Thousands of primary school pupils under the influence of their parents and teachers tend to skip either Primary 6 or Primary 5 classes and proceed to secondary school, Daily Trust investigation has shown.
However, experts said most of these "high-ability pupils" come to regret the action later, because apart from missing the vital lessons of primaries 5 and 6, they apparently find themselves smaller and younger-looking, than their classmates and after graduation, have to wait and attain the traditional age of admission before they get to higher institutions.
Grade skipping not acceptable - Experts
While many parents and teachers interviewed, agreed that skipping grades is the safest way to go, education experts say the practice, which is mostly common in private schools, is not acceptable because pupils involved are emotionally unprepared for the upper classes.
Director, Department of Quality Assurance, FCT Education Secretariat, Salihu Omehi Yahaya, said it is compulsory for pupils to attend primary 1 to 6 classes before they can be admitted into JSS1 but writing common entrance exam, as the prerequisite of admission into JSS1, is unnecessary.
He said pupils looking for admissions into unity colleges are allowed to take Common Entrance Examination, principally, to select suitable candidates for admission.
"What we know, based on the 6-3-3-4 system and later 9-3-4 system (Universal Basic Education) is that there shouldn't be any Common Entrance Examination any longer; but automatic transition from primary to junior secondary school, determined by continuous assessment. And that is what operates in the FCT. Once a pupil completes Primary 6, his name is taken to the FCT Education Resource Centre (ERC) and given admission into JSS 1. In the case of Unity Schools, the National Examination Council (NECO) prepares entrance exam, to be able to select the best candidates."
He said the first competitive exam a child has to write under the system, is the Basic Education Certificate Examination, done in JSS3 before getting into Senior Secondary School. However, basic schools are required to give testimonial certificates to pupils who completed primary education.
The director said it is "wrong for any primary school to operate only primary 1 to 5 classes, rather all basic schools must have primary 6 classes. It is also wrong to start primary 1 lesson at nursery level because the curriculum was planned based on age and needs of the pupils in each class. And those who finish secondary or primary schools at lower age will not have the emotional balance required in the upper stages."
Ideally, primary education starts at age 5 or 6, he said.
An official of Nigerian Tulip International Colleges (NTIC) in Abuja, said primary 5 and 6 pupils of between the ages of 9 and 12 are enlisted in JSS1 after writing an entrance exam prepared by the colleges. The exam, he said, is done to test the innate abilities and potential of applicants.
Pupils must attend primary 6 - Don
Speaking on the matter, a senior lecturer with the Federal College of Education, Zaria, Dr. Ahmed Bello said children are expected to start primary school when they turn six and they must attend Primary 6 before they are placed in JSS1. He said it is wide off the mark for pupils to leave out primary 6 or 5 and start JSS1 outside their normal age group, because age requirement is vital in grade placement. He said, "missing primary 6 lessons can affect child's academic performance and can lead to frustration."
Parents do so to save cost -Teacher
A basic school teacher in Lokoja, Glory Ocheje, said some parents 'push' their children in primary 4 and 5 to sit for Common Entrance Examination when they find that such pupils are brilliant.
According her, other parents, due to financial difficulties, encourage their children to skip some classes in the basic education level so as to save costs. A parent, Onogwu Sule, also said brilliant pupils in private schools are sent to JSS1 by parents to save costs.
She also identified age as one of the factors, explaining that some parents, who feel that their children appeared older in age in their present class, often find a way of making them skip such class to a higher level not minding whether such child can cope in his new classes.
It has negative impact - Educationist
An educationist, Mrs Mariam Ategbe, said not allowing pupils to go through the normal processes in their early stage of education would have some negative implications on their learning in the future.
She said such children can experience inferiority complex amongst their mates in secondary school while those with low IQs will have difficulties coping with their subjects in the new class.
Mrs Ategbe maintained that the physical maturity of children is critical in their educational development, hence, the need for parents to avoid rushing them through the education system.
Some teachers and parents in Benue State said that pupils in primary 4 and 5 classes are moved to JSS1 based on the their excellent academic performances.
A parent, Rose Ejembi, said girls are mostly encouraged to skip classes because they grow faster "For instance, I discovered that pupils start pre-primary school early in life these days but they leave late. My daughter started at age two but at primary four, she was already 10 and grown so big. If she is allowed to complete primary six, it then means she would likely leave secondary school at 18.
