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UTME: Would It Solve Admission Problems?
Here it goes again. Nigerian students are at various banks to procure the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME)’s application form. With this, the Federal Government would have solved one of the problems in the education sector — the inadequate admission spaces in the country’s tertiary institutions.
The government had thought it wise to replace the University Matriculation Examination (UME) with UTME to open up options of tertiary education for millions of candidates who could not secure university admission.
For UTME, every candidate has the opportunity to choose six tertiary institutions, two from each of the universities, polytechnics and colleges of education. All candidates are to write the same examination with each having options of gaining admission to any of the three categories, depending on his/her scores.
In other words, failure to gain university admission will not be enough excuse for any candidate, who has written the UTME, to stay at home. He has the right to present his scores to both the polytechnics and colleges of education of his choice for admission.
However to some stakeholders, the unified examination might not really solve the admission problem, going by the government’s policy on Higher National Diploma and first degree holders in the country.
To the Registrar, University of Ibadan, Mrs. Omotayo Ikotun, the system looks burdensome, adding that it might not really go down well with candidates who are bent on getting university education.
“As I’m speaking to you now, I don’t know how effective the system will be. I have no idea of how they want to do it. Ideally, most candidates will prefer university education. Maybe it is a way to assist candidates who could not get varsity admission, but I don’t know how it will work,” she said.
In his comment, the Chairman, Committee of Deans of Postgraduate Schools in Nigerian Universities, who is also the Dean of Postgraduate School, University of Ibadan, Professor Labode Popoola, the objective of the unified examination may be good, but the question is, how practicable?
"The objective of the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination may be good, but the question is, how practicable? How many people, particularly the proponents of the new policy, want their children to attend a polytechnic or college of education? The truth also is, you cannot force a candidate to attend a school he/she does not intend to, even if you allocate them to such schools on a silver platter. A way out of the dwindling admission to polytechnics is to make the programme attractive and also improve the quality of the products. The current exercise appears unnecessarily desperate and I doubt if it will achieve the desired goal,”he noted.
For the Registrar, Joint Admission Matriculation Board, Professor Dibu Ojerinde, over one million candidates struggle for less than 200, 000 spaces in the universities annually.
In other words, over 800,000 qualified candidates, with apathy towards polytechnics and colleges of education, are left to rot at home due to lack of spaces in the universities.
JAMB, in its information kits for candidates sitting for this year’s examination, shed some light on the objectives of the new UTME. It claimed, inter alia, that the new examination would “remove the disparity between university and polytechnic graduates.”
Reacting to the matter, a polytechnic admission officer, who pleaded anonymity in a chat with Saturday Tribune, said the idea behind the establishment of the UTME was to create equality between university and polytechnic certificates.
Reiterating the point already made, he said “UTME enables candidates to make a wide range of choices of institutions and courses across the various higher institutions in the country.
Thus, candidates are mandated to choose a total of six courses, two from each institution.” Also, the purpose, according to him, “is to ensure an appropriate distribution of candidates to the various higher institutions of learning in the country. It will also ensure increased admission to other higher institutions and help to stir up students’ interest in them.”
He also observed that a strategic committee had been drawn from various institutions to determine or work out the modalities. It is believed that in keeping faith with the general perception of tertiary education, it is expected that the higher UTME scores will attract university admission. This, many fear, will further entrench the already existing discrimination among the various higher institutions in the country and invariably defeat the purpose of its establishment which, JAMB claims, is to create parity among them.
Observers are also of the view that, if implemented to the letter, UTME will only serve the interest of JAMB and some tertiary institutions that candidates are not favourably disposed to on the grounds of creating preference for institutions with a noticeable drop in admission over the years.
It is left to be seen if the recent development will meet its objectives as well as stand the test of time. Even with the continuous increase in the number of universities across the country, which is put at 104 at present, the space is still inadequate. Most new private universities can only admit 500 candidates while public universities have stiffened the admission process with the introduction of Post-UME.
While the quest for university education had continued to rise, polytechnics and colleges of education’s admission had been dwindling.
The polytechnics’ low enrolment is understandable, going by the dichotomy between holders of Higher National Diploma and their first degree counterparts. As a matter of fact, most parents do not want their wards to sign up for polytechnic education.
The HND/B.Sc/B.A dichotomy had been a major issue in the country’s education sector for decades and it had led to various formulations of policies and creation of different educational systems, which, perhaps, had failed to address the disparity.
Before she left office, the former Minister of Education, Mrs. Obiageli Ezekwesili, devised a strategy to annex some polytechnics and colleges of education with some universities for the purpose of awarding degrees. She tagged it Tertiary Education Integration.
The policy generated discordant tunes among stakeholders, especially those in the polytechnics who thought that the laws that created the two institutions were different and that they were meant to serve different purposes.
The policy failed when Ezekwesili left for the World Bank as the Deputy Managing Director, Africa sub region. Unfortunately, Dr. Igwe Ajah-Wachukwu, who took over from Ezekwesili, thwarted the arrangement when he introduced City University System, in which two Nigerian polytechnics — Yaba College of Technology and Kaduna Polytechnic were converted into City Universities to beginthe award Bachelor of Technology (B.Tech).
Since he made the pronouncement two years before he left office, nothing has changed at YABATECH, except the main gate, which was rebuilt possibly to have a university look. As a matter of fact, the fate of students who would have changed from diploma to degree programme is still hanging.
It is recalled that the former Rector of YABATECH, Mr. Olubunmi Owoso, organised a programme to allay fears of the students who lacked the right information about the new status of the institution.
Till date, except the new Minister of Education, Dr. Sam Egwu, decides to change the situation, the status quo remains, as the standard of education in the country continues to fall with the introduction of various unimplemented policies.
Egwu could not have done much, having spent most of his period battling with strikes by the Academic Staff Union of Universities and other university unions. It must be noted that his tenure also ushered in a strike by the Nigeria Union of Teachers over failure of the government to implement the Teachers Salary Structure.
ASUU was tired of the government’s motion-without-movement idea that had stagnated university education for decades. The union wanted total overhauling of the university education but not vain pronouncement of better future by the government.
Unfortunately, a critical look at the incessant changes of educational policies and systems in the country had only revealed stagnation as it never moved the sector forward.
It was the former Minister of Education, Professor Babatunde Fafunwa, that introduced the 6-3-3-4 system to promote technical and technological education in the country.
Government spent hugely on the purchase of workshop equipment and laboratory apparatuses, but the implementation was a failure.
The carcasses of the equipment had since been buried while the system is fast fading with the introduction of the Universal Basic Education.
Though, the Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Educational Research and Development Council, Professor Godswill Obioma, said that the introduction of UBE was not to abolish 6-3-3-4, but there are indications that the system is dead.
This is revealed by the apathy of successive governments towards the system. In the last 15 years, no regime had spent enough on the purchase of equipment or building of workshops in schools. 6-3-3-4 was a practically oriented system, with which students could learn various vocational trades, but, at present, the purpose had been defeated as no school could boast of any equipment.
Currently, the campaign for UBE is gathering momentum with the release of curriculum for the nine-year programme by NERDC.
Furthermore, despite the change in policies, the academic performance of Nigerian students has not improved. A closer look at the candidates’ performance at the West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WAEC)in the last five years showed a sliding drift.
According to the statistics released by West African Examinations Council, the rate of failure every year had been between 65 and 70 per cent.
It must be noted that only 31 per cent of the candidates, who wrote the November/December 2009 WASSCE, obtained credits in English Language and Mathematics and at least three other subjects.Share