The concept " falling standard of Education" is a relative term because there is no well defined instruments to measure it with utmost reliability and validity. That is why scholars' views on the concept varies. These scholars view it at different perspectives, depending on the angle each of them is looking at it.
Babalola, A (2006) sees the concept from admission of Nigerian University products in developed countries universities. That the first six Nigerian Universities (University of Ibadan, Ile Ife, Lagos, Benin, Nsukka and Zaria) had their products competing favourably with any other University in the world as their products were sought for by University of Harvard, Cambridge, Oxford and London for admission into their post-graduate courses. That these students record breaking performances and when they graduate are employed by the best multi-national companies and corporate bodies globally unlike today where no Nigerian University is among the top 6,000 Universities of the world (Adeniyi, Bello (2008) in Why no worry about rankings). He sees standard from how universities contribute to knowledge and solving problems besetting mankind.
According to Gateway to the Nation (2010), University of Ibadan is ranked 6,340th University in the world. In Africa, University of Ibadan is ranked 57th, OAU 69th and South African Universities are leading the way in Africa.
He also use written and spoken English as a yardstick for measuring standard of education which University of London conducted a research in West Africa and the result showed that teachers trained by colonial masters were better of than those trained by indigenous teachers.
He also used staffing, funding, foundation, origin and students as standard of education.
Standard of education to Dike, V. (2003) is how education contribute to the public health (or sociopolitical and economic development of a Nation).
Standard of education to either passing or failing of external examinations like WAEC, NECO, NABTEB, JAMB,(NOW UTME) among others.
Teachers without Boarders (2006) looks at educational standard from how the products of schools can be measured in terms of outcome. That is how school leavers contribute to the society in terms of cognitive affective and psychomotor. I will be using students to refer to both students and pupils, I will use head teacher to refer to both principal and headmaster.
Which ever way you may view standard of education, for you to conclude whether the standard is falling or not, you must take into consideration all the aforementioned variables including achieving educational goals.
Equally, for justice to be done while measuring these standards one has to look at reliability where all the schools to be measured must have the same infrastructure, teaching materials, quality of teachers, level and degree of learners, condition within which learning takes place, some methods of assessment and some types of contribution to the society among others.
CAUSES OF FALLING STANDARDS
Haven discussed what makes up standard in education, may I crave your indulgence to some of the established facts that constitute falling standard of education in Nigeria.
(1) Discipline: This is one of the outstanding attributes of education when it is rightly observed.
a. Repeating: school no longer observe repeating as every student is promoted to the next class whether they understand or not gives room for falling standard.
b. Attendance: The 75% of attendance universally accepted as the bases for someone to sit for examination is no longer observed.
c. Late coming: Student that come late are no longer punished, which leads to their losing morning classes.
d. Misbehaviour: Students are no longer punished for misbehavior because of their parental influences (lost of jobs or unnecessary transfer).
e. Cultism: This could refer to rituals, usually under oath binding the members to a common course. They operate covertly in fulfillment of their objectives to the detriment of other people. Thus, planning secondary needs above primary needs.
These cults exist because of over population of students in schools, wrong admissions not based on merits, hence fear of examination failures and selfish worldly gains.
(2) Quest for paper qualification: Nigerians respect paper qualification above performance in the fields. Hence, cognitive, affective and psychomotor domains are supposed to be measured on the field.
(3) Politicizing education: Merit is no longer regarded as it is now " who you know" and not "what you can deliver" Technocrats (educationists are not appointed Commissioner of education and education board).
(4) Policy problem: Sometimes the type of policies government make on education adversely affects output. For instance, in College of Education, we have National Commission for Colleges of Education (NCCE), competing with JAMB for admission as the two guidelines vary.
Equally, WAEC, NECO, NABTEB, JAMB ( now UTME) compete with qualifying pre-requisites and regulation of entries into tertiary institutions.
(5) Teachers not being part of the examination bodies. One wonders whether the continuous Assessment submitted by these teachers are used or not.
(6) Accessibility of Schools: The Nigerian population boom has outnumbered the existing schools as the existing schools have to over admit.
This point can be practically seen in the following areas:
(i) Teacher / Student ratio of 1:25 is no longer there as in my class, it is 1:3900.
(ii) Students / books / Journals ratio of 1:10 is no longer feasible.
(iii) Politics of admission: Schools can no longer set targets for admission to conform with their facilities as powerful notes from above will force the school authorities to either over admit or find themselves in the labour market again. Yet it is those that are giving these notes are suppose to build more schools or provide needed infrastructure etc. to accommodate those collecting these notes.
