• Sunday, June 23, 2024
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BusinessDay

Raise the bar

human capital endowment

A nation’s human capital endowment, the skills and capacities that reside in people and that are put to productive use, could be a more important determinant of its long term economic success than virtually any other resource. This resource must be invested in and leveraged efficiently in order for it to generate returns, for the individuals involved as well as an economy as a whole. Lowering entry requirements to our tertiary education institutions at a time when nations are raising theirs dims Nigeria’s ability to compete globally.

For instance in his 1996 State of the Union Address, President Clinton cited K-12 schools (kindergarten to 12th grade) needed to adopt rigorous standards as one of the six challenges facing America. Soon afterwards, 41 of the nation’s Governors and 49 corporate leaders met at the National Education Summit, hosted by the International Business Machine (IBM) Corporation, and agreed that standards and assessments were the number one priority.

This concern arose because both the political and economic leadership of the United States of America realised they were yielding their competitive edge to Germany and Japan due to a failing human capital development system. Twenty-five years after the Second World War (WWII) America was the undisputed King-of-the-Hill and generated half of the world’s Gross Domestic Product with a per capita GDP four times that of West Germany and 15 times that of Japan. However due the diminishing effectiveness of their schools in terms of standards and assessments, the US started losing out to the aforementioned countries.

Back home in Nigeria, the Federal Ministry of Education under the leadership of Adamu Adamu seems to be doing the opposite; lowering the standards and the rigours involved in selecting candidates for the tertiary education institutions.

Adamu recently had raised concerns over the post-UTME test conducted by various universities. “As far as I am concerned, if the nation has confidence in what JAMB is doing, the universities should not be holding another examination. If the universities have any complain against the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB), let them bring it and then we address it” he had said.

 

He added that the 180 cut-off mark was the minimum benchmark as different institutions could modify according to their specifications, capacity and other variables.

 

To put this in context, in 2012 the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) in collaboration with the National Universities Commission (NUC) commissioned a pilot University System Study and Review (USSR). This study identified a number of infractions including admissions racketeering, misapplication and embezzlement of funds, sale of examination questions and lack of commitment to work by lecturers.

Two things could be deduced from the foregoing. On the one hand, Adamu raised a legitimate question when he contended the JAMB should be doing a good job with the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination. On the other hand, the USSR study shows the process of admission into tertiary institutions of education needs some fine tuning. Experts and stakeholders in the education space have some reservations about the recent policy direction in the education space.

Some education experts in response to the adoption of 180 cut-off mark pointed out that this amounts to an official endorsement of mediocrity. It is alarming that the minister dropped the bar this low. Whilst we are faced with falling academic standard in our education system, policies should be designed to raise the standard not lower it. The failure rate at the Senior Secondary Certificate Examination is alarming. Some states especially in the North recorded 98 percent failure rates.

The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has responded to these changes through its new president, Biodun Ogunyemi, who emphasised that the laws establishing universities empowered the Senate of each institution to determine the conditions for admission and graduation of students. He noted, “It is the duty of the university senate to set the cut-off marks for each of their programmes and set the guidelines to determine who is qualified for admission.”