The proposed scrapping of UME (Guardian Editorial)

No Comments » April 8th, 2009 posted by // Categories: Higher Education in Nigeria




Wednesday, April 08, 2009


The proposed scrapping of UME

THE move by the Federal Government to replace the current University Matriculation Examination (UME) and the Monotechnics, Polytechnics and Colleges of Education Examinations (MPCE) with a fresh all-encompassing entrance examination into tertiary institutions is likely to create more confusion and new challenges for students and their parents. The idea appears complicated. There is already too much disorder in the education system. Efforts should be made to ensure stability rather than create more uncertainty. It is not known how the changes would impact on our unsteady education system at this critical time.

In the past decade, the school system has witnessed too many ill-conceived policy changes with negative impact on students and their parents. The policy somersault by successive administrations has been unhelpful. These include the introduction of the 6-3-3-4, the scrapping of the Higher School Certificate, the upgrading of Polytechnics to City universities, and the proposed privatization of unity schools. Policy makers should stop toying with the education system

The Registrar of JAMB, Professor Dibu Ojerinde had last week told journalists at an interactive session in Abuja that the Federal Government is planning to scrap the UME and MPCE and have them replaced with the Unified Tertiary Institutions Matriculation Examinations (UTME). He said the new arrangement, which will be effective from next year is “part of the roadmap for education being proposed by the Education Minister, Dr. Sam Egwu, as a way of creating access to tertiary education for Nigerian youths”.

Under the Obasanjo administration, the erstwhile Minister of Education, Mrs. Obiageli Ezekwesili had announced a number of policy changes aimed at changing the face of tertiary education in the country as well as foreclosing the running of the Unity Schools by the Federal Government. No attempt was made to sustain the policies. Dr. Igwe Ajah-Nwachukwu who succeeded her under the Yar’Adua administration reversed virtually all that the former Minister set out to do without any attempt to protect the interest of stakeholders

Besides, the dust raised by that move has not yet settled. Among other things, the Junior Secondary School classes (JSS) in all the 104 Federal Government Colleges in the country have since then remained without students. In August 2008, an entrance examination into the Unity Schools was organised, but the examination was later cancelled on the strange ground that it was held “in error”.

Thus, with existing problems and unresolved issues, Dr. Sam Egwu who is relatively new, and who may not have fully understood the underlying problems has found reason to initiate another “roadmap” pertaining partly to admission into tertiary institutions.

Under the new policy, Prof. Ojerinde explained that all candidates seeking admission into the universities, polytechnics and colleges of education would sit for the same examination the same day. The candidates would be allowed to choose up to six different schools, two from each of the tertiary institutions, such that those who fail to be admitted into the universities would be admitted into the polytechnics and colleges of education. He argued that this would boost polytechnic education and reduce cost on the part of the candidates. To achieve this, he said the syllabus and brochures of the examinations would be harmonized and some polytechnics would begin to award Bachelor of Technology (B.Tech) degree.

The frequency with which changes are effected in the nation’s education system is alarming. Without doubt, part of the problem confronting the sector is traceable to incessant policy changes. It seems government doesn’t know what it wants and how to achieve it. For example, we have witnessed the scrapping of the Higher School Certificate (HSC) and GCE-Advanced Level examinations that provided avenue for direct admission into the universities. Regrettably, the stakeholders are not consulted before these policies were introduced. And this is the case again with the plan to scrap the UME and MPCE. But on no account whatsoever should the proposed changes be imposed on the public. The policy should be tabled openly for debate.

Lack of space is the principal cause of restricted admission into the universities. The universities are given quota which they should not exceed. A situation where over 1.2 million candidates are competing for only 200,000 available spaces in the country’s 95 universities is certainly unhealthy. It encourages all manner of fraudulent activities. We have in our previous editorials advocated the expansion of space by licensing more universities and expanding the facilities in the existing institutions as a possible solution.

The issue of lack of interest in polytechnics and colleges of education is systemic. The discrimination between degree and HND holders is at the root of it. Many parents have vowed not to send their children to the polytechnics. There is need to boost the economy and provide employment opportunities for all graduates. It would be hard to compel candidates to choose the polytechnics through the UTME. Besides, universities consider only first choice candidates for admission. The same students shunning the polytechnics would of course select the universities as their first choice and the problem would remain.

JAMB was established in part to address the issue of quota system in university admissions. That objective seems to have been overtaken by events. Today, we have 95 universities as against 13 when JAMB was established. It might be necessary at this time to allow the universities to admit their students while JAMB would remain as a clearing house to standardise the various entrance examinations. Furthermore, the issue of university autonomy, which has long been over-flogged, should be revisited. There is no doubt that things have changed and the system should adjust accordingly.

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