The dangers of reducing JAMB cut-off marks

Posted by Nelson Dafe | 25 June 2013 | 4,702 times

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Some prospective university students have heaved a sigh of relief. Many parents are rejoicing. Stakeholders of our university system have decided to alter a long-standing tradition of entrance requirements into universities in Nigeria. The minimum JAMB score for entrance into universities has been cut from 200 marks to 180 marks. Is this a healthy development for our university system and our future progress as a country?

My pat answer is ‘no; it isn’t.’

Listening to the various arguments put forward in support for the reduction of the JAMB cut-off mark, it was clear to me that the points were based on emotion rather than reason. The pro-reduction argument basically comes down to this logic: Too many students failed JAMB this year, hence too many persons would be denied the chance of getting into the university if the cut-off mark is not scaled down.

What hogwash! The argument betrays a clear ignorance of reality and the long term negative implications of such rule-bending. One of the major problems besetting our universities today is that we have too many students who are not fit for the academic demands of a university education. Getting more unready students in is just not the way to go if we care about the fact that our university system has become a laughing stock for its not too recent reputation of having so many dullards studying the most respected of courses.

JAMB over the years has set a standard that seeks to ensure that only the best brains are admitted into our schools. Despite the desperate efforts of examination cheats to pass and gain entry into universities through the back door, it is generally agreed that JAMB exams are tough and passable only by students who prepare well and study hard; and standard-wise, JAMB ranks as the same with other similar entrance examinations in foreign countries (like America’s SAT.)

The standard is such that students who record success usually have the mental wherewithal to face the rigors of a research and taught-oriented university academic life; so that when they graduate they would possess sufficient knowledge in different fields of study to play positive roles in different areas of societal development.

Today, unfortunately for different reasons, very many students do not have the capacity to pass JAMB. But it seems to me that the best response to this is not to lower standards by reducing JAMB cut-off points. Setting this precedence invites the question of where do we actually draw the line in the future? If we find that next year still many more fail to reach 180 marks, do we further reduce the cut-off point to, say, 150 marks?

Granting persons who are simply not good enough leeway into our universities is dangerous because genuinely good students are going to end up being distracted by mingling with too many bad students and our limited academic facilities are going to be stretched even further.

When people who have the zeal to go to university but lack the academic ability to do so are admitted, they are very likely to be overwhelmed by the high academic demands of a university education. The consequence is that they lose whatever belief there is left in them of their academic abilities, and resort to desperate measures like cheating and bribing lecturers financially and sexually in order to scale through. Many of such persons find cultism attractive, because it offers them some sense of belonging that they don’t get otherwise in academics.

I am sure that if you research into cult activities in schools you would find that it is those students with lower levels of academic abilities who cause the most havoc.

Our universities must live up to the levels expected of the Ivory Tower. Because of our disregard for standards, we see too many situations where our graduates lack the basics that should make them so.

Many can’t even speak good English. If the stakes were not so high, it would have been hilarious.

Lowering JAMB cut off marks is a weak move that only shows we don’t care about standards as much as we do about the sentimentality of getting more persons into universities.

•Dafe is a Benin City-based freelance journalist. • Photo shows JAMB Registrar Prof. Dibu Ojerinde.

Source: News Express

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