### why students peform poorly

**Poor performance and academic standard in secondary schools mathematics**

Abstract

There has been lot of controversy over the question of academic standards of Nigeria Secondary School students particularly in Mathematics. The low performance of students especially in Mathematics has clearly led credence to this popular conjecture. The question of academic standard and students’ performance in mathematics is, therefore, a recurring issue usually discussed both in and outside the academic circles. Everybody is interested in the question of the quality of mathematics education especially in Nigeria of today. This paper examines the concept of academic standard and relates it to students; performance and other examination-related issues especially examination malpractices.

Introduction

Mathematics maintains and shall continue to remain an enviable position in our everyday life. No wonder it remains as a core subject on the curricular from kindergarten to the University. Most parents expect from their children after a week in the nursery school to be able to recite 1,2,3, ……… Students must pass Mathematics in the Common Entrance Examination before they can proceed to the secondary school after their primary education.

They must pass Mathematics at the Junior School Certificate Examination (JSCE) in order to move from Junior to Senior Secondary School level especially those who are science inclined. Mathematics must also be passed at the WAEC or NECO conducted Senior School Certificate Examination (SSCE) otherwise the candidate’s remains stranded and stagnant in his academic carrier.

The Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB) gives a covert and tactical endorsement to this seemingly compulsion of mathematics. For all candidates seeking admission to any of he nations tertiary institutions through the JAMB, Akesode (2000) reported that over 90% of the courses in Nigerian Universities requires Mathematics as a pre-requisite for admission. Employers of labour equally expect their prospective applicants to exhibit good performance in Selection Aptitude Tests. Such tests are usually laced with a heavy dosage of Mathematics. Thus Mathematics, like our shadow, sticks close to us anywhere we are throughout life.

The concept of literacy, no wonder then, goes hand in gloves with numeracy. A person who is stagnant in terms of numeracy skills will remain not only useless to himself but to the larger society because numeric skills remain the pivot of language in different aspects of our life. This is visibly seen in the areas of commerce, education, transport, housing, health, communication, defence and even politics. The twelve two-third saga of the second republic is very significant in the annals of history of Nigeria political development.

Many students make Mathematics their enemy and therefore have the highest failure rates in all public examinations from the Common Entrance to the SSCE, University Matriculation Examination (UME), and Polytechnic and Colleges of Education Matriculation Examination (PCE). Math phobia or the fear and hatred of mathematics prevalent in our schools is not only restricted to the low achievers but unexpectedly cuts across the rank and file of all students even including the seemingly brighter ones.

Academic Standard

Some educators assess academic standard as the percentage of high scores among students that a school presents for an examination. Ajimoko (1976) in discussing academic standard opined “A high or low-level standard of education could be assessed by the type of overt behaviour generally associated with most pupils from a particular school (and not only by intellectual or cognitive performance)”

Educational standard should be viewed as being multi-dimensional in nature. A high standard in an individual, a class or school is assumed, if a high level of competence in the three educational domains of cognitive, psychomotor and affective is displayed.

The (quality) standard of education, according to Coombs (1985) ‘deals with the issue of relevance, validity, functionalism and efficacy of an educational system in the achievement of national goals and priorities” Gardiner (1961) submitted that” standard (excellence) is striving for the highest standards in every phase of life … will be judged by how successful educators have been in realizing the goals of teacher education”.

Standard, to some other scholars, as desirable levels of attainment, is preferably expressed in terms of outcome of instruction.

Academic Standard, from all the above, could be said to be the measure and their performance of a group. It is the degree or level of excellence required for a particular purpose. Academic Standard cannot be reasonably discussed in the absence of a prior specification of the educational goals of the educational system. This is because standard indicates the level at which students are expected to accomplish as a result of having gone through a programme of learning process. In Nigeria, does academic standard of education really exist?

Academic Standard of Education in Nigeria

What makes up a nation’s standard of education is the level of excellence of students at the various educational levels with particular reference to their learning of specified educational objective. Iwuji (1988) stated. “…The fact is that Nigeria Educational Standard has never been established in the history of Nigeria education. Therefore there is no basis for judging as whether it is rising or falling”.

The validity of Iwuji’s (1988) position on standard remains the objective of controversy among educationist. Udoh (1988) opined that

The demand for education is accomplished by pronouncements or written statements for students or relevance. This relates to the fact that the education in any society should be geared towards the world of work and should reflect and positively cater for the needs of the people and ideals of the society.

Thus, Udoh (1988) submitted that standard involves indicating what learners are expected to accomplish as a result of having gone through a programme of learning. One begins to realize that this conforms to the objective of the 1969 National Curriculum Conference. Till the time of this present work, no scientific study, to the best knowledge of the researcher, has been reported to buttress the question of falling standard of education in Nigeria. The question, whether Nigeria has an academic standard or not, doe not therefore remain only a conjecture but the question whether it is falling or rising will continue to generate more controversy in the education industry for some time.

