WAEC: Why students fail

The results of candidates in the May/June and November/ December Senior Secondary School (SSC) examinations conducted by the West African Examination Council (WEAC) have been that of mass failure in recent years. The situation has become a source of worry to many Nigerians, as well as to the examination body that conducts the exam. Now, WAEC has identified many possible factors causing the problem and proffered a way out. TUNBOSUN OGUNDARE writes.

For three days last week in Lagos, the Nigeria Examinations Committee (NEC) of the West African Examinations Council (WAEC), which is the highest policy making organ of the examination body, met for the first time this year.

At the meeting, the 55th edition in the series, the committee, comprising representatives of the state ministries of education and Department of Education of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, the All Confederation of Principals of Secondary Schools (ANCOPSS), the universities, the Registrar to the council, the Head of the Nigeria Office and the Head of the Test Development of the council, considered matters related to the May/June and November/December examinations conducted by the council in the last three years.

Top on the agenda was the recurrence mass failure of candidates in the exams, which they condemned in its totality while identifying possible causes and proffering a way out. Another issue of interest to them was the malpractice which they observed to be very rampart during every exam of the council.

The committee, after scrutinising the reports of the Chief Examiners, Aptitude Tests and the research division of WAEC was able to identify some factors believed to be responsible for the mass failure of Nigerian candidates in the exams.

For instance, statistics from the last three years showed that only 37.97per cent of the candidates, who sat for last November/ December exam obtained credit and above in five subjects, including English Language and Mathematics, which is the minimum academic qualification for admission into tertiary academic institutions in the country.

It was only 36.07 per cent of candidates who sat for the same exam that obtained five credits and above, including English Language and Mathematics in 2011 while the figure was just 24.16 per cent the year before.

Also for the May/June edition, the story was similar. Only 38.81 per cent of candidates had credit pass and above in five subjects, including English language and mathematics last year, while their number stood at 30.91 and 23.71 in 2011 and 2010, respectively. Although these show a slight improvement over the years in comparison, the situation is far from desirable.

However, at the end of the meeting, the committee came up with a communiqué, a copy of which is in National Mirror’s possession revealing the repeated flaws made by candidates.

According to the communiqué signed by the Deputy Director (Public Affairs) of WAEC, Mr. Yusuf Ari, the committee had observed that, “the council’s question papers, every year, not only met the required standards, but also enable the council’s certificates to be worthy of international recognition.”

It was also observed that the questions were not only unambiguous and within the scope of the syllabuses, the marking schemes were exhaustible and comprehensive enough to accommodate all possible answers, hence there shouldn’t be reason for mass failure.

Similarly, apart from the dearth of basic instructional materials and infrastructure, poor remuneration of teachers, among other social factors that are facing public schools in particular, the committee revealed candidates’ weaknesses to include the shallow knowledge of the subject matter, poor command of the use of English language, poor knowledge of the examination techniques, as well as disregard for correct interpretation of questions before attempting them.

Another observation by the committee was that many candidates lack requisite mathematical and manipulative skills for subjects involving calculations, while handwritings of some are illegible and their answers scripts are full of spelling errors.

Describing the condition as unbecoming, the committee noted that many candidates try to cut corners too by engaging in various forms of examination malpractice in order to obtain undue marks and its consequently recommended stiff penalty for culprits to deter recurrence.

The sanctions include the cancellation of entire results of candidates caught in more than one subject or their ban in sitting for future exams for certain numbers of years.

The committee, which equally condemned the usage of unsolicited websites in the name of WAEC by some individuals and the connivance of some officials of the council to perpetrate exam fraud, said such practices would have to stop while the council would continue to improve the standard of its exams.

The committee similarly used the medium to come up with some measures that could help both the students and schools to improve on their performance in future exams.

These include having a good understanding of each question, learning the basic rudiments of English language for better and clearer presentation of their answers, getting the appropriate textbooks in all subjects and study them side by side with the examination syllabus and Chief Examiners reports, and also endeavour to cover the syllabus before the commencement of examination.

For governments and private schools owners, the committee tasked them to provide basic infrastructure and conducive atmosphere in their schools, as well as, employ only qualified and committed teachers, who will teach their subjects effectively and guide students to become exemplary in their studies.

While cautioning the various state ministries of education and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, to exercise restraint in recommending schools to the council for recognition and schools to desist from presenting candidates they cannot cope with for exam, the committee noted that WAEC too should contribute its own quota by organising free workshops and seminars for secondary school teachers to enlighten them on syllabus and exams rudiments.

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