are from rich homes and they want their parents to sponsor their education outside the shores of the country or in some private universities.

“They do not want to pass through the rigours of public institutions. There are instances where some of these students said they don’t know they would even pass the exams as they intentionally wanted to fail.”

Speaking on the standard of education in Nigeria, he believed the standard is higher now, with better curriculum and improved means of research but highlighted inadequate teaching force, poor infrastructure and bad treatment of teachers as factors militating against the success of Nigerian students.

“In a situation where teachers are poorly remunerated, leading many of them to engage in extra-curricular activities during school period, which will have effects on the performance of their students in the long run.

“There are instances of schools in the country where teachers are well paid and students produce very good results,” he stated.

The Rector of Federal Polytechnic, Ado-Ekiti, Dr Temitope Alake, who said he knew the workings in primary and secondary schools, colleges of education and the polytechnic, blamed the students for helping their wards to write even primary school common entrance examinations.

According to him, “With that, the ability of such students will not be reflected. Some may even manage to get high grades in WAEC and JAMB, but by the time they spend their first and second semester in higher institutions, they have already withdrawn. Some of them passed through miracle centres for their external examinations. Some students come to schools with fake certificates. What I mean is that some of the students come to school with certificates bearing their names and identities, but not their contents.”

He lamented that the level of participation of students in academic matters was becoming low, with so many distractions around them.

“The level of participation of students in academic matters is abysmally low. Unrestricted access to social media is a social hazard in the country. The reading culture is no longer there. To worsen the situation, AI is now developed and it is helping to write the thesis and all that at higher education levels.

“Ask a master’s degree holder to write a letter of application without using AI, then you will see the problem. They would not be able to write appropriately. Technology is good, but when it is not regulated, there is bound to be poor performance in almost all the stages of education,” he said.

He also decried the near-zero value system in the country and, therefore, called for value reorientation.

“Our value system is also at point zero. The boys are after emergency wealth (yahoo). These are distractions. Nowadays, most of the best awards are won by female students.

“Nigeria got it wrong the very moment it removed Civics Education from the school curriculum and changed it to Social Studies. Students now see politicians, musicians and all that as models, no longer the patriots. Nigeria needs value reorientation,” he added.

He chided parents for their inability to groom their wards, especially as they had longer periods to spend with them.

“Parents spend more time with their wards, more than the hours they spend in schools, but most parents do not have time for the students anymore. Parents should be more involved in monitoring their wards’ educational growth,” he said.

While lauding JAMB for consistency in its standard over the years, the don called for the return of reading culture among students to return to the glory days.

“Library and bookshops are collapsing. People prefer the internet to seek information online these days. We should revive reading culture among these students,” he added.

Also speaking, the Vice Chancellor, Hallmark University, Ijebu-Itele, Ogun State, Professor Segun Odunola, listed the lack of government’s commitment to adequate educational funding, lack of enough competent manpower in the sector, lack of reading culture among students and lack of parental economic power to finance all-round educational supports for their wards as some of the problems bedevilling the educational sector in the country.

He further listed the influence of social media, and inadequate commitment to teaching by teachers due to poor remuneration as other factors contributing to the failure rate at UTME, WAEC and NECO.

According to him, the failure rate had been consistent in the last couple of years.

“The government needs to carry out an in-depth investigation to know the reasons for the failure rate. We must look into the subjects the students fail most, examine the topics they have difficulties with and experts will proffer solutions to solve the problems.

“Most of us went to public schools but cannot send our children to public schools anymore because of lack of adequate infrastructures and lack of enough competent manpower in the sector.

“We must work to improve the reading culture among the students. The reading culture is low, no doubt about that. Most school libraries are empty and are not stocked with current books.

“In our own time, when you don’t have lectures you go to the library, nowadays, even in universities, the only period when the library is full is when the examinations are close.

“There must be adequate funding for education to provide necessary infrastructures in the classrooms and a conducive environment for students to learn.

He also decried the disparity in the cut-off marks for universities, polytechnics and colleges of education, stating that the below-average requirements for colleges of education would mean repeating the failure since most of the products of these colleges would still come around to train another set of students.

He called for an update of teachers’ knowledge by exposing them to modern teaching methodologies and on-the-job retraining.

Failure didn’t start this year, there must be reform in education sector – Alao-Akala

The lawmaker representing Ogbomoso North/Ogbomoso South/Oriire Federal Constituency, Olamijuwon Alao-Akala, said the performance of students in this year’s UTME was not encouraging.

The lawmaker, who said he felt sad about the development, added that everyone – government, school, parents and society – needed to show concern.

He, therefore, called for a total overhaul of the education system in the country.

In a statement he signed, the lawmaker revealed that 2016 was the last time more than 30 per cent of students scored above average in the JAMB examination.

In the statement, titled ‘JAMB 2024 Performance Worries Me’, the former council chairman said, “This wave of poor performance by Nigerian students in UTME did not start today. Since 2018, at least 74 per cent of applicants have scored below the average mark of 200 in the exercise, an indication that while the latest figure is concerning, it’s only the latest mark in a disturbing pattern of poor performance that started seven years ago.

“The last time more than 30 per cent of students scored above average in the exercise was in 2016 when 35 per cent of applicants scored above 200.

“What this indicates is that while it’s easy to blame participants in this year’s exercise for their performance and point fingers at various issues like the rise in access to mobile devices among their demography, the problem is deeper than that and, as such, must be addressed from a more comprehensive lens.”

He said the results showed that the country’s education sector has also failed and is now important to overhaul the sector.

“Firstly, the government must as a matter of priority significantly increase the percentage of allocation to the education sector, especially primary and secondary levels.

“This funding must be backed by a renewed policy plan that reflects the current status of things in the sector and is based on realistic performance objectives in the short and long term.

“Similarly, the government should carry out a comprehensive review to ensure that teachers in schools across the country are qualified to teach students.

“This must be followed up with a comprehensive review of the remuneration for teachers to keep them motivated and a revamp of facilities in schools to ensure the environment is conducive for teachers to teach and students to learn,” he said.

He also called on the government to extend its regulatory powers over education to privately-owned schools, to ensure the standard of education meets an acceptable benchmark.

He also asked parents to play their part by creating an enabling environment for their wards at home and moderating the access they had to the internet, prioritising educational content over peripherals.

Source: Punch

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