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Tech, new grading system seen driving increase in first-class degrees – Experts

Experts in Nigeria’s education sector have attributed the high rate of first-class graduates in the country to the adoption of technology and the introduction of the new grading system.

They also believe that the rate, at which first-class degrees are being awarded today by Nigerian universities, is a course of concern for stakeholders in the sector.

Friday Erhabor attributes the massive academic success in the tertiary institutions to students having more access to robust lecture materials by virtue of their unhindered access to technology.

“Through their phones, they access top online libraries which were not accessible to students of the 70s, 80s, and 90s. I do not share the views of those who think standards are being lowered.

“Children these days are truly smarter because they have access to what our generations never had access to. The serious ones among them make good use of this edge although we have a lot of unserious ones among their generation too,” Erhabor said.

However, Stanley Alaubi, a senior lecturer at the University of Port Harcourt attributed the rise in the number of first-class degrees to a new system of grading by tertiary institutions.

“Previously all the courses undertaken in the university were to compute students’ results, hence, it was not easy to make a first-class, but recently, best of 120 is used.

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“The best 120 results (credit units) are used now. This is the reason for being more first-class now.

“The best grades from A to the lowest grade of the students are used as long as it is not more than 120,” Alaubi said.

Similarly, Olayinka Bolarinwa believes that the rise of first-class degrees in Nigerian universities compared to what seems to be obtainable in the 1970s and 1980s is caused by many factors such as internet access, lecture delivery mechanism, the quest for competition, among others.

“The rise of first-class degrees often has to do with the issue of the age we live in, that is the “internet” has given huge access to lots of information so, a lot of the fact that students confronted with examinations can actually be gotten with ease. So the internet is a massive boost to education,” he said.

Most of the experts recalled what it used to be in the 1980s and 1990s when the first-class degree was something quite rare among graduating students, and it is awarded by departments after very thorough scrutiny.

Many multinational firms, they said, were always on the ground to absorb such students with mouth-watering offers after graduation.

In 2021 alone three federal universities (the University of Ibadan, 265, University of Lagos, 281, and University of Benin, 125) out of the 43 federal universities, awarded a total of 671first class degrees to graduating students.

This is at an average of 223.6 per institution. On average the 43 federal universities graduated about 9,614.8 first-class students in that year.

In 2019, the same three universities produced a total of 804 first-class students. That amounts to 268 per institution, and 11,524 for the 43 federal universities.

While in 2018, the University of Lagos produced 245 first-class students, the University of Ibadan 206 first-class students, and the University of Nigeria, Nsukka had 174, making a total of 625 first-class students.

Meanwhile, in 2017, the three universities had a total of 604 first-class students in this order, the University of Ibadan had 201 first-class, the University of Nigeria, Nsukka had 132, and the University of Lagos with 271 first-class students.

One thing that is obviously clear is that the numbers of first-class students are on the ascending trend over the years. Each convocation tends to come with more numbers of first-class students.

Many are wondering if the education standard is better now or the students are more intelligent.

In the past, there was no internet so the materials that can help students had to be sourced through papers and ink. But, now with a push of a button, one can have access to all kinds of information particularly; answers to questions that are oftentimes used to be difficult in times past, are now available. Hence, students who would have normally ended up with 2.1 will obviously have that edge.

According to him, “The internet as a major factor has created sources of access to marking schemes; educational materials with which people can respond to questions in a way that can help them meet the standards required for a first-class student.”

Bolarinwa who was earlier quoted, however, advocates that with the rise in first-class degrees, there is the need for tertiary institutions to absorb them back into the education system. That way, he believes will be a sustainable approach of guaranteeing human capital development in the educational sector.

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