• Friday, June 14, 2024
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Examinations are not as serious as we take them in Nigeria

NECO releases 2022 Nov/Dec exam results

I will not mince my words: if we groom students to take learning as seriously as they take examinations in Nigeria, ours will be a country with functional young people who are round pegs in round holes. Lamentably, examinations cause more harm to functional education than good in Nigeria. They establish much more of what is unnecessary than the imperatives. By the way, what is an examination?

An examination is a formal test of a person’s knowledge or proficiency in a subject or skill. In primary and secondary schools in Nigeria, it is often used to determine who goes to the next level and who remains in a class. It determines who graduates and who does not in higher institutions. Beyond this formal purpose, at the psychological level, examinations are also instruments of prodding and coercion.

Hence, they confer importance on teachers and lecturers. Whether for a just or an unjust reason, some teachers or academics just need to say, “We shall see in the exam hall.” Thereafter, the students will certainly plunge into panic.

What is more, examinations have become parameters for social groupings, even among students. In effect, it is easy to say, “These are the A students, and those are the D students.” The A students, thus, consider themselves as first-class citizens, whereas the D students often resort to fate as mediocrities or second-class citizens, even though the reality of life sometimes eventually resets the stratification.

From the foregoing, one may think that I believe examinations are not necessary, but that is not my intention. My purpose is to cast examinations in the right light; to make them less a crushing burden than many students adjudge them to be. Even among teachers and lecturers, the exam period looks like that period their families must understand their absence and nagging.

For instance, a man could tell his wife, “Madam, let me have some rest; I’ve been marking,” and a woman might tell her husband, “Do you think it is easy to still cook daily with these heaps of scripts?” While exams are not bad in themselves, they are taken so seriously in Nigeria that even children who should just be exploring life and enjoying learning through play also sit them.

What is the business of a three-year-old child whose performance in an unnecessary exam is used to pass consequential judgement on his/her intellectual development or capacity? Children now take exams at an age their grandparents had no other life engagement than to suck their mothers’ breasts. It is my goal in this piece to emphasise how regular exams impede functional learning and practical education.

Learning is a set of experiences which are expected to bring about a permanent change in a person’s behavioural pattern. Learning is most effective when students or learners understand that they are not under any pressure to do so, and when they connect the essence of such knowledge to their well-being and the betterment of their lives. Finland is one of the countries with the best educational system in the world.

Read also: WAEC blames exam malpractices for mass seizure of 2022 WASSCE results

It is reported that not until the sixth grade will children have the option to sit for a district-wide exam in Finland, and that is only if the classroom teacher consents to it. When teachers agree to participate, they mainly do so out of curiosity, and results are not publicised. A Finnish educationist, Louhivuori, remarked in an interview: “We know much more about the children than these tests can tell us.”

Exams, at best, should help monitor students’ progression and how to ensure continuous progress. Consequently, it should not be used to determine who should be celebrated or not celebrated at the end of a term/session.

Exams have to be what students look forward to with the excitement of observing their personal development, not like a monster drawing close to snatching breath out of them. If learning is for personal advancement, one wonders why theatre arts students still have to do conventional exams every semester, alongside other students, despite the many rehearsals and performances.

Lagos State University is commended in this regard by allowing students from all faculties to partake in the performance workshop of the Music Department. It is the only time I see learning being enjoyed when these students rehearse and exams being fun when they perform. It is the only time lecturers enjoy assessments beyond being a duty.

The last performance workshop was even graced by the Deputy Vice Chancellor (Admin), Professor Adenike Boyo, and I told myself that only a fun-filled exam could make the professor of physics sit for hours despite the number of files that might be waiting on her table.

Again, one wonders why practical spoken English and public speaking courses have to be appraised via written exams. What about a panel of judges and an audience sitting to listen to the students deliver extemporaneous speeches in three minutes each?

What about having students of literature produce a collection of short stories as their “Introduction to Fiction” exam without sitting a conventional exam? Of course, one cannot undermine the relevance of conventional examinations, especially as they help test students’ ability to engage in logical argumentation. Notwithstanding, exams should be implemented in the students’ interests; it should not be made to appear like a do-or-die affair.

Emphasis must be repeatedly placed on the essence of examination as a measurement of academic and intellectual progression, not a determinant of usefulness and relevance.

Redefining the form and function of examination in Nigeria is one practical way to achieve functional education. As such, schools and institutions may want to break the entrenched rigidity by allowing teachers/lecturers to determine how best to examine their students for academic and intellectual growth.