"And you know, what it means to start battling with JAMB and other related examination bodies for university admission. So, I decided to let her leave at primary four for secondary school. She had initial challenges of coping which affected her a little but I got her a private teacher to meet up, she is coping now. Private schools, especially try to waste our children's time so as to make more money. It wasn't like that in the past. I went to school at the age of six and finished primary school before 12," Ejembi said.
Another parent, Attah Ede, said pupils are encouraged to take Common Entrance Examination at Primary 5 due to their brilliant academic Performances. The teachers advise their parent to move them up the ladder.
Ede added that his son skipped primary six because he was brilliant but had little trouble catching up during his first year at the secondary school.
It has no benefit - SUBEB
The Information Officer of the Benue State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB), Mrs Sar Erdoo, said there are no benefits to derive from the hasty decision to push pupils from primary four or five to JSS1.
"From my interaction with many mothers, they said their children are getting old so they have to leave the primary school. But I think the children should be matured. Government is not ignorant of that fact when it pegged certain age limit for pupils to complete primary education.
"I know those who lagged behind because they left primary school at four or five. Some of these pupils go faster than their mates but don't pass SSCE and those who waited to complete primary school usually over take them. So they need to be matured all round," Erdoo said.
Another educationist in Lagos, Dr. Samson Ayodele, said parents want their children in private schools to skip grades to save cost due to economic hardship.
A former Executive Chairman of the Lagos State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB), Mrs. Gbolahan Daodu said parents emulate what others are doing without necessarily thinking of the intellectual and emotional development of the child. "A child may be brilliant but does not have the developed capacity to cope at a later day," she said.
She called on government to firmly frown at such practices and urged on all relevant stakeholders to address this issue through continuous advocacy to sensitize parents, guardians and schools.
A teacher with Vicwin Preparatory School in Lagos, Mr. Nic Uzor said some private school owners have abolished basic 6 class, because it records less number pupils as many have left at class 5.
Ahmad Mahmud is a class teacher in one of the state schools in Kebbi State, said it is bad for parents to allow their children to be moved from either primary 4 or 5 to JSS1. "The children, you would observe, are not usually ready and prepared for such upward movement because of their age. Again, their brain might be overstretched and in many instances the parents are disappointed by their performance."
Adeola Oluwatoyin, a former teacher at a private school said she didn't see anything wrong in moving a child from a particular class to sit for common entrance examination. "I think most of the children that are normally pushed for such examination are quite exceptionally gifted so why not," she said.
However, Mr Timothy Ogwu a parent said it was not a good thing to do.
"I think the problem is that some of us are just too eager and anxious to see our children in higher institutions else why should they be unnecessarily move to JSS1," he said.
No need to stop high flying child - Parent
Mrs Chinwe Okoro, a parent in Awka, whose child is a pupil in one of the private schools, said she allowed her daughter to sit for Common Entrance Examination when she was in Primary 4 because she started schooling very early and she is intelligent and can cope with the academic works.
"You don't need to stop a high flying child because of his/her age. If a child is showing capacity in anything allow him/her to move at his/her pace" she said.
Education goes with age maturity - Teacher
Mrs. Nkeiruka Uzoma, a teacher in one of the government-owned schools in Awka said, education goes with age and maturity and, in public schools here, we don't allow underage to go for the exam because they are not mentally suitable.
Another, parent, Mr. Chuksmaduka said, the pressure for children to jump grades normally comes from the mothers who want to answer 'Mama doctor or lawyer.'
He said that many parents also want their children to get to secondary school early because of employment age limit. "If you are 30 years old, you will hardly get a good job. Organizations advertise for jobs for people between ages of 20 and 25."
Dr. Nnamdi Achebe, a lecturer at the Department of Linguistics, Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu University, Igbariam, Anambra State, said allowing children to sit for Common Entrance Examination at class 4 or 5 is unsafe for their education because learning goes with age and maturity.
An official of the Ministry of Education in Sokoto State, said it is improper for pupils to go to junior secondary school without attending primary 1 to 6 classes and authorities don't allow parents and schools to make their children skip grades.