House Probes Reduction in JAMB Cut-off Marks


Senate, stakeholders to review board, Post-UME regulatory conflict

Damilola Oyedele and James Emejo in Abuja
The House of Representatives yesterday passed a motion mandating its Committee on Tertiary Education and Services to investigate the circumstances which led to a recent decision by the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) to slash the cut-off marks for admission of candidates into tertiary institutions in the country.

The Registrar of JAMB, Prof. Ishaq Oloyede, had after a policy meeting with heads of tertiary institutions and other stakeholders announced the reduction of the minimum cut-off threshold to 120 marks in the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UMTE) for entry into universities and 100 marks for admission into polytechnics or colleges of education for the 2017/2018 academic session.

The House, however, noted that despite the fact that over 500,000 candidates scored above 200 marks which represented 50 per cent of the total mark, JAMB still went ahead to announce a 120 cut-off mark which represented only 30 per cent of the total examination mark of 400, while the 100 marks stipulated for polytechnics and colleges of education represented only 25 per cent of the total mark.

The lower chamber, in a motion need to investigate the reduction in the cut-off marks for admissions into tertiary institutions in Nigeria, which was moved by Hon. Hassan Saleh (APC, Benue), expressed concern that the decision is bound to lower the standard/quality of education in tertiary institutions as many candidates who performed woefully in the UMTE examination could secure admissions through nepotism, bribery and corruption while many other candidates who perform excellently could be denied admissions.

The lawmakers agreed that universities ought to be centres of excellence for learning, research and innovation, hence the need to always admit the best candidates in order to produce graduates who could compete favourably with their peers anywhere in the world.

They argued that tertiary education should be for those candidates who have the intellectual capacity, contending that lowering the entry qualification into higher institutions of learning would definitely reduce the productivity and peak performance of young people seeking admissions into such institutions.

The motion, which was extensively debated on the House floor, saw the majority of the contributors criticising the new policy not only because the parliament was not carried along in taking the decision but also that it tends to further dampen education standards which is already at the low ebb.

Hon. Abubakar Kannike Garba (APC, Kwara) likened the slash in exam cut-off marks to inverting the pyramid, adding that it could send the wrong signal to the world that the country celebrates incapability in its education system.

Hon. Afe Olowookere (APC, Ondo) said the policy could further exert undue pressure on existing infrastructure which is inadequate in tertiary institutions, stressing that education authorities must brief the legislature on the rationale for the reduction in cut-off marks.
Also, Hon. Henry Archibong (PDP, Akwa Ibom) said the reduction tended to make students lazy adding that those who are unable to pass exams should learn a trade. He said JAMB ought to be disbanded to allow tertiary institutions the right to solely admit candidates.

In related development, the Senate yesterday directed its Committee on Tertiary Education to meet with stakeholders from the Ministry of Education, JAMB and universities over perceived regulatory conflict between the examination body and entry examinations conducted by the universities.

The resolution followed the rejection of a motion calling for the scrap of the Post-UME exercise in its entirety, and for JAMB to develop a strategy to ensure efficiency and integrity in the conduct of its examinations.
The motion was sponsored by Senator Umaru Kurfi (Katsina Central) who said the introduction of the Post-UME has failed to remedy the problems associated with JAMB, and its continued existence poses more challenges for the education system.

“Cognisance that while the executives introduced the Post-UME policy as a remedy to the decay in educational standard in higher institutions of learning, there have been public outcry of extortion from candidates despite the rigorous test they pass through at JAMB,”
“Disturbed that as the integrity of the Post-UME examination is open to question as the pecuniary motive of the respective institutions comes so visibly to the fore that there is little pretence about maximizing the income flows through these internal examinations,” Kurfi said.

The Chairman of the Senate Commitee on Tertiary Education, Senator Jibrin Barau, however disagreed that there is a regulatory conflict between JAMB and Post-UME exercises conducted by universities.
He clarified that the duty of JAMB is to conduct the examinations which set the cut off marks for the minimum scores as universities can choose to demand higher scores from candidates.
Barau added that the efficiency of JAMB in the conduct the examinations has increased.
Presiding, Senate President Bukola Saraki directed the committee to submit its report in one month.