Former Executive Secretary, National Universities Commission (NUC), Prof. Peter Okebukola, has given a hint on what government and various stakeholders in education, can do to curtail the scourge of dwindling fortunes in education in Nigeria.
The former Lagos State University (LASU) vice chancellor spoke in the light of mass failure recorded in the West African Senior School Certificate Examinations (WASSCE) May/June results released by the West African Examination Council (WAEC), at the weekend.
Less than 40 per cent (38.81) of 1,695,878 candidates, who sat for the May/June exams, scaled through in the results said to be about eight per cent improvement on last year’s results. The outgoing Head of the Nigerian National Office (HNO), Dr. Uyi Uwadiae, who announced the results said that 649,156 candidates representing 38.81 per cent obtained credits in five subjects and above, including English Language and Mathematics. That is to say that over one million failed the exam said to be the best result in the past three years.
But while the Federal Government through the Federal Ministry of Education, awaits comprehensive details of the results before taking any official stance, Prof. Okebukola has urged governments at various levels and education stakeholders, especially corporate sponsors like oil companies, telecommunications, etc, to adopt the South African formula, if we are willing to see, if not the end, at least a minimization of the mass failure recorded every year in public exams.
Okebukola who was answering questions from reporters at the just concluded 2012 Mobil/Science Teachers Association of Nigeria (STAN) national science quiz competition for schools, urged governments to emulate South Africa by setting up dedicated TV channels and radio stations to teach science and other school subjects to our children. He believed that if this is done diligently and consistently it will go a long way in impacting on their performance in public exams such as WASSCE.
“The South Africans have a dedicated channel, Channel 319, for teaching Chemistry, Biology, Physics, English, Mathematics, Economics, everything,” he said during the chat. “I advise every child in secondary school to watch that programme. It is on DSTv Channel 319.
You go and check it. It is a good educational programme. I will like to see a situation whereby the Federal government, state government or whatever will also mount up that kind of programme in Nigeria for our students. If we get more funding support, STAN can move in that direction. Let me tell you what it did for South African students.
When that programme started, their performance in their equivalent of our GCE/SSCE in South Africa topped several percentage points and it is still improving.” Asked to say what extent the Mobil/STAN national science quiz competition on sciences can go in improving the teaching-learning situation, Okebukola who is the foundation member of STAN where he helped to birth the idea of the competition, said: “We are trying but we are just scratching the surface; we need several more of these efforts.
Like I said, if you have a dedicated TV channel that I am talking about or FM stations scattered all over the place, running educational programmes in Math, English, etc, it will help because our youths tune to these channels for music and other programmes. Since they are attracted to them, I feel we can use that opportunity to catch them and teach them a few things.
So, STAN intervention is helping. If we had 20 per cent pass rate, consider a scenario whereby this intervention was not there, I could see the situation getting worse. So, I think we are doing our own little bit but everybody should contribute so that we can go beyond the stage where we are now.”
Volunteering his opinion on the development at the competition which saw more students from private schools doing better than their counterparts from public ones, Prof. Okebukola attributed that to effective teaching and learning taking place in private schools. “In 1996, we did a national survey organized by UNICEF on literacy, numeracy and life skills; literacy, mainly English, numeracy, Mathematics, life skills, sciences and social studies,” he recalled. “I did the analysis for the entire country.
And we disaggregated the schools by ownership: private and public; private any day did better on all the clusters. In all other national assessments, I have seen more examples confirm the better performance of the private relative over the public. But you should expect that that will be so because there the classroom population is fewer. Let’s assume you have a school and you engage a teacher in Mathematics, if the man does not teach well, of course, he will be sanctioned.
Because of that, there is the motivation to work harder in the private than in the public schools. But I have been able to see some bright rays in some states like Lagos that are showing some promise in terms of revamping their primary and secondary schools. I can see that. So, the simple answer is that private is doing better than public and it is good for competition.”