The Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB) and stakeholders recently set 100 and 140 as the cut-off marks for 2022/23 admissions into polytechnics and universities across the country.
Is-haq Oloyede, registrar and chief executive officer at JAMB, announced the approval during the 2023 policy meeting on admissions to tertiary institutions and awards held in Abuja.
Many Nigerians who erroneously reacted to the announcement frowned at the tertiary institution entrance examination umpire board for falling the standard of the country’s education based on the lowered cut-off marks.
However, Fabian Benjamin, head of public affairs and protocol at JAMB explained that the board does not and had never determined any uniform national Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) scores otherwise known as cut-off marks for any tertiary institution.
“For emphasis, the board conducts the UTME and hands over the results to institutions for the conduct of admissions,” he said.
The cut-off is meant to serve as a benchmark to guide tertiary institutions on the process of admitting students per academic session. It is a medium of scaling students for admission into tertiary institutions.
That is to say, various universities, polytechnics, and colleges of education are not expected to admit students that scored below the specified marks, but can as well fix their criteria for admission.
Some universities do not admit students with scores less than 200 irrespective of the course registered for. And in turn, this affects many non-admitted students.
Ordinarily, the cut-off marks are high and do not depict a high standard of education. Academic achievement and admission scaling systems are miles apart.
Josiah Ajiboye, registrar of Teachers Registration Council of Nigeria (TRCN) believes that JAMB cut off marks at 140 and 100 for universities and polytechnic and colleges of education is not necessarily a reflection of declining standard of education.
JAMB cut off mark is not an achievement mark but a placement mark, he said. Explaining it as a means of selecting students for admission.
“JAMB could set its marks, but the various institutions are at liberty to decide what its admission benchmark is. Besides, the cut off mark doesn’t stop a candidate from scoring high. It’s just meant to guide,” he said.
Academic achievement is a representation of the ability of students to attain a set of corresponding learning outcomes, while admission scaling is a means of pruning down the number of candidates for admission.
For instance, in Ghana, a candidate needs just only the West African Examinations Council (WAEC) result as a gateway to securing his or her admission into higher institutions.
Ghanaian tertiary education system does not demand entrance examinations like JAMB to be admitted into the university.
A student does not need to write any other entrance examinations to be in the country’s higher institutions. And this does not mean the standard of Ghana’s education is lowered, rather it’s a systematic approach to admitting students into higher institutions.
Other countries of the world with good education systems have their various approaches to admitting candidates into their tertiary institutions.
For instance, in Germany, prospective students who have passed the Abitur (an equivalent to JAMB) may decide freely what subjects to enroll in.
However, in some of the most popular and desired subject fields students have to pass a certain numerus clausus, that is the restriction on university admissions in Germany.
In China, a student’s score in the National Higher Education Entrance Examination (Gaokao) is the primary consideration used for admission into the country’s universities.
Universities in China have been known to place a strong emphasis on the Gaokao examination score when deciding who to accept into their universities.
However, it is important to note that other factors, such as extracurricular activities, interviews, and essays, also play a role in the admissions process.
The admissions process is designed to select students who are most likely to succeed in their chosen field of study.
Similarly, Finnish students are eligible for higher education when they have passed the matriculation examination or received a vocational qualification.
Friday Erhabor, a parent with two children in the university buttressed the point and wondered why Nigerians should frown at pegging JAMB cut-off marks at 100 and 140 for polytechnics and universities.
“The truth is that JAMB is just an entrance examination. Don’t forget that apart from JAMB, students are expected to have recorded a minimum of five credit passes including English Language and Mathematics in their West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE), National Examination Council (NECO), and/or O’Level WAEC examination.
“Besides, the various universities will conduct their own post-Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (post-UTME). It is more or less a confirmation requirement,” he noted.
In 2022, only 37 8,639 (21.5 percent) of the 1,761,338 who wrote the 2022 Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examinations scored 200 and above. Going by this scale about 78.5 of the candidates would be denied admission.