With the 64 per cent success recorded in Mathematics and English Language by the West African Examinations Council in the 2019 West African Senior School Certificate Examination for school candidates, stakeholders are of the view that aside the council providing reliable educational assessment, the government should also pay serious and deliberate attention to the foundation, quality of access and teachers, as these will have a direct impact on the performance of students at the SSCE level. Funmi Ogundare reports
Last weekend, the West African Examinations Council (WAEC) announced the release of its 2019 West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) for school candidates.
It was cheery news this year, as the council recorded an improvement in the pass rate with 64.18 per cent in a minimum of five subjects, including Mathematics and English Language compared with 2018 when it recorded 50 per cent.
The Head, National Office of the council, Mr. Olu Adenipekun, who briefed journalists in Lagos, said out of the 1,590,173 candidates that sat the examination in Nigeria, a total of 1,020,519 candidates, representing 64.18 per cent obtained credits and above in a minimum of five subjects, including English Language and Mathematics.
An analysis of the performance of candidates in the examination showed that 1,309,570 candidates representing 82.35 per cent, obtained credit and above in a minimum of any five subjects with or without English Language and/or Mathematics.
Of this number, Adenipekun said 507,862 representing 49.77 per cent were male candidates, while 512,657 representing 50.23 per cent were female candidates, adding that the percentage of candidates in this category in the WASSCE for school candidates in 2018 was 50 per cent.
“The performance of candidates in this year’s examinations compared with last year is better.”
The HNO said a total of 1,918 candidates with varying degrees of special needs were also registered for the examination, adding that out of this number, 299 were visually challenged, 842 had impaired hearing; 158 had low vision; 75 were spastic cum mentally challenged, while 85 were physically challenged.
“All these candidates with special needs were adequately provided for in the administration of the examination. Their results have been processed and released along with other candidates.”
The WAEC boss noted that out of the total number of candidates that sat the examination, 1,468,071 candidates, representing 92.32 per cent have their results fully processed and released, while 122,102 candidates representing 7.68 per cent have a few of their subjects still being processed.
“Efforts are being made to speedily complete the processing and all the affected candidates will get their results fully processed and released subsequently,” he said.
However, Adenipekun affirmed that the results of 180,205 candidates, representing 11.33 per cent of the total number of candidates that sat the examination were withheld in connection with various reported cases of examination malpractice, adding that the cases are being investigated and reports of the investigations will be presented to the appropriate committee of the council in due course.
“The committee’s decisions will be communicated to the affected candidates through their various schools.”
Fielding questions from journalists on alleged cases of impersonation and malpractice during the conduct of the examination, he said the council had deployed technology through biometrics to determine the candidates that will feature in its exams. “We also deploy smart identification cards used to verify the candidates coming to the examination hall, which has brought down the cases of impersonation.”
On the alleged leak of question papers online during the conduct of the examination, the HNO said though such claims were false, but some unscrupulous supervisors at the commencement had used their phones to take photographs of the pages of the question papers and made attempt to post it on WhatsApp, adding that the council had devised means of tracking their activities and arrested the development.
“Many of the supervisors and candidates, who were involved in such practice across the country, were caught in the examination hall through our electronic monitoring and tracking of our question papers. Such candidates have been arrested by the police for further investigation. They will soon be prosecuted; the Inspector General of Police (IG) gave WAEC maximum cooperation in this regard,” he said.
Asked how many states were able to pay students’ WAEC fees, he said: “Only 10 states, including Lagos have been able to do so and some of them are still making efforts to pay.”
While thanking all the supervisors, invigilators, custodians, examiners and other ad-hoc personnel for their support towards the successful conduct of the examination and marking of scripts, Adenipekun said the details of the results are already available online, adding that candidates who sat the examination and have fulfilled their financial obligations to the council can check the details of their performance on the its results website: www.waecdirect.org.
