I am just worried by the obfuscation out there on the 120 cutoff mark recently announced by JAMB, even from quarters that should ordinarily have a better appreciation of the issues. I am compelled, in the circumstances, to share my humble thoughts on this subject in as succinctly a manner as possible, taking a queue from what I did earlier on, on another platform.

It is the tradition of JAMB, in consultation with heads of all the higher institutions, to fix the minimum benchmark score for admission into the universities, below which the Senate of a university cannot fall. By the way, admission is strictly in the purview of the Senate of each university. The choice, therefore, is that of each university to make vis a vis its own cutoff point for the different courses it offers, as long as it is not admitting below the benchmark score. This is applicable, mutatis mutandis, to the other higher institutions. In summary, there is nothing fundamentally out of place in what JAMB has done in this instance. It is left to each university to decide what it considers as adequate cutoff point, depending on what it seeks to achieve.

The assumption behind this is that the Senate of a university, made up statutorily of professors, is responsible enough to do what is right. Secondly, ultimately, as our system moves away from its statist orientation to one driven by market forces, the logic of the market would further compel responsible behaviour on the part of our universities in this regard. As we move further in that direction, the space for public sector engagement of labour would shrink in favour of the private arena, which, I am persuaded, has greater capacity to impose discipline. Thus, a university that chooses the path of mediocrity in admission, and training of its products, will automatically get left behind, as its graduates may encounter problems getting hired. That said, as an unrepentant meritocrat, I believe a system like ours needs to focus on deploying relevant resources to get some of our kids the additional attention/help they require, such that at the point of competition, there would not be any need to lower standard for them, as they would have been duly prepared to compete with the best from wherever.

Thirdly, in truth, JAMB examination, like all matriculation examinations, is not exactly the ultimate requirement for admission. It is just to complement, in our own instance, the School Certificate, which is a product of at least six years of cumulative knowledge. It is far superior to a one-off matriculation examination; meaning that, having not done very well in this one matric examination does not completely suggest that a candidate is useless. The only reason for fixing cutoff marks highly in this clime, therefore, may not be more than the need to moderate access, given the abysmally low intake capacity of our universities. So, the 120 benchmark score does not suggest that better qualified candidates would be left out; well, as long as the principle of merit in admission is taken as sacrosanct. It only says that under no circumstance will anyone with a score lower than 120 get admitted.

by Femi Mimiko, PhD, mni

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