Nigeria’s secondary school education system seems to be returning to the path of reckoning; and gaining public confidence, given the index of performance in the Senior School Certificate Examinations (SSCE). Evidence of this reality was the results released by the West African Examinations Council (WAEC); which showed 56.22 per cent of candidates with credit pass in five subjects and above; including English Language and Mathematics in the 2017 WASSCE; as against the 38.68 per cent and 52.97 per cent posted in 2015 and 2016, respectively. Besides, the National Examination Council (NECO); report of its 2017 SSCE results shows 70.85 per cent of candidates scoring credit pass; in five subjects and above in English Language and Mathematics.
Though this year’s NECO percentage pass fell below the 88.51 per cent and 87 per cent recorded in 2016 and 2015, it is still a steady growth in candidates’ performance, suggesting improvement in public secondary schools across the country.
In previous years, candidates had failed to record appreciable performance in the examinations, a development, which caused anxiety in parents and other major stakeholders concerning the conduct and performance index in the examinations.
Thus, the recent percentage pass is a welcome development, as Nigerians could now heave a sigh of relief that the education sub-sector is taking a new shape in the delivery of quality teaching and learning. According to the Registrar and Chief Executive Officer of NECO, Prof. Charles Uwakwe, over 1,055,988 candidates registered for the examination, while 1,051472 actually sat for the test, which covered a total of 76 subjects. Of this figure, 745,053 candidates recorded credits and above passes in English and Mathematics, while 947,850 candidates passed with credits and above in five subjects irrespective of English Language and Mathematics.
In the results announced on September 14; NECO disclosed that 50,586 candidates were involved in examination malpractices; with 276 schools in “mass cheating” in 34 states of the federation. To sanction some erring schools for their involvement in examination misconduct, the examination body derecognised six schools, while 23 supervisors, who aided malpractices in one way or the other, were blacklisted.
While we laud NECO for this feat and in sanctioning the erring schools; and supervisors for involving in acts that undermined the integrity of the examinations; such sanction should go beyond mere delisting or derecognition of the schools and blacklisting the supervisors; they should be properly tried in the court of law and punished appropriately to serve as a deterrent to others.
In spite of the merriment that greeted this year’s performance; it is crucial to put the entire nation’s education sector in proper perspective considering the various challenges; such as the dearth of quality teachers, poor remuneration and welfare; incessant teachers’ strikes over non-payment of salaries running into several months across most states of the federation; shortage of facilities, laboratory equipment and reagents, and lack of functional libraries confronting the school system. However, going by the above variables, which, to a large extent, are a function of quality education delivery; it won’t be out of place to query whether the results posted by NECO reflect the true state of the performance of the candidates; when the stated challenges were yet to be addressed.
We need to properly situate the entire scenario from a standpoint of; if truly the standard of education at the secondary school level has improved over the years, or in the last one year; to really enhance the results released by NECO. Hence, we call for caution in using this year’s results as a yardstick for the overall sectoral performance; as there are lingering unanswered questions. For instance, are the teachers now more committed to the teaching-learning process; in view of incessant strikes across many states of federation over non-payment of salaries?
Are students more hard-working without functional libraries and laboratories? Has the standard or syllabus been lowered, as the examination was characterised by malpractice; involving schools and examiners, ostensibly to compromise the standard? We would like to advise NECO that, in order to attract patronage, it should not attempt, either overtly or covertly; now or in the distant future, to lower or compromise the standard and quality of its examinations.