The first struggle we felt while growing up was writing Common Entrance Examination.

Home assignments demanded some effort, but preparing for Common Entrance was the first high bar.

Once the preparations began, sometimes a year before one entered the exam class, if you were the first child, your parents will gift you the voluminous, famous Ugo C. Ugo. If you were a “follow – up” child, they’ll dust up the ones your older sibling(s) used for theirs and your hustle began.

During our time, everyone, or most of us aimed for Federal schools and you needed to score a considerable good score to get admitted. State school admission exam wasn’t exactly a walk-over either. I don’t know if private schools then had not prioritized profit making. They set tacky questions that was aimed to discriminate, to seive the wheat from the chaff. And in all of it, people were taken on merit.

On the admission list, you’ll see an descending list of names; from the high – scoring candidates to “not-so-high-scoring” ones.

I really don’t know what happened to the low scoring candidates. As in, people that scored as low as 70 in an exam the average scored ranged between 180-200. I really don’t know where those ones went. Maybe nobody scored or scores that low, at least not from around here.

Tales of entrant scores being as low as less than 50 in some part of the country made us laugh. As much as it made a good laugh, it was reality.

That makes it worrisome.

Candidates scoring as low as 50, or even 100 and being lumped together with people who scored twice that, on the average, should raise concerns.

Sometimes, these low scoring candidates are the highest scorers where they come from.

And they gain admission, regardless.

This is the sort of thing people give testimonies in church for; “I did not perform well in so so exam, but God’s favour shined on me and I was given admission.”

Praise the Lord!!!

Such testimony may be one instance – after all it stops being a special favour if everybody, or many people get treated the same way – but when it becomes common place, it calls for real concern.

One would think the objective thing to do to remedy wide-spread poor performance in an exam will be to intensify teaching and preparation, while initiating a study to identify the root cause of the abysmal performance and tackle it from there.

We were enrolled in special classes during our time. Not that we were intellectually challenged that we needed special lessons, no. Even the brightest students registered in such classes so they’ll nail good scores.

Of all other options to explore, our system adopted lowering standards so as to accommodate poor performing candidates.

It’s important to note that Common Entrance exam is not the first time pupils knowledge is assessed. The results of the Common Entrance is only a reflection of what is characteristically their academic performance. It’s hardly a shocker when people perform low or high. So why are intervention efforts not sought earlier? Or more practically, why is it not sought at all. Instead, the standards are dragged lower.

And we wonder why our country is progressively moving backwards. And we hope that things will get better. How is it supposed to?

These sectional or regional high-ranking candidates with very low scores go through secondary education and aspire to higher education, with the system continuing to make accommodations for them wherever they fall below the competition bar; employment, oversea scholarship, appointments, etc.

We, as a country and as a society have for too long undermined the role of intelligence in many spheres; governance, administration, leadership and even fellowership.

Yes, followership too.

There’s no pride in leading zombies. It’s unstimulating, unrewarding and unchallenging.

This one factor; undermining intelligence is largely why we are where we are as a nation and until that changes, not much positive changes may happen.

If anything, things will only continue to get worse.

For so long, we have put ethnicity, tribalism, age and other factors above intelligence, far above it. As though any of the above can move our nation forward. At best, they calm sentiments. Sentiments that otherwise would be manipulated to ignite chaos.

Now, JAMB has officially an all-time low cut-off point ; 160. Remember what I said about high-ranking, low scoring candidates aspiring to higher education.

There is reason people are made to retake exams they failed.
Most, if not all the reasons, is to give the candidates a chance to improve themselves, as the higher class will be very more challenging. What happens to this reason, why is moving ahead more important than learning and learning well?

The greatest casualty of a system like this is that anything becomes acceptable and good enough. Limits are drawn close and are easily reached. Muscles wear out and no need to put in vigor in anything.

It’s important to ask, how high can low standards take us?

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