Is there hope for the future of education in this country?
NOT a few Nigerians have expressed their shock at the performance of candidates in the recently released West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE).
For the third consecutive year, even by statistics provided by the examination body itself, there has been a steady decline in candidates’ performance across subjects, but notably in the two vital subjects of English and mathematics.
In the 2012 May/June WASSCE, according to WAEC, 38.81 per cent of the total number of candidates that sat the examination had a minimum of five credit passes including English and Mathematics. It got worse in 2013 as the performance dipped to 36.57 per cent. It further deteriorated this year as only 529,425 candidates out of the total 1,705,976 that took the examination (representing 31.28 per cent) had five credits including English and mathematics.
Many stakeholders have expressed concerns that unless something is done, and quickly too, next year’s performance may be even worse that ever.
But the source of a problem must be found before there can be any hope of a solution. So what is responsible for this development, and how can it be reversed?
The Head of National Office of West African Examinations Council, Mr. Charles Eguridu, personally believes parents’ should be blamed for the mass failure in the subjects, as they no longer create time for their children.
According to him, unlike when parents used to show interest in their children’s classwork and assignments, these days, they are busy chasing money, to the detriment of their children’s education.
Those who spend some time at home spend hours watching DStv or some other things other than showing interest in their children’s books.
Many people believe that the consistent mass failure, especially in the two major subjects of English and mathematics, over the years have been reflective of the health of the Nigerian education sector generally.
Speaking with Tribune Education on factors that could be responsible for the repeated mass failure in mathematics and English Language in WASSCE, the Dean, Faculty of Education, University of Ibadan, Professor Olawale Moronkola, said he believed there are fewer qualified teachers of the subjects than are required.
“We have few numbers of mathematics teachers in the country. The reason for this is that many people dread mathematics.
He also identified wrong methodology in imparting the knowledge. According to him, it takes a teacher who had been trained to teach the subject to know how to impart the knowledge.
“Most of our teachers are yet to make the teaching of mathematics to be fun. When you see a mathematics teacher carry a cane to the classroom, he or she is killing mathematics.
“To do mathematics, one needs quantitative skill-reasoning by ability; it is not something you rush over. There are different methodologies of teaching mathematics and these apply to general principles of teaching – that is, from simple to complex,” he noted.
But these are not the only problems identified by Moronkola. Haphazard and frequent closing down of schools as well as declaration of many holidays also exert their own negative influence on students’ performance in the subject, he noted.
But what is responsible for their dismal performance in English Language? Moronkola said, “Many of these students don’t buy books; and when students don’t have books to read, how can they learn and pass English Language? He also identified attitude problem as part of the factors.
Many students of today, he said, don’t value education as they did in the past. Because many of their elder sisters or brothers who went to school didn’t get job after graduating from school, and they see a politician who has just Senior Secondary School Certificate making it, the lose motivation for learning.
A professor of Educational Technology and mathematician, Professor Alade Abimbade, blamed lack of appropriate knowledge, love and commitment towards the subject for the consistent failure.
He also traced the roots of what he called ‘math-phobia’ to lack of appropriate resources and their application in the teaching of the subject.
“There are fewer assessment devices that can assist to diagnose learning problems and proffer solutions. When I was a mathematics teacher in elementary and Additional Mathematics at the Lagelu Grammar School, Ibadan between 1976 and 1982, I discovered that failure in mathematics over a period of time could result in ‘mathematics anxiety’ and as the pattern of failures keep repeating in later years, Mathematics anxiety persists. Then this becomes a causative factor for students’ difficulties in learning the subject; thus leading to avoidance of mathematics and mathematics-related activities, which in turn creates a lag in mathematical preparation and thinking,” he said.
He recommended the usage of new technology and instructional resources such as Internet facilities, tablets, laptops, programmed text, interactive video presentation, computer-assisted instruction and slides to enhance the teaching of the subject, adding that teachers must understand and appreciate their changing role in the face of the evolving technologies.
Mr Segun Onilere, a teacher, identifed poor teaching techniques, shortage of teachers and unprofessional approach to teaching the subject as some of the causes of mass failure.
“Most of the people who teach Mathematics and English Language are not trained teachers; they are people who dabbled into teaching profession as a result of gross unemployment in the country. This has led to the loss of interest in the subjects by the students,” he reasoned.
A parent, Mrs Temitope Ogunye, blamed teachers in the public schools for the poor performance of students in the subjects, saying that most of them do not follow the syllabus when preparing students for external examinations, while those who do not finish (the syllabus) before students are made to sit WAEC examinations.
She also noted that students no longer read their books.
“When you see them, they are either on their phones playing games or chatting,” she said.
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