Opinion : in Whose Interest is JAMB Lowering the Pass Mark for Gaining Admission into Higher Institutions in Nigeria?

As the statutory examining body saddled with conducting examination for prospective students who wish to further their education beyond the high school, the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB), had some months back conducted its yearly Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) for the 2017/2018 academic year.

It is a modification of the old method of conducting separate examination for those going into either the university or polytechnics.

Now the logistics are streamlined and the exercise cost efficient.

Taking the process forward, precisely on the 20th of August, 2017, the board equally announced the highly anticipated pass or cut off marks for university, polytechnics, colleges of education, and other institutions of higher learning respectively.

Why this is necessary or not has been a subject of heated debate for God knows how long now.

Bearing in mind that once upon a time in this country our institutions of higher learning themselves were the ones conducting exams, fixing of cut off marks and interviews for prospective students.

As such they have the historical experience and academic pedigree for things like these and should not be bothered by all sorts of limiting centralized arrangements like quotas system, cut off marks and catchment arrears.

This year's exercise comes as usual with some measure of liberty for the individual citadel of higher learning vis-a-vis the doctoring of these requirements to suit their peculiar circumstances.

And this would come by the way of post JAMB and interviews to be conducted by the various higher institutions themselves through which the most suitable applicants are selected to fill existing openings in their various departments and faculties.

So it is, after all, nothing cut in stone as being peddled.

This year, the board had fixed 120 for the university, 110 for innovative institutions and 100 for polytechnics and colleges of education which has not gone down well with a lot of people who strongly feel it should have been the other way round.

I could recall that last year, the pass marks hover around 200 for university and 180 for polytechnics or thereabout respectively.

So why is the reduction?

According to JAMB, in a recent statement, the decision to review the cut off marks downward was reached at a meeting with the stakeholders drawn from across the country and not one was unilaterally taken by the board.

Ordinarily you will expect that such clarifications would douse the tension; instead, it has kindled the fire the more because obviously relevant stakeholders like ASUU, VC's were not part of this decision-making process.

And come to think of it who else should have been the first to be invited to such an August meeting if not the like of ASUU and VC's.

A clear case of proffering solutions to problems bedeviling the institutions they were superintending behind them.

And that is most unfortunate and above all unacceptable.

It would then mean that the so call stakeholders and the meeting is referred to by the board are at best ghostly or comprised of aliens to have taken a decision so strategic to our educational progress in such a sloppy manner.

Expectedly, they have come out to condemn the move in very strong terms.

First of all, while I am not holding brief for the examining body; but all I can say they are trying to do is get a good number of prospective students to the gates of the universities of their dream regardless their scores.

And by so doing pitch them against the so call smart students and see what happens at the end of the day.

You never can tell we might just get a couple of upsets on our hands, which would really be good.

After all, examination like we always say is sometimes not a true test of knowledge.

But the way and manner they have gone about it arouse the suspicion of not a few people.

Be that as it may, the cut-off marks for this year has continued to generate controversy among stakeholders.

As we speak, it is widely seen by many as being ridiculously low and a slap on the nation's drive for educational excellence which for sometimes now has been on a downward slide.

On the other hand, some do see it as nothing to be hypertensive about.

To this set of people, it is just cut off marks and the first hurdle to be crossed by those who applied to go to the university or other similar institutions.

If they cross this, nothing guarantees that they are going to cross the next, they argued!

Imagining that all this is coming at a time when the country universities are still battling to reclaim their past mercurial positions among the global university elites.

It is also coming at a time when there are deafening outcries that the bulk of graduates being produced by our higher institutions are not employable.

In most cases, they still require some in-house training to be effective on the jobs.

The near general consensus finally for sometimes now is that our education system is withering away at an alarming rate.

And going by available evidence much of these problems are as a direct result of repeated policy summersaults by one administration after the other.

Still on the matter at hand, going by universal grading standard in the academic circle, 120 marks out of possible 400 marks is a pass because it represents around thirty percent of the total score.

I hope my maths is correct.

If so, it is definitely not enough to advance the cause of a student studying in the lower level of the educational system not to talk of the university whose responsibility it is to develop manpower for the various sectors of the nation's economy,

I ask again whose interests was this decision meant to serve?

Of course, it could not have been for the highly motivated students from across the length and breadth of the country.

Many of whom over the years have consistently been scoring well over 200 marks.

Everything being equal, it points only in the direction of some lazy crowd somewhere so desperate to go to the university even if it means dragging everybody down their miserable pedestal.

And come to think of it, they are been helped on politically speaking not minding the consequence it portends for the future of the beneficiaries and the nation in general.

Because it is one thing to graduate; it is, however another, to be able to compete in the professional environment without some affirmative actions being taken that seek to correct the imbalance created by an unwilling people who must be forced to the stream like some hesitant horses to satisfy an academic thirst they do not even have in the first instance.

It has always been a counterproductive option.

It never worked in all entireties.

At best what you get is the disturbing of the peace of the academic stream thereby making other abler and willing to drink from a muddled up academic water.

It brings to naught the genuine efforts of well-meaning personalities across the country who stand for educational meritocracy because it is more rewarding than the cheap populist agenda being shamelessly championed by some faceless minimalists in our midst.

By and large, I think it is a bad policy to continue to reduce entry requirements into our institution of higher learning.

I honestly think if the body cannot raise the bar out of fears that the chances of some people or sections of the country will be negatively impacted then it would only be proper to retain the status quo.

And this they have not done thereby making their recent action a questionable one and must be opposed by every legal means possible. God bless Nigeria!

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