Education Project Topics

A Study of Secondary School Students’ Academic Performance in the Wassce and Neco Examinations





Education may be simply described as the comprehensive process of human learning through which information is learned, faculties are developed, and skills are acquired. Secondary schools are not only a vital component of the Nigerian educational system; they also serve as the link between elementary and secondary education. According to Asikhai (2010), secondary school education is expected to serve as the backbone and foundation for pursuing further education at postsecondary institutions. It is both an investment and a tool for accelerating a country’s economic, social, political, technical, scientific, and cultural growth. Regrettably, secondary schools today are failing to live up to the high standards expected of them as evidenced by their performance on external examinations. There have been widespread outcries over secondary school students’ continually low performance on public examinations. According to Nwokocha and Amadike (2005), academic achievement is the benchmark by which a nation’s educational competence is measured. As a result, it is unavoidable to maintain a high standard of performance in internal and, more often than not, external examinations. For several years, publications in several national dailies and research findings have shown the terrible performance of secondary school pupils on public examinations. Ajayi (2002), Nwokocha & Amadike (2005), WAEC (2007), The Punch tabloid (September 27, 2008), Adeyemi (2008), and Asikhia (2010) all demonstrated the extent to which pupils score poorly on external tests. The ongoing drop in students’ performance on public tests is aggravating not just for students and parents, but also for society. One of the most powerful yardsticks for assessing students’ academic performance to date, if not the strongest, is through public examinations such as the Senior School Certificate Examination (S.S.C.E.) in Nigeria. Externally monitored, these examinations have widespread popular confidence. Secondary education is the level of education that children receive following elementary school but before entering postsecondary education. Without secondary school products, it is self-evident that no intellectual foundation can be built for subsequent academic study. According to the purposes and objectives of school establishment, one would assume that the performance of day and boarding senior secondary school students in the country would significantly improve. To be sure, no educational system is without flaws. However, the deterioration of the Nigerian educational system has reached a point where it is unremarkable. Ogunsaju (2000) characterized it as cataclysmic. Though smart students can be discovered at public schools as well, the high failure rate in WASSCE tends to marginalize the outstanding ones. At first, only Mathematics and English Language performed poorly, but this eventually spread to other areas, including the sciences and arts. The schools can no longer justify the government’s and public’s confidence in them, let alone the massive budgetary allocations they consume each year. However, kids have been performing poorly, and the situation is not improving. For instance, in the May/June 1992 S.S.C.E, English Language achieved a pass rate of 13.8 percent with Distinction and Credit marks, while 59.6 percent of the total 381,506 applicants failed. Only 9.7 percent of students passed Mathematics with Distinction or Credit, while 59.4 percent failed (WAEC, 1994). In the June 1994 tests, 14.2 percent and 13.7 percent of 618,119 pupils passed with Distinction and Credit levels in English and Mathematics, respectively. English had a failing rate of 56.3 percent while Mathematics had a failure rate of 67.4 percent (WAEC, 1994). Other key areas performed similarly poorly, with pupils performing significantly lower in subjects requiring practical practice. For example, in the December 1996 WASSCE, English had a failure rate of 64.6 percent while Biology had a failure rate of 58 percent. Therefore, if education is to retain its former status as the preeminent vehicle for promoting national development, it must be saved or resurrected (Adeyemi, 2008). The common approaches of modifying the curriculum or adding new courses, extending the length of schooling, or increasing funding are not producing the desired effects. Among the external examinations are the WASSCE and NECO. The former is a regional test for West Africa, whilst the latter is a strictly Nigerian examination regulated by the federal ministry of education. According to our educational standards, students who achieve five credit level grades in English language and mathematics in any of the tests inclusive are immediately qualified to pursue university education in Nigeria.

Read Too:  Nigeria Educational System: Main Issues and Performance


Poor external outcomes among Nigerian secondary school students, particularly those in senior secondary schools, has become a cause of considerable worry for successive administrations and important players in the country’s education sector (Ajayi 2002). Over the years, the majority of students who sat for the May/June West African Examinations Council (WAEC) and November/December National Examinations Council (NECO) have consistently failed, not only in terms of overall performance, but also in core subjects such as English, Mathematics, Sciences (Biology, Physics, Chemistry), Geography, Vocational and Technical Studies, and History, where a high rate of failure has been a dominant feature. However according to Ibe (2013), statistics released by the two examination bodies, the National Examination Council and the West African Examination Council, indicate that each time the results of the West African Examination Council (WAEC) and National Examination Council (NECO) examinations are released, students have generally underperformed the high investment made by the government, both at the federal and state levels, as well as the private sector. As a result of the outcry over students’ persistently poor and unpromising performance in WASSCE and NECO examinations in Imo State, Nigeria specifically, over the last six years (2007/2008, 2008/2009, 2009/2010, 2010/2011, 2011/2012, 2012/2013, 2013/2014) in Senior Secondary School Certificate Examinations (SSCE) conducted by West Africa Examination Council (WAEC), educationists, government policymakers, and researchers began to question whether schools are failing (Ibe 2013). Students’ success in WASSCE and NECO examinations is measured by their ability to get at least a credit in the topics being compared.


The main aim of this study is to study secondary school students’ academic performance in the wassce and neco examinations. Other specific objectives of this study are:

  1. To examine the factors that affects students performance in secondary schools.
  2. To determine if there is a difference between the performance of students in WASSCE and NECO examinations.
  3. To recommend ways of improving the performances of students in WASSCE and NECO examinations.


These research questions will be answered in this study:


  1. What are the factors that affects students performance in secondary schools?
  2. Is there any difference between the performance of students in WASSCE and NECO examinations?
  3. What are the ways of improving the performances of students in WASSCE and NECO examinations?



This study would be extremely beneficial to secondary school administrators, principals, and instructors since it would provide light on which examinations candidates score better on in WASSCE and NECO. Additionally, the study will assist government and educational stakeholders, particularly the ministry of education, in developing policies that would improve students’ performance on external tests across the country. Finally, the study is critical for all parties interested in the performance of students in Nigeria’s two major examination boards.


This study is focused on a study of secondary school students’ academic performance in the wassce and neco examinations. Specifically, this study will focus on examining the factors that affects students performance in secondary schools, determining if there is a difference between the performance of students in WASSCE and NECO examinations and recommending ways of improving the performances of students in WASSCE and NECO examinations.

Students of selected secondary schools in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State will serve as respondents of this study.


As with any human endeavor, the researcher experienced small impediments while performing the study. Due to the scarcity of literature on the subject as a result of the discourse’s nature, the researcher incurred additional financial expenses and spent additional time sourcing for relevant materials, literature, or information, as well as during the data collection process, which is why the researcher chose a small sample size. Additionally, the researcher conducted this inquiry in conjunction with other scholarly pursuits. Additionally, because only a small number of respondents were chosen to complete the research instrument, the results cannot be applied to other secondary schools outside the state. Regardless of the limits faced throughout the investigation, all aspects were reduced to ensure the best outcomes and the most productive research.


Academic performance: Is the measurement of student achievement across various academic subjects.



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