The Troubling JAMB

The Troubling JAMB

Nigeria’s Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB), an institution that coordinates tertiary education entrance examinations in the country, likes controversy. Otherwise, it would not have  made 100  (out of 400) a pass mark. There is no credible institution in the world where 25% is considered a PASS.

The Joint Admission and Matriculation Board, JAMB, had on Tuesday stated the cut off marks as 120 for degree awarding institutions, 100 for monotechnics and polytechnics and 110 for innovative enterprising institutes.

But JAMB has reasons. It wants to prevent Nigerians from sending their kids to foreign schools. So, it has to make the pass mark so low that everyone could possibly qualify to study in Nigeria. It does not really matter that the country does not have the capacity to absorb all the students.

THE Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board, JAMB, explained, yesterday, that the decision by stakeholders in education sector to reduce tertiary institutions’ admission cut-off points, beginning with the 2017 academic calendar, was to stop the quest for foreign education by Nigerians.

JAMB has forgotten that the foreign schools have standards and will not have accepted those it is accepting with 25% score.

The Problem with 25% Pass mark

I do believe that JAMB does not collect retention data of Nigerian students after first year in colleges. That would have helped it to examine if there is a correlation between cut-off marks and freshmen (first year students) dropout rate. Empirical data shows that when you have extremely unprepared students, you end up having many dropouts. These students would have pushed their parents to take loans for the unfinished journeys, making things harder, afterwards, for the poor parents. Also, cultism is primarily driven by students that need help to keep going even when their brainpower cannot sustain them, in schools. They band together with their fellow cult members to stay in schools through any means possible.

I will share data from U.S. News which tracks the top U.S. universities.

  • The average six-year graduation rate is 95 percent for the top 10 National Universities and 93.9 percent for the top 10 National Liberal Arts Colleges.

  • The average freshman retention rate is 98.1 percent for the top 10 National Universities and 96.6 percent for the top 10 National Liberal Arts Colleges.

  • For comparison, the average six-year graduation rate among all numerically ranked schools on the National Universities list is 71.3 percent, and the average freshman retention rate is 86.9 percent.

  • For comparison, the average six-year graduation rate among all numerically ranked schools on the National Liberal Arts Colleges list is 75.2 percent, and the average freshman retention rate is 85.6 percent.

Checking the data, it is very obvious that students of the top 10 U.S. universities graduate; they record 95% graduation rate. These students are well prepared to pursue tertiary education. Also, they do not have many dropouts after first year of study, enjoying more than 98% retention rate. I can argue that the other 2% could be those changing to other schools which are recorded as dropping out even though they have merely transferred to other colleges. The elite schools’ average graduation rate contrasts with all nationally ranked schools at 95% vs. 71%. While the top 10 national U.S. universities enjoy a mere 3% gap between freshman retention and graduation rates, the whole ranked schools have a spread of 16% (71% vs 87%). Simply, the students survived first year but could not cope in subsequent years, causing 11% to further drop out.

Registrar, Joint Admission and Matriculation Board, JAMB, Is’haq Oloyede (Credit: PR Times)

This means that as the quality of the admission process increases, both graduation and retention rates correlate positively with it.

All Together

Nigerian authorities cannot be talking of poor educational quality, vices in our schools, and all challenges in the schools if they cannot manage the admission process. It is an illusion to think that everyone graduating from secondary school is ready for post-secondary education. We simply have to expand opportunities so that some students can go into vocational training and other endeavors, where it is evident they cannot cope with college education. Reducing the admission pass mark to 25% will not advance any known cause in Nigeria, except that we will have more graduates adding to the statistics of degree holders, but largely unprepared for emerging opportunities.

I am truly troubled by this decision by JAMB. JAMB is failing in its primary purpose to our schools. It is either it is not testing the right things causing the students to fail en masse or it is simply incapable of serving as a gatekeeper into our post-secondary institutions. It quickly needs to find a solution fast because what it is doing is very shameful to the nation. It is not JAMB’s duty to fix a broken secondary education by lowering pass mark into the colleges. That is so obvious that JAMB does not need to be reminded of that.


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4 thoughts on “The Troubling JAMB

  1. Is it JAMB’s responsibility or duty to set the cut of mark? Just as it is not the teacher’s job to set the pass mark, I am unclear why JAMB has been given this responsibility..if indeed this is the case. Another report suggests the cut off was agreed at a joint meeting of all receiving institutions, over 500 of them. The report also says that University of Ibadan, and I think Uni of Ilorin (and perhaps a couple others) have insisted that they will not accept students with less than 200.

    1. JAMB managed the exam and it has the responsibility to decide the pass mark. So, it is its responsibility. Also, it is irrelevant if UI decides the cut-off to be 200 or 300. The fact is that if you meet JAMB cut-off, you can get in through backdoor. That is the key issue here. Quality is defined usually by the lowest mark. So even if you have one student in UI with 100 where 2000 are coming with 300, you have degraded the whole system.

  2. Looks like Jamb acted in a pragmatic way and took a decision like what will happen in the private sector. Lets be candid, even in years when cut- off were 200 or 180, candidates with less than 150 still find their way into even the A grade universities in Nigeria. All you require is the war chest or contacts to VC etc in any university, worst still you do the one year preliminary studies which cost up to N1M in some schools. The institution will be happy to get up to 40% of this. The rest goes to lecturers and school administrators. That is corruption! What Jamb has done is to pull the rug under the feet of the racketeers. When we also look at issues boarding on tertiary admission holistically, we observe that the major qualification for admission is not Jamb rather 5 credits in GCE / NECO. Once a candidate makes this, he should have a 50:50 chance of making it to an institution of higher learning either in Nigeria or abroad. I still believe that up to 30% of students who leave secondary school in Nigeria every year do not seat for Jamb and have no intention of going further academically either due to poor educational grades, lack of interest, lack of funding etc hence I don’t see Jamb as the institution that separates between those who should further their education and those who who will not. WAEC and NECO are in a better position to do that.


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