How cut off marks for Nigeria’s Unity Schools may be destroying quality

How cut off marks for Nigeria’s Unity Schools may be destroying quality

Last week, cut off marks for admission into Federal Government Colleges or Unity Schools received new attention on Twitter as Nigerians criticised the selection system, arguing that it destroys competition and affects the quality of learning.


The cut-off marks referred to here was for the 2018/2019 academic session reportedly released by the National Examination Council of Nigeria. There is an alleged disparity in the cut off marks for different states. The disparity in cut-off marks is creating a divide. Some pupils are admitted into unity schools with as low as two marks in the common entrance examinations while some can only get into the same schools with at least 130 marks. Slowly mediocrity has crept in.


Out of 300 possible points, the cut of mark for candidates from Anambra State is 139, Imo 138, Enugu 134, Delta 131, Lagos 133, and Ogun State 131. For a candidate from Kebbi State the cut off mark is 9 for male and 20 for female. Sokoto is 9 for male and 13 for female. Taraba is three for male and 11 for female. Yobe is two for male and 27 female. In Zamfara, a male candidate that scores four qualifies and a female candidate that scores two qualifies too.

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This is an offshoot from Nigeria’s quota system, which pervades Federal Government-owned learning institutions at practically every level. This applies to the tertiary institutions of learning too where the quota system operates and has been criticised as keeping out brilliant students simply because they are from a certain part of the country and want to study in another. The quota system in its design philosophy is meant to give educationally disadvantaged regions of the country an opportunity to access quality education.

How cut off marks for Nigeria’s Unity Schools may be destroying quality
How cut off marks for Nigeria’s Unity Schools may be destroying quality

The first set of unity schools were established by the British colonial masters; three new ones were added in Warri, Sokoto, and Enugu in 1966 while General Yakubu Gowon, in 1973, ensured there such schools in all the 12 states back then.


For at least two decades, the schools brought about cultural and religious integration, on the one hand, academic excellence on the other.

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“I am privileged to have attended one of the oldest of these schools, Federal Government College, Odogbolu, established in 1973. Till the early nineties, admission into the schools were very competitive though consideration was also given to students in the catchment area of each school,” Omoniyi Animasaun, an alumnus of Federal Government College, Odogbolu, in Ogun State told a local newspaper in an interview.


“Merit was the foremost consideration. This ensured that each college admitted mostly brilliant students, precipitating healthy academic competition which helped the average students to up their ante,” Animasaun said.


The ethnic, cultural, religious and social backgrounds of the students were diverse with pupils from wealthy and influential families mingling freely with pupils from humble homes.

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The full list of cut-off marks for the 36 states and FCT in the 2018 academic session will perplex any optimist in the unity arrangement actually. Abia 130; Adamawa 62; Akwa-Ibom 123; Anambra 139; Bauchi 35; Bayelsa 72; Benue 111; Borno 45; Cross River 97; Delta 131; Ebonyi 112; Edo 127; Ekiti 119; Enugu 134; Gombe 58; Imo 138; Jigawa 44; Kaduna 91; Kano 67; Katsina 60; Kebbi 9 (male) 20 (female); Kogi 119; Kwara 123; Lagos 133; Nasarawa 58; Niger 93; Ogun 131; Ondo 126; Osun 127; Oyo 127; Plateau 97; Rivers 118; Sokoto 9 (male) 13 (female); Taraba 3 (male) 11 (female); Yobe 2 (male) 27 (female); Zamfara 4 (male) 2 (female) and FCT Abuja 90.


However, the Federal Ministry of Education had insisted that the selection employed the national merit criteria of 60 percent, with a cut-off score of 146 and above and equality of state of 30 percent of the colleges’ carrying capacity.



Stephen Onyekwelu

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