Education and the implications of JAMB's new cut-off mark

It is no longer news to that the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB) has set a new record with its recent policy. An all-time low cut-off mark of 120 was benchmarked for universities, 100 for polytechnics and colleges of education.

Barely a decade ago, the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) which is set by JAMB used to be the most dreaded in the whole of the federation, after top professional examinations, such as ICAN, etc.

UTME used to be regarded as the true test for the best and brightest as most candidates hardly scaled through in one sitting. Such was the horror of the examination that it became a popular saying in Nigerian local English (pidgin) that: “JAMB don jam that boy/girl”.

Passing UTME then at the second attempt would certainly make anyone a hero in his immediate environment, and most likely win such candidate a slot in his or her school’s hall of fame. It was a thing of pride for the parents as well. This writer was one of those who wrote the very last Unified Matriculation Examination (UME) before it was later changed to UTME. I was privileged to pass in just one attempt but it was not without sweat.

I felt I was going to read my life out. I spent the last two weeks to my UME with a now retired principal, who was always challenging me to study hard. But, he was taken aback and criticised the rigour I subjected myself to while preparing for the examination.

That was going to be the first and the last time my dad ever told me to please study hard. Same can be said for people who wrote theirs prior to 2009 and a little after then. It is also true that many never considered going to universities because of the JAMB hurdle, and as such, they resorted to what was the easiest option then – preliminary studies and diploma courses.

With the new JAMB policy, who is ever going to go through the rigour of extensive reading in preparing for UTME? Who is ever going to celebrate a so-called successful candidate with 120 score out of a possible 400?

In less than a decade ago, scoring 120 won’t even get a candidate into the Colleges of Education or polytechnics, much less a university admission. It is crystal clear that the reduction in the cut off mark does no candidate any good. Rather, higher institutions will benefit more in terms of generating more money to run their operation. But, should this be the aim of education?

I have since wondered if the Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu, and the JAMB Registrar, Prof Ishaq Oloyede, are aware that admitting students with 120 score in JAMB is equivalent to passing university students who scored 25/100 in a course.

While some may argue that the cut-off marks count little seeing institutions will conduct their post-UTME, is it not exasperating to know that the Ministry of Education considers anyone with such abysmal score of 120 worthy of admission into our universities? The policy also clearly stated that the highest cut-off mark any institution can fix (for any course) is 180. That, at its best, is mediocrity at its peak.

As it stands, the rationale behind this policy is still clumsy and up for anyone’s guess. But one thing that is so obvious is that, with the new cut-off marks, the number of applicants to institutions will skyrocket and this means more money for the institutions. The policy also gives room for exploitation and inconsistency, because with a swell pocket and right connections, candidates who scored 120 could be admitted at the expense of brilliant candidates who scored250.

Now, we know how much fortune higher institutions in Nigeria stand to garner from this policy. One thing we really don’t know is how badly our education would have been affected. No matter the rationale behind this policy, to admit students with 120 scores into our universities is a great disservice to our beloved nation. Every well-meaning Nigerian must see this policy as an aberration that must be condemned. If nothing is done against this bizarre policy, it could prove to be the final nail in the coffin our education.

The Nation
Education and the implications of JAMB's new cut-off mark Education and the implications of JAMB's new cut-off mark Reviewed by Nene Sochi-Okereke on Thursday, 31 August 2017 Rating: 5

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