UTME reportedly records mass failure again, and restructuring is the only answer

Participating in the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) is more of an indispensable necessity than just another exam checklist in the educational careers of Nigerian students.

Students across the 36 states have to actively participate in this ‘annual ritual’ organised by the Joint Admissions Matriculation Board (JAMB) if they dream of having a career beyond high school.

In this light, the Board records hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of casualties (the ones that fail to meet the required scores for admissions) every year, after the tests are marked. For those that fall short of the university standard, they have to settle for other tiers of tertiary education or wait out another year to rewrite the exams. This especially applies to scenarios where such a candidate cannot afford low-score tolerable private tertiary institutions. All of these has even now been further complicated by the introduction of the National Identity Number (NIN) as a prerequisite for registration.

Besides that, there is a reality where a candidate performs excellently but is denied admission for mysterious reasons. And, when another cycle comes around, the once-excellent candidate is unable to perform as impressively; rueing his or her luck. They probably have to wait another year or make some compromise.

These circumstances have led to a section of Nigerians protesting the one-year validity of UTME; asking for one year or two-year extension. At the opposite end of this however, is the argument for the annual examination to continue knowing that students easily get distracted by the addictive nature of social media.

It is in this argument that we see reports of a mass failure come to the fore. Some unconfirmed reports claim that only 352,000 candidates out of the over 4 million who have sat for UTME 2021 scored 150 and above, which amounts to a shocking 8.8 per cent. If the claims turn out to be true, it would make the mass failure of previous years look like a child’s play. 

Unsurprisingly, the report has reignited the banter side of social media, and critics have already started pointing that poor performance is gradually becoming normative. Not only does it reflect the quality of education in the country – it is also that social media largely influences this.

TikTok and Snapchat addiction notwithstanding, just like the political discourse in the country is being dominated by restructuring, it may be high time JAMB considered restructuring some of its practices.

Like international exams, SAT especially; which is more or less the American equivalent of UTME, the validity of UTME can be extended to a minimum of 2-3 years. The increased validity will boost students’ chances of getting admission into tertiary institutions.

Besides, students may not be able to maintain the same level of performance while the syllabus is also bound to change, among other variables not within their reach.

More so, the supposed mass failure of students should raise an alarm concerning the state of education in the country and its budgetary allocations should be reviewed. The budget for education in 2021 is the lowest in a decade, taking just 5.6 percent of this year’s budget while students of tertiary institutions have always had to deal with plagues of strike and underdevelopment. 

As the objective of JAMB is to facilitate admission for school leavers, it should be doing its utmost best to ensure conditions are optimal for the transition into the tertiary world. All of these however, doesn’t remove the need for self-discipline from the candidates and adequate preparation.

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