“They come in young these days”, complained one Mr James Johnson (original name withheld) when he could not put up anymore with the delinquent behaviour of his 15-year old 100L roommate in a certain Nigerian university. The number of extremely young faces one encounters in tertiary institutions today leaves one to wonder if Nigerian universities still consider the recommended age criterion for admission.
By convention, the minimum age for university admission is sixteen (16). While several universities such as the University of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN), Afe Babalola University, Ado-Ekiti (ABUAD) and a few others are upfront with this requirement, stating expressly that “No person under the age of 16years may be admitted into the university as a student”, some others are rather indifferent to the age factor.
The adoption of the age criterion, wherever and whenever it is raised, always elicits polar reactions which are not abstracted from the amazing precociousness of the 21st century millennials on the one hand and their corresponding deprivation of socially acceptable morals on the other hand. Our target in this discourse is to highlight the reasons why universities may choose to be strict with this criterion and in contrast, why they may choose to ignore it and thereafter leave you, dear readers, to reach your conclusion on which is a better decision.
As opponents of the age criterion always push, the modern day children and teens alike veritably exhibit greater natural intelligence than their forbearers. This intelligence, which one may partly attribute to unending technological inventions, has placed them in better positions in diverse areas of life including education. Aided by their intrinsic superb abilities, the ease and rate at which the 21st century millennials overcome life challenges is stupefying, to say the least. In harmony with the foregoing, the age criterion for admission into the university has been described by its opponents as a rather timeworn and irrelevant cog in the machine of the education of these young minds which invariably yields unnecessary delay and nothing more!
On the other hand, however, professional educationists and educational administrators have warned of the danger of being blindfolded by children’s intelligence. They emphasize the indispensability of maturity in education, and age as well as exposure, brain and bodily development, self awareness, etc goes a long way to determine an individual’s maturity, and by extension, ability to assimilate. More so, education goes beyond brilliant regurgitation of facts and ideas. Hence, to aspire to all-round education, there is the need for both cognitive and social maturity which age and experience readily provide.
Furthermore, researches on the brain and its operations testify that the brain development continues into our twenties, and a more or less fully-developed brain is required for processing knowledge and abstract concepts, synthesizing and analyzing knowledge, etc all of which are core demands of the university. Little wonder most of our underage friends get into the higher institution only to grope around their academics like Alice in wonderland.
In the same vein, the wealth of experience learners are expected to have gathered while living among families and friends at least till the age of sixteen is assumed to enable them live peaceably in the university community and with a sense of self awareness and objectivity without succumbing to negative social influences such as crimes, cultism and other social vices that could make them swerve off their academic paths.
Having elucidated the pros and cons of the 16year old minimum age criterion for admission, we therefore recommend that Nigerian universities adhere to this principle and at the same time leave room for exceptional students but not without subjecting them to comprehensive assessments in form of oral and written tests as well as other non-test methods in order to verify their qualification for admission.