Nigeria: Mass Failure in WASSCE

12 March 2019

For the second time since the West African Examinations Council [WAEC] introduced its January examination in 2018, it recorded mass failure in the 2019 West African Senior School Certificate Examination [WASSCE] for private candidates held in January. Head of WAEC's Nigeria National Office Isaac Adenipekun said last week that out of 12,202 candidates that registered for the examination, 11,892 sat for it but only 3,102 candidates or 26.08 percent obtained credit and above in a minimum of five subjects including English Language and General Mathematics.

Further breakdown of the results shows that 8,782 candidates or 75.15 percent obtained credit and above in two subjects; 7,332 or 62.74 percent obtained credit and above in three subjects; 5,850 or 50.06 percent obtained credit and above in four subjects, and 4,314 or 36.28 percent obtained credit and above in five subjects. Adenipekun also said out of the 12,202 candidates that registered for the examination in 2019, 6,180 were male and 5,712 were female. He said the results of 376 candidates or 3.16% are being withheld due to various cases of examination malpractice. He said the cases are being investigated and reports will be presented to the appropriate WAEC committee, and its decisions will be communicated to the affected candidates.

The WAEC chief further said the January diet, which is the third in the series of examinations conducted by WAEC in Nigeria, was aimed at providing an opportunity to willing candidates who may have missed the other two diets conducted in May/June and November/December. He said coordination of examiners and marking of candidates' scripts for the WASSCE for Private Candidates, 2019 First Series was successfully held from February 15 to 28, 2019 at three marking venues in Abeokuta, Kaduna and Enugu.

It would be recalled that only 17.5 percent of the more than 11,000 candidates who took part in the first edition of the examination, held in January 2018, obtained credit and above in five subjects including English Language and Mathematics. This implies that the January 2019 WASSCE result is only 8.58% better than the January 2018 result. The fact that only 26.08 percent of the candidates that participated in the January 2019 WASSCE obtained results which qualify them for university admission makes overall performance in the examination abysmal.

The persistent high failure rates have been attributed to many factors including low quality of teachers and deplorable state of teaching and learning facilities in schools. The few trained teachers are themselves products of lowly pedagogical standard. Motivation among teaching staff members is low especially in public schools. Most of those that partake in the January series of WASSCE are private candidates who failed to obtain minimum credit passes in relevant subjects in previous attempts. Unfortunately, this group of students are poorly prepared for the examination.

Over the years, failure rate in English Language and General Mathematics has been comparatively higher than it is with other school subjects. The advent of information technology has in some ways impacted negatively on the quality of learning at the school certificate level. Letter-writing that in the past provided an avenue for students to improve their language skills has become almost obsolete. Free access to the text message facility on mobile phones has similarly created a wide gap between students of English and rules of grammar. Access to the internet and free information posted on websites has equally weakened literary passions in secondary school students of today. These days, students effortlessly download materials, cut and paste, virtually at no financial cost, and present them as cerebral outcomes of academic assignments. Easy access to calculators on mobile phones, computer systems and wrist watches has turned students into gadget worshippers, with diminished ability for mental calculation.

To reverse the trend particularly among private candidates, government should ensure that essential teaching and learning materials are provided in schools, without compromising the need for hard work by individual students. Action must be taken now to halt the trend.

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