The competence of fresh graduates of architecture has been continuously criticized by the industry for inadequate knowledge. This is often blamed on the poor standard of education evidenced by poor performances in professional and degree/diploma examinations conducted by various schools of architecture in the country. Although, factors responsible for the scenario are well documented in the literature, most of these works are based on testimonial and circumstantial evidences relating to management of architectural education only. The aim of this paper is to investigate the relationship between entry qualifications and the performance of architecture students in Nigerian Polytechnics with a view to determining the relevance of current admission policy to architectural education in Nigeria. Data were obtained from official records in the Department of Architecture in four randomly selected polytechnics in the southwestern part of Nigeria. Pearson Product Moment Correlation (r ) was used to test the hypotheses. Findings reveal weak relationship between the two variables (physics and mathematics). This is contrary to the expectations of most scholars and policy makers who opine that students' proficiency in these subjects would enhance their performance at higher levels. The paper traces the contradiction to the poor handling of public examinations and misconception of architecture as being pure science. It holds that if these requirements are still relied upon for the admission of students into schools of architecture, wrong candidates would continue to gain entry into the profession. The paper concludes by recommending certain measures that are capable of reversing the trend.


Academic performance ; Admission criteria ; Architecture ; Arts ; Education ; Science

1. Introduction

Throughout history, architecture has been playing a significant role in the physical and socioeconomic development of a society. Apart from its prime function of enhancing the aesthetic outlook of the environment and the functional efficiency/structural integrity of city structures, it is used to promote the national identity and pride of the society that produces it. It reflects the strength and resilience of the culture that defines a nation as unique and innovative (Moughtin, 2000  ;  Rapoport, 2005 ). But architecture is more than just a means of expressing the cultural identity of a society; it is also instrumental to the welfare, safety and efficiency of the habitat/working places of individuals living in that society. It essentially provides spiritual and emotional satisfaction for people in the society by translating their dreams into a three-dimensional structure that provides them shelter that sustains their health, safety, psychological well-being, physiological comfort and productivity (Chansomsak and Vale, 2009  ;  Kim, 1998 ). The provision of this essential need has, perhaps, placed the profession in a unique position in the society.

It is, however, sad to note that this elevated position is being threatened by some unpleasant events in recent times, especially in developing countries. Notable among these are cases of building collapse which are reported on the pages of national dailies virtually on a daily basis (Ayedun et al ., 2012  ; Oloyede et al ., 2010  ;  Oni, 2010 ). The incidence which has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives and colossal loss of property that is worth millions of naira is so rampant that it has become a recurring theme in the literature (Olagunju et al ., 2013  ; Oloyede et al ., 2010  ; Oni, 2010  ;  Nigerian Institute of Architects, 2010 ). Although, several factors were found to be responsible for the unfortunate and largely avoidable occurrence, about 15% of the cases were reported to be due to design flaws, while 45% were attributed to poor materials and workmanship under the supervision of architects (Olabintan, 2006  ;  Olagunju et al ., 2013 ).

Closely related to the above is the issue of abandoned projects that dot the landscape of most Nigerian cities, which not only portrays the country and its citizens as being wasteful and unserious but also indicates lack of organization, direction and purpose (Olalusi and Otunola, 2012 ; Ayodele and Alabi, 2011  ;  Ingiwe et al ., 2012 ). Usually, the phenomenon is blamed on the over-ambition of the clients who are believed to be biting more than what they can chew (Olalusi and Otunola, 2012 ; Ayodele and Alabi, 2011  ;  Ingiwe et al ., 2012 ). But, if architect is understood as a trustee who conceptualizes, coordinates and manages the whole process of realizing the dreams of his clients which are sometimes unclear and inconclusive, then his competence should be queried for any unrealized dreams of the clients (Toluhi, 2008  ;  Oluigbo, 2005 ). This view is largely purveyed by other professionals in the building industry who always put the blame of poor cost performance of building projects on the architect and use it to support their argume+nt over their purported right to head the building team.

The foregoing dilemma has been attributed to deficiencies in education which has resulted in the production of architects who lack the skills and versatility required to play the expected role effectively (Oluigbo, 2005 ).The poor performance consistently recorded in the biannual Professional Practice Examination (PPE) conducted by the Nigerian Institute of Architects (N.I.A.) bears evidence to this assertion. For instance, out of 98 candidates that sat for the exams in March 2010, only 51 (52%) passed, 22 (22.5%) were referred in one or two papers and 25 (25.5%) failed (N.I.A., 2010 ). The situation has not changed much since then; out of 88 candidates that sat for March 2011 edition, only 55 representing 62.5% passed, 28 (31.8%) were referred and 5 (5.7%) failed (http/www.niarchitects.org ).

Several authors such as Oluigbo (2005) , Agbo et al. (2004) , Nkwogu (2003) and Adeyemi (2000) have on separate occasions carried out studies on the possible factors responsible for the pathetic situation. Although, these works have contributed useful insights into the problems and challenges confronting architectural education in the country, it appears that the main concern has been overtly centered on general and broad spectrum of management of architectural education only. Little or no attempt has been made to carry out rigorous investigation into the effect of admission policies on the academic performance of this category of students. Besides, none of the works seems to support its argument with empirical evidences that are capable of making informed, valid and reliable decisions.

