Out of the 11,721 candidates who sat for the newly introduced February diet of the West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) by West African Examination Council (WAEC), about 8,766 candidates representing 73.99 per cent failed to obtain minimum credits and above in five subjects, including English and Mathematics. Only 1,987 candidates representing 26.01 per cent obtained minimum credits and above in five subjects. Unarguably, this is a poor, dismal outing.
Nigeria, with its role in Africa is in urgent need to meet the expectations of a high population and economic growth, just as the demand for higher education is on the increase. This constantly poses a challenge to the institutions of learning to remain up to date in their role of imparting knowledge to the students. Every country is founded on three to four institutions, namely law enforcement, justice, education and public administration.
We are of the view that a successful education framework is premised on two things; curriculum and teacher education. As a country, we must go back to the basics and redress the rot in the system. Stakeholders have severally posited that once the country gets it right in basic education where the foundations are laid, it would have gotten it right with the development of the citizen who constitutes the sum total of what is called society.
Thus, the dearth of well trained teachers in the nation’s primary and secondary schools remains the most conspicuous factor in the quality of teaching and learning that is obtainable in our country. The challenge is this; the nature of the certificate does not actually make the teacher. Teachers who went to the old Teachers Training Colleges generally were considered good in the field. Today with higher qualifications at least on paper, still the standards are depreciating.
The question to ask is, what’s happening? It comes down to standards and curriculum and we must go back to standard curriculum and regulations or inspection. These are the three things that determine the quality we all crave for. If the nation is unable to get back to quality control and standardization, then the system is doomed. Furthermore, the country has to have a regular supply of teachers who are ready to bear the burden of managing the students, providing pastoral care, rendering guidance and counselling services the pupils under them because when that doesn’t happen, the educational system is going to be disrupted and destructive.
The Nigeria Economic Summit Group (NESG), in its 2014 publication underscored the following: That 44 percent of Nigerian students cannot read a complete sentence on completion of primary school; over 74 percent of those who sat for the 2013 Senior School Certificate Examinations (SSCE) conducted by NECO failed; only one in three applicants to tertiary institutions secure admissions while Nigeria is 117th out of 148 in world ranking for quality of mathematics and science education. If this is not worrisome, one wonders what is. With regard to policy, education has not been attended to for a long while as the last education policy review the country had was under President Olusegun Obasanjo, who left power in 2007, more than a decade ago.
The situation, no doubt, needs to be redressed and urgently too. The traditional thinking in educational policy and planning is to focus on issues like funding, access, teacher/student ratio, active PTA, curricular. It is a given fact today that no country can develop without investing in developing her human capital. While the world keeps changing, evidence indicates that employers are looking for people with skills and critical thinking abilities. In Nigeria, the existing educational system is not producing such people and to change, the country needs to agree on the following: That rigour is critical and school must exist to assist children to think critically, work hard, and to fail and try again, before leaving secondary school; all children must learn rigorous higher order thinking to thrive in this modern world.
This newspaper, therefore, is compelled to stress the need to create serious intellectual culture in schools, one that each student can perceive as real, true and be disposed to imbibe. We suggest that all tiers of government, the private sector, teachers, parents and representatives of youths should come together and agree that quality education is not negotiable and arrive at measurable standards.