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The first ladies and the last man (1)

Straight after delivering my address to the Society of Women Accountants of Nigeria I walked into an ambush outside the hall. It turned out that among women chartered accountants there is a core group – those who are married to old boys of St. Gregory’s College, Obalende, Lagos. They were wearing T-shirts (Green and Purple!!) with “J K For President” boldly emblazoned. What they wanted was for me to agree to their terms for supporting my candidacy for election as the president of St. Gregory’s College Old Boys Association. They have been fiercely loyal regardless of the fact that it is their husbands who would actually vote. They assured me that their beloved husbands would do their bidding to the last man.

They promptly informed me that they had constituted themselves into a focus group with the principal aim of taking on the cynics who have been making loud noises over the prospects of an old boy of King’s College (which I am) emerging as the President of St. Gregory’s College Old Boys’ Association.

After all, this is Nigeria – the land of the free and home of the brave. They particularly like my campaign slogan which is a quotation:

“If you find a path with no obstacles, it probably does not lead anywhere”

Frank A. Clark

(1860 to 1936).

What has galvanized my campaign is the bombshell announcement I made at both my nationwide broadcast and World Press Conference that within one hundred days of becoming the President of St. Gregory’s College Old Boys’ Association, I shall introduce to the letter (and the spirit) the radical views espoused by Emeritus Professor Olugbemiro Jegede when he was interviewed by Christian T. Alabi.

In bold headlines, “Daily Trust” newspaper delivered the message on its front page on September 30, 2021.

“Why Nigeria [especially St. Gregory’s College] must abolish examinations in its education system”

“Why the call for the abolishing of examination in schools and how can that be actualised in the Nigerian education system?

Read Also: Buhari challenged to drive education with right policy, funding

Examinations in schools have never been true tests of the learner’s full capabilities. Think of a student taking examinations at the worst emotional time of his life, probably lost his mobile phone with all information, or lost one of his parents or has been battling with malaria all week before examinations. How do you expect such a student to do well or perform to the optimum of his intellectual ability? At best, examinations and tests are good for ranking learners. But no system should exist just to rank students because learning should never be a competition.

In education, the progress of a whole class is dependent on the slowest learner. If you, therefore, rely on examination as a yardstick to measure real learning, we shall never make the comprehensive progress needed in our educational system. That is why Singapore has done away with examination and especially ranking of performance in the primary and secondary school levels and considered doing the same at the tertiary education level.

What that country and other progressive countries, especially in Asia, are doing now is using qualitative descriptors such as a learner’s discussion participation, homework, group work, and other less competitive means to assess learning by individuals. At the secondary school level, even though learners may still be graded, including decimal points in any marking scheme is a waste of time. What is being done is to use the portfolio system which will contain a learner’s performance in group projects and the learner’s proficiency in demonstrating skills acquired in any learning situation.

The current century no more looks for marks grading or ranking of students to decide if learning has taken place. That is why our first-class graduates cannot perform as well as third-class graduates on the field where the use of our hands integrated with brainpower is required. It is what skills you can demonstrate with the mathematics or science or geography you have learned that employers now look for. In any case, the new development in the recognition of learning achievement is to use learning badges.

A learning badge (digital or physical) is a validated display of accomplishment, skill, quality, or interest that can be earned in any learning environment. Badges can represent traditional academic achievement or the acquisition of skills such as collaboration, teamwork, leadership, and other 21st century skills.

What kind of change are we expecting when exams are abolished?

Examinations encourage unhealthy competition in our learning environment and this is an inherent threat to the total development of a child. Encourage a learner to use all his or her senses, hands, and brain in an integrated fashion to demonstrate innovation and creativity.

That is why in interviews, it is no more adequate to show a certificate from a business centre that you are computer literate; they put the computer before you and ask you to word process something or do some excel spreadsheet or whatever to demonstrate your proficiency and skills in the use of the computer.

We need to abolish examinations in schools and devise other means to replace entrance and final year examinations. We must borrow a lesson from the latest developments around the world in an industry where Google, Apple, and 12 other companies no longer require employees to have a university degree to be hired.

In fact, they say they will now hire accountants, historians and non-scientific qualifications and train them hands-on in computer science and information technology. Many of the world’s most popular global companies that young ones now rush out of Nigeria to work for, do not require a university degree, and certain jobs are more likely to be filled with non-college graduates than others, as the World Economic Forum tells us with regard to the world’s most sought-after skills for the 21st century.

As reported in many pieces of literature around the world, top business executives have begun questioning whether degrees or certificates from institutions of higher learning really prepare workers for careers, while some are starting to hire more and more non-tertiary graduates.

We must rethink everything about our examination systems and what they portent for our education system in Nigeria. How come most of our youth are excelling exceptionally well outside of Nigeria than within? It is because the environment is quite conducive and there is no stress about examinations but a lot of emphasis on what you can do with your acquired skills.

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