The result of the May/ June West African School Certificate Examinations (WASSCE) just released by the West African Examinations Council (WAEC) indicates a 70 per cent failure by the candidates. This is not the first time WAEC is recording this kind of abysmal and embarrassing result. On each occasion, reasons are adduced with experts proffering what, in their opinion, should be the panacea. Soon after, all is forgotten until the next poor result is recorded and the vicious cycle of blame game and buck-passing continues.
According to WAEC, a total number of 1,692,435 candidates took part in the examination out of which a whopping 70 per cent could not make the required result that would enable them proceed with their education at a higher level. As usual, analysts and pseudo-experts have been busy explaining what might have happened as if a lot has not already been said to warrant a state of emergency in the education sector.
Opinions on this serious matter that bears significant relevance to the nation’s socio-economic and political development are varied. Many insist that the major part of the problem has to do with the policy thrust of the government which has continued to pay less than lip service to what is going on in the sector. They point out that the overhaul of the sector ought to start with the teacher training process as a way of buoying the rather too low entry qualification into teaching which is yet to be clearly defined as to whether it is a profession or a vocation. At the moment, it is the last resort of those who studied education in the higher institutions, thus leaving the field for those lacking in commitment to use school periods to do other unrelated things to augment their poor pay. Even the government itself accepts that the sector is poorly funded with its attendant negative impact on the intellectual content as well as curriculum development. Not much is done to ensure that appropriate incentives are put in place to attract the right calibre of personnel; teachers remain one of the poorest public servants in an environment where less qualified people in politics earn in four years what teachers cannot earn in a lifetime.
Besides the apparent lack of seriousness of policymakers in matters relating to teaching and teachers, parents have a share in the blame because of their penchant to leave the upbringing of their wards to teachers alone. In addition to the claim of being too busy to monitor their wards’ school activities, many of them go out of their way to encourage them to cheat; some go as far as buying marks and manipulating the system to ensure that their wards get good grades just to cover up their own parental failures. The students themselves are not helping matters with their inclination to play with their electronic toys even in classrooms. Their teachers look on helplessly as they are usually forbidden to punish erring students. The teachers get back at them through strict invigilation during examinations. The result is the WASSCE results we have seen in recent years.
The situation is not altogether hopeless. If only every stakeholder would decide to adopt a positive attitude, the poor performance in WASSCE would be reversed. But the government should do a rethink of the decision to abolish the Teacher Training Certificate programme which is where the real professional teachers are imbued with the rudiments of what it takes to be a teacher for pupils in the primary school which, in fact, is where the foundation is laid. Mere post-graduate diploma is not enough to make one a teacher who would make the right impact especially at that level. It is time teaching was made a profession in the real sense of it with strict entry qualifications. It is not a place for quacks and half-baked wayfarers.