By Oyeniran Apata / Lagos
The recent admission policy introduced by the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) and the resultant outbursts by stakeholders may have brought to the fore some of the challenges facing admission seekers in the country.
Redistribution as the man in the eye of the storm, and Registrar of JAMB, Professor Dibu Ojerinde puts it, has clearly revealed that the rush for limited spaces in universities by large number of candidates also formed part of the problem of access.
It will be recalled that in 2010, JAMB introduced the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) as a way of encouraging candidates develop interest in other institutions like; the polytechnics, Colleges of Education and other innovative enterprise institutions across the length and breadth of the country.
Statistics of application by candidates for admission into the nation’s universities, polytechnics and colleges of education showed a gradient in favour of university education. The statistics showed that a total of 1,475,600 candidates had preferred universities as first choice for the 2015 UTME examination. Also, a 2014 statistics showed that 29,882 and 26,033 candidates applied for admission into the polytechnics and Colleges of Education respectively.
Adducing reasons for the difference in the number of candidates seeking for admission into the three levels of tertiary education in the country, the Director of Research and Innovation, National Universities Commission (NUC), Dr Suleiman Yusuf, explained that the notion of the other two levels of polytechnics and Colleges of Education with lesser cut-off marks by JAMB was enough to place the two sector at disadvantage.
He blamed the society for contributing to the rush for university as the preferred choice of parents even right from the homes, adding that stakeholders apparently failed to understand the theoretical framework of the new policy introduced by JAMB to reduce pressure on the university system.
He said, “Basically, anything new attracts some level of scepticism and so I want take it that the candidates were probably not well informed. The candidates do not understand the theoretical framework of the policy. That is what the policy itself aims to achieve”.
Speaking further on under-subscription in polytechnics and Colleges of Education tertiary education sectors, Dr. Yusuff urged candidates to consider other options proposed by JAMB rather than wait for another year to rewrite the examination.
“If JAMB says no you may not be able to get admission into university X because of the cut-off point issue and the request by other candidates who have done better than yourself; rather than wait for UTME for another year with very little chance of success to secure admission this year why not consider this other option because JAMB has a bird’s eye view of the entire system in terms of which university or tertiary institution is under-subscribed or oversubscribed.
He suggested that the policy should be given sufficient publicity for candidates to be able to better appreciate what JAMB was trying to do.
Contributing to the need to free the university system of over subscription and create openings in other levels of tertiary education, Vice Chancellor, National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN), Professor Ado Tenebe, said JAMB was sincere in the approach. He explained that what the board did was to avoid candidates clustering around a given set of universities with limited admission spaces.
Prof. Tenebe stated that the carrying capacity and limited spaces in tertiary institutions was a global phenomenon where universities monitor and select candidates for admission.
He frowned at the rush for admission into specific universities, adding that other institutions too also use the same benchmark because they are monitored, accredited and guided by the same curriculum from the NUC.
Polytechnic/Colleges of Education
A one-time Principal of the Kings College, Lagos and Kogi State former Commissioner for Education, Chief Sylvester Onoja, lamented that emphasis on university education was at the detriment of the teacher education and the polytechnic sectors, saying this portended a great danger to the country’s development.
He challenged JAMB’s cut-off marks as discriminatory and a factor that had contributed to the rush for university education by Nigerian students.
“I think what JAMB is trying to do is not a policy, but an administrative intervention. There is a basic problem with our educational system in the country. We are talking about the universities; JAMB is not only set up to place students in universities alone. Nobody is talking about the teacher training institution or the polytechnics. Everybody is talking about universities. It is a failure of the education system. All we talk about is people going into the universities when there are other places where academic and future aspirations can be best realised,” he added.
He called on candidates seeking for higher educational learning to also consider polytechnic and College Education, adding that the fundamental problem facing the country centred on a fundamental misunderstanding of not knowing what to do to grow the education sector.
Professor Ojerinde in a submission explained that with a total of 916,000 candidates scoring 180 and above and 452, 000 representing about 125.4 per cent with 200 marks and above, the tertiary education system had carrying capacity to absorb only 360, 771 candidates.
He said, “It is not possible for all of them to go. If all of this number goes into the university, the spaces are not there because we have only 360.771 spaces and the remaining 25 per cent will just be sleeping at home.
“Let us find a way of helping these young people to get into other institutions before it is too late. If the universities don’t work, the polytechnics and Colleges of Education and in fact the recent development of Vocational Enterprise Institutions (VEIs) and Innovation Enterprise Institutions (IEIs) are some of the things we are trying to do.
Tracing the making of his professorship to a college of Education training, he disclosed that he had his background in academics as a product of the Adeyemi College of Education, adding that such background had actually helped in his strive for excellence in life.
“I am a typical college of education trainee. I went to Adeyemi College of Education. I did not see myself as an inferior material. I could compete favourably with my classmates anytime anywhere. It is the greatest college of education in the world and I mean it. I got my education from the college of education and that took me to where I am now. Unfortunately, teachers are no longer given the respect, they are longer paid nobody wants to be a teacher. If I come back to this world I want to be a teacher because I enjoyed teaching,” Prof. Ojerinde added.
Proffering what appears to be a practical solution to candidates’ notion of the polytechnic and College of Education as lesser tertiary institutions, Chief Onoja, called for a common cut-off mark for candidates seeking admission into universities, polytechnics and Colleges of Education.
“Part of it is that the problem with JAMB is the pass mark. If you want to go for polytechnic and College of Education; you are good for 150, and university 180. I suggest we have a common cut off mark for everyone; say about 180 across.
“The college of education is the most important part of tertiary education because that is where most brilliant people come to teach. The system looks down immediately at that set of people that opted for college of education. Originally we shouldn’t even have discriminated. Discrimination begins right at the cut off mark.
Professor Tenebe added, “The College of Education is the manufacturing ground for people who are going to teach our children right from the basic foundation and you allow people as those who could not make it to go there. We are starting from a weak foundation. The best should go for college of education where the formative part of the children who will come into the university system is baked”.