(7) Over-dependent on cognitive domain: Schools do not give regards to affective domain that will mould characters of our young ones. Little attention is given to psychomotor while no attention is given to affective domain.
(8) Shortage of qualified teachers: Some schools in the rural areas only have the headmaster as government employee while the rest that may be secondary school drop outs are PTA staff. What miracle can these staff perform? Dike, V. (2006) observed that only 23% out of the then 400,000 primary schools in Nigeria have grade II even when NCE is now the minimum qualification for teachers at primary and Junior Secondary schools.
(9) Teachers welfare: It is no longer news that
(a) Politicians do not have negotiation council to negotiate their salary increase.
(b) There is no disparity among political office holders from the federal, state and local governments.
(c) Their salaries are increased at astronomical manner.
(d) Their salaries are increased any time without recourse to whether the nation's economy can bear it or not.
(e) But for teachers, they must negotiate the 10 to 20% of an attempt to increase their salary with consideration of the economy of the nation. How can these teachers contribute and perform miracle when their family members are in the hospitals and the O.S. syndrome is written on their cards by pharmacists while they do not have money to treat.
(10) Constant Strikes: This is an impediment to smooth covering of syllabus. Oefule (2009) explained that one Nigerian guest asked a question on strike at Oxford University community but the vice chancellor could not even remember about strike, only the registrar remembered it for 17 years back. This is what governance means to the people.
(11) Long rule of the military; Education was not properly funded by the military regimes as according to Babalola, A(2006) Obasanjos administration inherited many left over problems of the military such as non- payment of pensions and gratuities of retired University staff, poor remuneration of university staff, dilapidating buildings of schools, libraries with outdated books, obsolete laboratory equipments, bad campus roads, inadequate water and power supply among others.
(12) In the secondary and primary schools levels, schools do not even have buildings talk less` of furniture's, equipments and reading materials. This is the level where the foundation of education should be laid. Any faulty foundation will lead to faulty structures. What do you expect from the tertiary level?
(13) Lack of training of teachers: Teachers are not trained to update their knowledge with latest discoveries based on research, then how can they give what they don't have?
(14) Poor state of Educational teaching facilities: Dike V. (2006) reported that research result shows that over 2015 primary schools in Nigeria do not have building but study under trees, talk less of teaching materials.
(15) Corruption: leaders of the schools and some Government officials either connive to buy equipments with loan money that cannot be of any use to the school or take such loans and do not even do anything with it.
(16) Poor budgetary allocation to education: A research work of 2001 shows that Nigeria only, allocate less than 20% to education it further reveals that Nigeria spends 0.76% to education as against Uganda 2.6%, Tanzania3.4%, Mozambique 4.1%, Angola 4.9%, Coted Ivore 5% Kenya 6.5% and South Africa 7.9% among others.
WHO IS TO BE BLAMED?
We have seen the causes of falling standards and from these causes we can deduce that the following are to be blamed:
1. Government suppose to carry the lion share of the blame because all the other variables are dependent variables to it.
2. Teachers also have their shares of the blame with regards to their diligent duties.
3. Parents: feeding has to be provided by parents. This is because parents do not leave schools to operate without interference.
4. Students: students who do not abide by school rules and regulations nor pay attention to their studies also contribute to falling standards. Students also seek for paper qualification and disregards to performance they also participate in cult activities that derail the progress of the academy.
5. The society is not left out as it is the way it sees and respects the products of these schools that recycles back again.
Based on the problems or causes identified above, the following solutions are proffered: Schools should respect and restore back discipline to bring back the lost glory of our educational standards.
Performance should be regarded and respected more than just paper qualification. Equally, education should not be politicized for whatever reason.
Policy makers should be mindful of policies that affect education .eg JAMB(UTME) regulation in admissions.
Teachers should be involved in examination activities and examination bodies should always publish examination reports and distribute it to various schools for them to hold school workshop for training of subject teachers on their areas of weaknesses observed in the students' scripts with regards to following the marking scheme.
More schools should be built to increase accessibility by all. Cognitive, affective and psychomotor domain should be used for assessment of students.
Teachers' welfare should be given priority by government to avoid unnecessary strikes in our educational sector while more qualified teachers should be employed to curb the present shortage of teachers in our schools.
Our civilian government should prove to the people that they are better than military government.
Teachers should be trained so that they can meet up with any new challenges Educational facilities should be upgraded to modern standards while teaching facilities should be adequately provided.
Corruption should be eliminated to the barest minimum by all stakeholders while government should increase its budgetary allocations to education to improve the standard of education in Nigeria.