Grades are a very important part of education. One can easily say grades make or mar one’s academic life. To know a good student, all one needs do is to check his/her grades, since they are the evidence of the test of the knowledge of such a student in different subjects. Grading of a student’s work is mostly done by Teachers, in exclusive cases, it is done by external examiners, who would have been educators at one point in their lives. In Nigeria, teachers grade their students based on marking schemes developed to gage the performance of their students in different subjects. Most times these marking schemes grade students based on the level of difficulty of these subjects, while some grade based on the number of students who register to take on such a course, however it is generally known that teachers design their marking schemes according to their personal designs. Now, it is important to note that grades have a serious effect on the performance of students in school; also they have a lot to do with the general academic standard of any academic institution.
This write up would thus focus on examining the development of Nigerian students as influenced by grades/grading systems. In addition, I would take a cursory look at the influence of teacher’s marking schemes on the development of their students using a few examples.
Teachers arrive at grades using different models generally known as Marking Schemes. In the typical Nigerian school, a teacher grades his/her students based on the ability of the student to meet the requirements set by this scheme. This is most times peculiar to the subjects taught. For instance, in my brief stint as a serving corp member in a secondary school, the English teacher set her scheme on different requirements. In the case of essays, she scored based on grammar, delivery, spelling, e.t.c awarding marks to the student based on the student’s ability to display mastery in the aforementioned. In the secondary school system in Nigeria, teachers grade students twice a session. In most cases, three times a session. First we have the Continuous Assessment Tests (C.A.T), which are mostly conducted twice a session, these are worth a total of 40 marks; now based on the discretion of the teacher, the tests could be divided into two, the first for 20 marks, and the second for same. Most times the teacher might take other aspects of the student’s performance into consideration, this might require that the student turn in notes taken during lessons, for which the student is awarded marks. The second mode of assessment is the final Examinations, which are worth a total of 60 marks. This is the ultimate test of the student’s span of attention during the entire school session. When we merge the two forms of assessment we arrive at the tool for determining the final grade of every secondary school student in the different subjects he/she has offered in school. The resultant effect of this is the emergence of the “brainy” student, the “average” students, and the “dull” students.
The importance of grades in the lives of students cannot be undermined. Beginning from the primary school in Nigeria, grades form a very important part of a child. From this level of a child’s education, the child becomes increasingly aware of his/her academic abilities, and as such his/her future performance could be affected by the grades he/she gets from this level of education. Grading in primary schools should be more lenient than in other levels. This provides a child with the “can do” attitude, and would no doubt serve as a fillip to better performance in higher levels. Emphasis should be placed on involving the child, instead of deterring the child by being overly harsh with grades. This would increase the interest of the child in learning, and as such encourage the child to learn more and be a better student. In the secondary school level it is quite a different ball game altogether. In Nigeria, secondary schools are divided into two sections; the Junior Secondary and the Senior Secondary sections. In the junior secondary sections, teachers usually are more lenient with new intakes, especially the JS 1 students who are fresh out of primary school, and as such don’t have strict marking schemes when arriving at grades at the end of every academic session. Here the student begins to build interest in the course he/she would focus on in the senior secondary level and beyond. Personally I feel teachers should pay more attention to students in this level, this is the “make or break” part of every child’s academic life so to say, and as such it should not be treated with levity. Teachers should not hastily award marks to students where they have not done enough work to deserve them. Here I would like to cite an example. In the school where I served, (and I am sure it is just one in many), students were graded based on the “environment”. Yes, Environment. This “factor” took only one thing into consideration; the number of students leaving the school for the neighboring school. At this point I asked myself, are we sacrificing the standards of education in Nigeria on the altar of financial gains? In a situation where students are awarded high marks just so they do not withdraw from the school to enroll in another is just appalling. In the worst cases, students who have not even attained enough marks to be promoted to the next level are allowed to move on to the next class. This is quite rampant in the government-run schools, especially those that are located in the rural areas in Nigeria. These students are graded superfluously in subjects where they have performed below par! At the end of the day a lot of malpractice goes on when the students are eventually registered to sit for general exams such as WAEC and NABTEB.
The academic development of the student should be taken seriously if we want to see a change in the looming problems of the educational sector in Nigeria. Even in the tertiary level, grading is important. There are instances of lecturers grading as they see fit and not going by the appropriate standard. Such an attitude to grading is a double edged sword that cuts both ways. There is the risk of producing students that are “half baked”, who later become a burden on any organization that employs them; there is also the risk of destroying the prospects of a rather good student of getting a good job upon graduation as a result of bad grading.
Grading is very important in all levels of education in Nigeria. Teachers play a very important role in the development of their students through the grades they award them for academic work done. If there is to be an improvement upon the quality of students churned out of academic institutions in Nigeria every year, particular interest should be taken in ascertaining that students are being graded as they have performed. A situation whereby a student is awarded a B in Test of English when the student cannot write a good formal letter would not arise if attention is paid to quality in grading. Teachers should also pay attention to their students in their formative years to provide a strong foundation for the students they would be “pushing” to the next level. I would also like to add here that the Nigerian government should do more to provide better incentives for their teachers. A laborer would only perform well if paid a handsome wage that befits the time he/she puts in and the work done. Teachers should be paid handsomely for the work they do; most times when you come across a teacher that displays a nonchalant attitude towards his/her work, you discover that such a teacher is not being paid well. This is also very rampant among teachers who work in government schools. The federal government should realize that the bulk of children in Nigeria attend government schools, otherwise known as public schools, it is absolutely not fair to deprive them of the totality of education. Teachers should thus be paid well to encourage them to put in their best to make sure that the crop of students being produced meet world standards.