Beyond WASSCE Mass Failures

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Charles Eguridu

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Experts have identified some of the factors responsible for the growing failures recorded by Nigerian students in this year’s May/June edition of the West African Senior School Certificate Examination

By Vincent Nzemeke  |  Sep. 8, 2014 @ 01:00 GMT

BROKEN, beaten and dejected. That was how Ruth Idaho felt as he stared at the computer on Monday August 11, 2014. Idaho was one of the more than a million candidates who sat for the May/June edition of the West African Senior School Certificate Examination, WASSCE.

Upon hearing the news of the release of the examination results, she dashed to the cyber café full of hope that she had cleared all the papers she sat for. But as her results popped out on the screen, hot tears coursed from her eyes and her legs could no longer bear the weight of her body.

With credits in only Economics and Governments, passes in Mathematics, English Language, biology and failures in the other subjects,   Idaho was one of the hundreds of students who recorded mass failures in the examination.

While the poor performance may have come as a surprise to her and his family, it certainly did not alarm those who are abreast of recent happenings in Nigeria’s educational sector.  It was simply a continuation of what has now become a trend in public examinations.

In the last four years, WASSCE results released by the West African Examinations, Council, WAEC, have been nothing short of an embarrassment. More than half of the students, who enrolled for the examinations failed to obtain credits in Mathematics and English Language.

Announcing this year’s result in Lagos on Monday, August 11, 2104, Charles Eguridu, WAEC’s head of national office, said only 529, 425 representing 31.28 per cent obtained five credits including English Language and Mathematics. Eguridu said the results of 145,795 candidates, representing 8.61 per cent were being withheld over examination malpractices, which were reported both during the conduct and marking of the examination scripts.

Giving an exact breakdown of the results, Eguridu said, “In all, a total of 529,425 candidates, representing 31.28 per cent, obtained credits in five subjects and above, including English Language and Mathematics.” This performance according to him is a decline from the results posted in the last two years.

“In 2012, 649,156 representing 38.81 per cent obtained credits in Mathematics and English Language, while in 2013, 610,334 representing 36.57 per cent obtained five credits including English Language and Mathematics.

Not long after the release of the results, Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms were awash with discussions of student’s poor performances in WAEC and other public examinations in recent times. Most of the discussions centred on some of the factors responsible for the mass failures.

Students
Students

Commenting on the issue, Eguridu blamed parents for failing to monitor the academic performances of their children. He said parents were contented with just blaming government and the schools without doing anything to change the situation.

“We have been saying for a very long time that parents are also stakeholders in the success and failures of the children. People have been blaming the government and the schools without looking at the parent angle.”

Despite agreeing with Eguridu’s submission, Hilda Ijeh, a teacher at a private school in Abuja, said because success is personal responsibility, students must take the blame for their failures. “What is happening is really depressing. I agree that parents, schools and other factors share the blame, but the chunk of the blame must go to the students themselves. To be honest with ourselves, we all know that students of this generation don’t read because there are too many distractions. The situation is really bad but for me, the blame should go to the students.

Echoing a similar viewpoint on a discussion thread on Facebook, Adewole Aderigbe, who is also a teacher, listed some of the factors responsible for the high rate of failure by students who enrolled for external examinations in recent times. He said: “Dear Nigerians, the reasons for mass failure of our teenagers in public exams are not far-fetched and I will discuss a few of them below.

“Students these days give more time to Facebook, Yahoo, Twitter, My-space and generally, browsing, on the internet instead of reading their books.  Second, many students are glued to the English premier league and European football leagues on television rather than read their books. It is easy for an average Nigerian teenager to know the names of all of Chelsea’s players but the same youths cannot tell you the square root of 25 in mathematics. Worse still, is the growing trend these days whereby  the pictures of some players in the English premier league or European leagues such as Paloma, Drogba, Beyonce, Omotola etc. adorn the covers of exercise books instead of inscriptions like University or Scholars which was the case in those days.

“ Another factor is the trend by students to regard GSM text language as standard English.  I will not be surprised to see students write words like ur (for your), 2moro, 2mao (For tomorrow) in their exam sheets

“The quest for cheap fame and wealth among students these days is another major factor that contributes to poor examinations results.  The government, electronic media (TV and radio) and companies have not been helpful at all. The average Nigerian youth especially the girls want to be the winner of the most beautiful girl in Nigeria prize in order to get cheap money and fame. “

Another commentator on the same thread published a line from a recent interview granted by Eguridu to a newspaper earlier in the year. In the interview he said: “My take is simple. WAEC is like a mirror. If you don’t dress well and you stand in front of your mirror, what your mirror would do is to reflect your image back to you.

“WAEC is an assessment body. We are not the Ministry of Education. We don’t run the schools. The stakeholders, including the government, develop the curricula. Our tests are informed by the contents of the teaching curricular. Now, rather than the students reading to acquire knowledge for life, they just read to pass examinations and resort to self-help by buying past examination papers to get answers. When they work outside the box and consequently fail, they blame WAEC. If you want to look at the issues that affect performance, we need to ask questions, such as, how many parents, today, spend time to supervise their children when they come back from school?

“In those days, when we were in school, we had the privilege of being in the boarding house. We had specific periods for reading; we had periods for games and the teacher ratio was such that, you could have a teacher supervise about 20 students. But now, we have a situation whereby schools have as many as about 60 students in one class. So, the level of supervision has dropped.”

For some of the students, the mass failure is a function of the old marking scheme used by WAEC. Chikwado Nweke, a student who was lucky to make five credits in the recently released results said the WAEC marking scheme needs to be reviewed in order to prevent students from failing.

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