“The result checker PIN and serial number needed by candidates to check their results online are contained on the candidates smart identity card used during the conduct of the examination. Certificates of candidates whose results have been fully processed and released, will be ready within the next 90 days from today,” he said.
With the achievement recorded by the council, some stakeholders suggested that WAEC should not only be a body saddled with setting questions and marking of scripts, but it should also raise its ante and ensure that secondary school teachers are up to date in English Language and Mathematics.
The Chief Communications Officer, Fiscal Responsibility Commission, Mr. Dayo Jagun said this could be done through training programmes in the six geo-political zones of the country, adding that the council could also lobby the National Assembly to consider special allowance for the teachers in other to attract the best minds in key subjects.
“WAEC can organise online training for teachers in these core subjects, thereby saving time and resources. The online refresher course can run from January to December. The council should lobby the Teachers Registration Council of Nigeria (TRCN) to use the online courses as one of the yardsticks in the promotion of teachers in that subject area.”
The President, Universal Learn Direct Academia (ULDA), Chief Olawumi Gasper commended the council for the improvement arising from the regional standardised tests with outstanding performance by the female students compared to their male counterparts, adding that it should continue to add value, provide qualitative and reliable educational assessment, while encouraging academic and moral excellence among the learners.
“WAEC should consider the notion by some stakeholders that the quality of education is dwindling in Nigeria and must continue to administer examinations that are both valid and relevant to the educational and developmental aspirations of Nigeria, especially with transition into the fourth industrial revolution.
“It should also sustain its mission of promoting the ideals of hard work and honesty in the youths by strengthening the initiative that rewards outstanding performance in the examinations,” he stressed.
The Chief Executive of Brookehouse Learning Centre, Lekki, Mrs. Ifueko Thomas however believes that the 64 per cent pass rate is poor because the foundation is weak.
She opined that early intervention will do the country a lot of good, while appealing to the government to invest in early childhood education.
“Everything that involves growth or development must have a solid root or foundation as it were. The foundation of every human endeavour is laid at the early years of development. A fact to the education of any child is that it is during these early years that children develop linguistic, cognitive, social, emotional, and regulatory skills. Those of us that work with child development and early education can tell you for a fact that children gain a lot from being in a high-quality, early learning settings.
“The years from birth to age five are viewed as a critical period for developing the foundations for thinking, behaving and emotional well-being. It is during these years that children develop linguistic, cognitive, social, emotional and regulatory skills that predict their later functioning in many other domains.
“In other words, nursery and primary education is the foundation upon which the secondary education will be built. You cannot lay a foundation for a bungalow and try to build a skyscraper on it. That is sheer tomfoolery.”
Thomas regretted that the government has not appreciated the criticality of early years because “this is where we have put the lowest cadre of teaching. In the past, it was teachers’ grade two, now it is NCE and entry for education in the universities attracting the lowest JAMB score.”
She said the attention the country should give to early years should go beyond just ensuring that all children get to go to school (free education), but should include provision of resources, quality of curriculum and more importantly, quality of teaching, among others.
“So our problem is two pronged, poor quality early years and poor quality teachers for early years. If the foundation is destroyed what can the righteous do? If the foundation is weak what do we expect the secondary school children to do? It is at the early years that the basic structures for mathematics are laid. If the basic structures of numeracy and literacy are not in place, the struggle will continue. The performance will continue to be mediocre.
“We can learn a thing or two from a country like Finland, which boasts of having the best education system in the world where the best teachers teach the early years. We should not expect performance of SSCE to improve if we shut our eyes to our early years programme.”
The CEO therefore stressed the need for the government to pay serious and deliberate attention to the foundation, quality of access, content and teachers, noting that in a few years there will be a direct impact on the performance of the children at the SSCE level.
A civil servant, who prefers anonymity; argued that if the state government can improve on teaching facilities and replacement of existing teachers in public schools, there will be more positive and geometric improvement in the performance of learners.