Performance and Examination Malpractices in Mathematics

School enrolment has been a little high with a dropping percentage of performance. Enrolment in Nigeria Schools between 1960 and 1984 reveals that Primary School enrolment was 3 million in 1960 while it rose to 18 million in1984. Enrolment in Secondary School was 135.4 thousands in1960 and 2.2 million in 1984. The University enrolment in1960 was 2,545 while in 1984 it was 108,720 (Ale, 2000). Increase in enrolment has not been associated with high performance but it has led to a serious decline in the standard and level of students achievement. The government’s policy of free education and automatic promotion in the government public schools in the Southwestern part of Nigeria between 1979 and 1983 did not help issue either.

Poor performances in competitive examinations and math phobia (fear and hatred of mathematics) have led many students (among other factors) to look for shorter route (through examination malpractices) towards passing their examinations. Examination malpractices have so many fanciful names among its practitioners. Investigations during the course of this study reveal some of these fanciful names as:

a. Bullets or missiles or microchips.

b. Dubbing

c. Tatto

d. Walkie-talkie

e. Mercearies or contractors or Machines

f. Jet

g. Super-print

h. Copy/Rank-Xeroxed

i. Life or Expo

j. Packing

k. Deal Print

l. Insult or Assult or threat

m. Froging of certificates

n. Publishing Examination results in Mathematics through un-official channels.

Research studies have identified several factors as being responsible for examination practices in Mathematics. Habour-Peters (2000) identified some of these factors as follows:

i. Improper preparation of students for the examination by the mathematics teachers.

ii. The teacher including many difficult questions in the examination.

iii. Ambiguity of the instruction as regards the question items.

iv. Lack of self-confidence by students.

v. Poor management of the Mathematics examination by the supervisor’s and/or invigilators.

vi. Over-crowding of the examination hall.

vii. The temptation of the availability of an avenue to cheat in and out of the examination hall.

viii. Nervousness brought about by mathematics being thought of as an abstract discipline or the examination being seeing as a threat.

ix. An attempt to assist a friend.

x. Encouragement to cheat by parents and guardians

xi. Forcing students to offer mathematics as a subject and/or course for which they lack the aptitude, pre-requisite and competency.

xii. The policy of getting a minimum qualification for a course in Mathematics even when the student lacks the requisite skills to make the minimum requirement for the course.

xiii. The urge to pass mathematics examination at the Senior Secondary Certificate Examinations (SSCE) and/or Joint Matriculation Examination (JME) by all means for obvious reason.

xiv. Abetting of mathematics examination malpractices by mathematics examination agents.

xv. Poor handling of mathematics examination materials by the appropriate custodians.

xvi. Lack of prestigious alternatives to professional courses causing severe competition for the limited chances in the educational establishment.

xvii. The nature of the Nigerian society and the so-called “Nigerian Factor” which is the embodiment of corruption in its entire ramification, which has eaten deep into the fabric of the society.

xviii. The absence of good guidance counselors in schools to give special guidance and counseling to the mathematics students.

xix. The improper implementation of the National Policy on Education

Conclusion and Recommendations

Mathematics as a language is a method of communication, which is either in form of sound or symbol. Metaphorically, mathematics is an essential transactional coin for people’s discourse, business and everyday living and this fact is easily established from the lens of history of Mathematics.

Mathematics as the cornerstone to the development of any nation and as the Queen of the sciences is critical to the development of science and technology. Being the king of all subjects. It is pivotal to development in such other areas such as the economy, culture and politics. Empirical studies, as discussed earlier in this paper, show that students’ performance in Mathematics nose-dives year-in year-out not withstanding the question whether an academic standard has been proved to exist in Nigeria or not. Poor performance of students in Mathematics should be a cause of concern for all and sundry especially the government and Mathematics educators in particular and all the Nigerian citizenry in general.

Teachers of Mathematics in particular who hold the key to national development should see the problem of poor performance as a challenge of the first decade of this millennium which should be squarely faced, Strategic plans must be evolved by teachers for making mathematics friendly to all students so that at the end of the first decade of this new millennium mathematics would be the subject Nigerian students perform best in. This is important because national development is dependent in the education of the citizenry and mathematics is the king and queen of all subjects and the language of the education process. The government at the national level should do everything possible to find solution to the problem of poor performance and examination malpractices in mathematics in all its ramifications. Mathematics Teacher Education should be first on the government priority list because no nation can rise above the quality of its teacher.

The teacher of Mathematics is therefore seriously and quickly called to appraise the relationship between his pedagogy of teaching on one hand and students’ performance. Instead of dissipating energy on the question of the rising or falling standard of education, educationists and the government should evolve a blueprint to save the Nigerian child from the current unnecessary math phobia prevalent in the country. Definitely this will go a long way in drastically reducing Math phobia and the subsequent poor performance in the queen of all science subjects that is now prevalent in our society..