By: Akinpelu Yusuf
Last year, at the end of the first semester, fresh students of the University of Ibadan recorded a high failure rate. At that time, 1 in every 6 of the newly admitted students was at the brink of being advised to withdraw from the school.
Of the 2, 961 admitted into 100 level in 2017, 510 had a GPA that was lower than 1.0 — the minimum requirement to retain studentship in the university. Meaning 17.2% — which is 1 in every 6 students — were almost waving bye to UI.
Eventually, however, 328 students were withdrawn from the school, and a little above 100 were ‘tsunamized’ (a term used to describe students failing to meet the criteria for remaining in a particular department and therefore are sent to a ‘lesser’ department) to other departments.
A year after, of the 3,001 students in 100 level, excluding Faculty of Law, a total of 69 students had a Grade Point Average less than 1.0. This implies a 2.3% failure rate — representing 1 in every 43 students. In fact, students in the Faculties of Public Health, Economics and Dentistry had a success rate of 87%, and 100% in the latter two.
At first many blamed this discrepancy on the non-use of Post UTME for the admittance of students into the school while others simply faulted the new grading system introduced by the school.
The University of Ibadan had devised the use of 7.0 grading system and not until 2017 was the 4.0 grading system implemented. Students currently in their first and second year are graded upon the latter while those in higher levels use the former.
The University’s Vice Chancellor, Professor Abel Olayinka, in October last year, explained that the move by the school was to improve its standard.
“As you are aware, the pass mark in any of your courses is now 45% as against 40% hitherto,” the Don said a year ago.
“Moreover, the minimum number of units that you need to pass at the end of 100level is now 24 units as against 20 units previously. All these taken together indicate that the standard is being improved,” he explained, advising that, “students are expected to rise to the occasion by being more focused and always remember the primary reason why you are here.”
So how did it so happen that even after “the standard was improved”, it took only a year for such improvement in the result of the first year students to be recorded?
REINTRODUCTION OF POST-UTME
In June 2016 when the Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu, announced the need to scrap post-UTME, the criteria for admitting students was reduced to O’Level and UTME alone. This raised concerns among university stakeholders. One of these stakeholders was the university’s Vice Chancellor.
This concern manifested when in the year the examination was scrapped 1 in every 6 had a GPA less than 1.0.
“The shameful performance is blamed on the failure to conduct the annual post-UTME test for students admitted to the University for the 2016/2017 session,” Mr Olayinka bemoaned.
With the cause of the mass failure now identified, and following the reintroduction of the Post–UTME test, the university management ensured that the intakes for the 2017/18 academic session were made to pass through the university’s post-UTME test and it paid. From 1 in every 6, failure rate dropped to 1 in every 43.
INTRODUCTION OF THE PASS INITIATIVE
Originated by the University of Kansas-City, Missouri, USA, in the 70’s, the Peer Assisted Study Session, PASS, was adopted by the university on 16 January, 2017 — becoming the first institution in West Africa and the second in Africa after a Walter Sisulu University, South Africa, to embrace the initiative.
The university introduced the PASS initiative to address historically difficult courses for first year students. Two sessions are held every day— Mondays to Fridays, 1 hour per session.
Information available on the university’s website explains traditionally difficult courses as “those with high failure rates or less than 30% having between 5 and 7 points. The program targets challenging courses that, over time, have demonstrated their difficulty regardless of the lecturer(s) who teach the course, or the material used. To begin with, we have identified CHE 157 (now CHE 156), MAT 121 and PHY 114.”
Facilitators of the learning support are called PASS Leaders. They are “students who have previously completed the targeted course, and received a minimum of 65%. During the study sessions, the PASS leaders will facilitate collaborative study and group study strategies and techniques specific to the course.”
Ojedele Jubril, a PASS Leader, and a sophomore of Civil Engineering, attested to the aid the tutorial sessions had on the students.
Speaking on the success rate, he explained that with the large number of attendees recorded this year compared to last year, the improvement is more than expected.
“I’d say it is expected. Good tutorials helped. We recorded a very large number of attendees, better than last year,” he told our correspondent.
Certainly, by no mean feat did the PASS initiative pass the first year students of the university. It aided students in learning in a friendlier environment since tutors who thought them are immediate seniors of theirs, those whom they could easily relate with faster and get along with quicker.
CONTINUOUS ASSESSMENT POLICY
After the failure surge of the first year students of the university, the university’s Senate devised a strategy to strength the university’s Continuous Assessment Policy.
Prior to now, the university operated a 70/30 examination and continuous assessment ratio.
In the new policy, scores are being based on the 60/40 ratio. With the continuous assessment (CA) now 40, each student now writes at least two tests or assignments. This, according to the Vice Chancellor, would take into consideration the “three domains of cognitive, affective and psychomotor” of each student’s CA score.
He further explained that new policy would reflect the entirety of the students performance in and out of the classroom.
“The marks allotted to continuous assessment will be spread to reflect the totality of what students do and could include one or combination of quizzes, conduct in and out of class, theatre, laboratory, class participation, group work, practical/field work, assignments, class attendance, presentations and tests.”
As a result of this move, students’ scores, especially the CA, are based on many criteria other than a single test. If a student fails to do well on a test, such student could make up for it in other assessment strategy like class attendance, assignments, presentations and so on.
Department of Statistics finalist, Alagbe Omotayo David opined that, “that’s one of the measures the school took to improve the number of people who will pass. I wouldn’t agree with the fact that everyone is really good. But the school helped them with those measures.”
TO BE FOREWARNED IS TO BE FOREARMED
Also, the stories of the 328 students asked to withdraw instilled some fear in the new intakes.
“The information I got about the number of students that were withdrawn last year scared me and many like myself. I had to read hard,” Akingboye Mubarak, first year Computer Science student told our campus correspondent.
Several other students that spoke with TheEcho correspondent also stressed this fact.
“You can’t be warned and still get hurt,” Monisola Kawthar, a third year student of Law said.
She added: “I think the school management sounded the caveat loud enough. Over 400 students who were tsunamised triggered the success story this year.”