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Reduction of JAMB cut off marks for admission: Violence to university education

On June 3, last year, a day after the Federal Government announced the scrapping of the Post UTME as part of the qualifying procedure for admission into Nigerian Universities, I cautioned in a write-up that was published in many Nigerian newspapers that that singular step was nothing but a calamitous mistake.

Good enough, the Federal Government last week rescinded that position in favour of the Senate of individual universities exercising its statutory powers of determining who qualifies to be admitted into its university.

The euphoria that greeted the reinstatement of the Post UTME by protagonists of quality education was still very thick in the air before the air was fouled again yesterday when the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB) announced the reduction of JAMB cut off marks for students angling for admission into Nigerian universities to 120 and 100 for Polytechnics in Nigeria after a meeting at JAMB’s 2017 Combined Policy Meeting with Vice Chancellors, Rectors and Provosts of tertiary institutions in Abuja.
Before yesterday’s announcement, the cut off mark for admission into Nigerian universities was 180 while that of Polytechnics, Monotechnics and Colleges of Education was 120 and above.

As a stakeholder in the education sector, I enjoyed good and quality Primary School education when the pass mark was a minimum of 50%. I am therefore worried and curious that this far-reaching decision could be taken without due consideration for its implication on the quality of education on offer in Nigerian tertiary institutions. And this naturally leads me to the following questions: What is the whole essence of reducing JAMB cut off marks for admission to as low as 120 for universities and 100 for Polytechnics, Monotechnics and Colleges of Education?

Will such an action enhance or reduce the quality of education on offer? Will it give international recognition to the degrees awarded by Nigerian Universities which in any case are already being questioned? Is the reduction a deliberate ploy to make things worse?

I do hope that those behind this reduction are aware that even candidates whopass JAMB at 180 and above now find it difficult and tasking to get admission into Nigerian Universities because there are more qualified candidates than the spaces available and because of paucity of facilities in the exiting universities.

It must be appreciated that even the former 180 cut off mark is less than 50% of the total JAMB marks. As I said earlier, a minimum of 50% was regarded and acknowledged as pass mark in Elementary Schools in those days and now JAMB is recommending 120, a mere 30% of the total score of 400.

In our University here, Afe Babalola University, Ado-Ekiti (ABUAD) the minimum JAMB score we take for Law and Medicine is 240 and this could even be higher in some of the first generation universities like the Universities if Lagos, Ibadan, and Ife. In the University of Lagos for instance where I was Pro Chancellor and Chairman of Council for seven years, no candidate would be admitted to study Medicine with less than 270.

The caveat by JAMB that each university has the right to set its own standarddoes not help matters as it portrays us all as not having an acceptable limit for setting standards. Are we now saying there will be no uniform standards in our tertiary education in this country? Is the government and/or its Agencies encouraging double or multiple standards?

My position is that there is an urgent need for Education Summit to be attended by Regulators and Operators as well as well-meaning stakeholders in Education to diffuse this thick ice of confusion that has engulfed our education landscape.

Aare Afe Babalola, OFR, CON, SAN, LL. D (London), LL. D (Lagos), FNSE is
Founder & Chancellor Afe Babalola University, Ado-Ekiti

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