Following the release of the 2018 West African Secondary School Certificate Examination on Wednesday, experts have expressed worry over the decline in performance from 59.22 per cent in 2017 to 49.98 per cent credit passes and above this year.
The council’s Head of National Office, Mr. Olu Adenipekun, had said the 49.98 per cent represented 786,016 out of 1,572,396 candidates who sat for the examination.
He said, “858,424 other candidates obtained credits and above in a minimum of five subjects, including English Language, but without Mathematics.”
Reacting to the disclosure, experts blamed the decline in overall performance on the large number of scripts examiners had to mark, which, they argued, affected thoroughness.
They also condemned what they called a rigid marking scheme that fails pupils’ innovative answers, while highlighting disinterest in learning due to get-rich-quick avenues like sports and entertainment.
An English teacher in Lagos, who prefers to be identified as St. Dolu Festus, said that although numerous factors contributed to the poor performance of pupils, the large number of scripts each examiner had to mark and submit within a week was a major factor.
His words, “Examiners were given fewer days to mark the same number of scripts. They would not have been able to do a thorough job; I doubt if they gave their best. Where one examiner who used to be given two weeks to mark 280 scripts, is now given one week to do same while schools are still in session, quality will definitely be affected, because it is the same examiners that teach in classrooms.”
Festus, who has been teaching for eight years, suggested that “even though the objective aspect is computer-marked, the theory is not. As such, WAEC should employ more hands so each examiner has less scripts to mark and can go through them properly, as opposed to rushing through them.”
He added, “Teachers not giving their best is really not the issue. After all, there was a rise from 52.97 per cent in 2016 to 59.22 per cent in 2017. What could be an added drawback is the WAEC’s marking scheme. As it stands, pupils are advancing but WAEC is not getting flexible to accommodate the creativity of pupils and the dynamism of education today. Pupils can get innovative and answer questions in a new and correct way but because WAEC is rigid, the examiner will be forced to mark them down because it is not part of the marking scheme. The same pupil will write international exams and excel.
“This should not, however, take our attention away from the decline in the reading culture of pupils, thanks to social media. The argument that they also read e-books does not really hold water because the same tablet or phone will pop up other distractions like a WhatsApp or Facebook messages. Pupils should go back to reading hard copies of books because it can help them learn how to shut out distractions and develop discipline,” Festus urged.
Blaming the decline in pupil’s performance on avenues to wealth that belittle the value of getting an education, an Economics teacher, Mr. Oluwafemi Fakolade, said it was because of pupils’ disinterest in the teacher-learning process that more problems came up.
“This disinterest comes from the home. Some of them see their parents engage in get-rich-quick schemes. Some have parents who sit in front of the television all day watching soap operas and home videos. They expose the children to these and they no longer see the need to stress themselves about reading books or solving sums.
“Teachers alone cannot be the saddled with the responsibility of moulding children. Parents should guide their children and make them understand that it is not about becoming a musician or going into sports. These are avenues to wealth. They give a lot of money but everyone still requires an education for sustenance,” Fakolade said.
He also attributed the disinterest in education to the availability of free education in some states of the country. “Government is doing its best. At least, in almost all the western states, there is free education. Maybe that is why they do not value education anymore. They no longer have to sweat for it. Parents need to play their part because the governments and teachers are trying.”
Responding to the claim that examiners have too many scripts to mark, Head, Public Affairs, WAEC, Mr. Damian Ojijeogu, however, said, “The claim is not true because we made sure that there are adequate examiners in each marking venue. If there is none, we send them to where there are adequate examiners to mark the scripts. There is nothing like shortfall, and that cannot be attributed to the decline. They are not related at all, to the performance of candidates and examiners marking scripts.
“As for the cause of decline, as the examiners have marked, at the end of the day there will be a chief examiner’s report. They will look at the strength and weaknesses of the students; where they passed, why they passed and where they failed, why they failed. Until that report is ready we cannot say what caused the decline. The report will be made available at the Nigerians Examinations Committee meeting that will hold later.”