In the light of the above, this paper was conceived to investigate the relationship between the entry qualifications and the architecture students performance with a view to determining the relevance of current admission policy to architectural education in Nigeria. In realizing this goal, the following hypotheses are proposed:

HO1 .

There is no significant relationship between the basic knowledge of architecture students in physics and their academic performance in the higher institutions.

HO2 .

There is no significant relationship between the basic knowledge of architecture students in mathematics and their academic performance in the higher institutions.

2. Architecture, art and science: Conceptual linkages

Architectural design, a distinct and vital aspect of architecture, has been described as a problem-solving activity that seeks to develop satisfactory solution to accommodation problems. Problem itself, which is a matter or situation very difficult to resolve, generally ranges from well-defined to ill-defined one (Schacter et al ., 2009  ;  Akin, 1986 ). While it is possible to prescribe conditions necessary to solve well-defined problem, ill-defined problem, most of the time, has no definite criteria for a solution (Setamaa-Hakkarainen, 2000  ;  Simon, 1973 ). Unfortunately, most architectural problems lie in this category (Eastman, 1969 ; Goel and Pirolli, 1992 ; Akin, 1986 ; Setamaa-Hakkarainen, 2000  ;  Simon, 1973 ). As explained further by Blanchards-Fields (2007) , ill-defined problem is socio-emotional and very dynamic in nature. It is always unclear and complex involving larger number of items, interrelations and decisions. Its resolution therefore involves a logical decision-making or reasoning process. According to McGinty (1979) , the quality of final decision that results in effective and functional design depends on quantity and quality of information at the designers disposal.

Architectural education therefore requires a scientific and creative approach that will result in logical thinking, abilities for analysis, synthesis, induction and deduction to tackle design problems effectively. Adewale (1999) even stressed that as the world advances in knowledge and human needs become more complex, success in modern design would depend on highly technical information and good understanding of the laws of science and principles of technology. This view is shared by Sutton (1999) who affirms that technological aspect of architecture is governed by the laws of physics, statics and dynamics.

Linking the aesthetic aspect of architecture to mathematics, Salingaros (2006) demonstrates how architects, from pre-classical period to modern times, have been using mathematical principles to shape their buildings. According to her, the design of most aspiring buildings in the world today was based on the mathematical principles of proportion and symmetry. Corroborating this assertion, Jean-Michel (2005) explains that topology—the mathematical study of the properties that are preserved through deformations, twisting and stretching of objects—has remained a valuable tool for generating dynamic and complex groundbreaking forms in modern times.

It is, perhaps, on this note physics and mathematics are spelt out as compulsory subjects among the admission requirements for study of architecture in Nigerian universities and polytechnics (National Universities Commission, 1989  ;  National Board for Technical Education, 1989 ). The same are allowed as Unified Tertiary Matriculation (UTME) subjects (Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board, 2012 ). The Architects Registration Council of Nigeria (ARCON) and the Nigerian Institute of architects (N.I.A.) also use these as one of the conditions for admitting candidates into the Professional Practice Examinations jointly conducted by the two bodies (ARCON, 2004 ). The proficiency of students in these subjects is believed to prepare them for further studies in architecture.

This narrow view which sees the discipline as mainly intellectual activity has, however, prompted McGinty (1979) and Oluigbo (2005) to make an observation and one which is relevant to this paper, that there is much more to this scope of architectural education than it is dreamt of. They argued that architecture is too broad and complex to be encompassed by a single approach. According to McGinty (1979) and Adeyemi (2006) , an architect is expected to have a set of specific skills that facilitate the application of knowledge he has on a wide variety of issues and methods. Architect needs graphical communication skill such as drawing and a variety of other skills associated with model making, printing, photography and graphic arts to effectively communicate his ideas to his clients and other members of the construction team.

Also central to architectural education and practice are management, verbal and written communication skills. These will enable them to effectively perform their leadership role in the building industry. Jules (1979) further contends that even though mathematics can be counted upon for generation of form, visual-ordering techniques used in visual arts are equally needed to mold the architectural composition so that it communicates the appropriate messages to the users and the admirers of the building. It is, in fact, through this one appreciates the expressive quality of the art (architecture). The fundamental need for this multidisciplinary approach to architectural education is further concretized by Vitruvius (1914) description of the essential qualities of architect. He said:

Let him(the Architect) be educated, skillful with the pencil, instructed in geometry, know much history, have followed the philosophers with attention, understand music, have some knowledge of medicine, know the opinion of the jurists, and be acquainted with astronomy and the theory of heavens’.

Consequent upon the above, all schools of architecture the world over devote one large part of architectural education to transmitting knowledge and problem-solving methods; and the other to the development of appropriate skills (McGinty, 1979 ).

3. Methodology

The study adopted ex-post-facto design to assess the relationship between dependent variables (the cumulative grade point average as students academic performance) and the two independent variables i.e., ‘O’ Level Physics and ‘O’ Level Mathematics results of all the year two students admitted into Nigerian Polytechnics to study architecture between 2009 and 2012. These two independent variables were measured separately. The application of this quasi-experimental design was considered suitable for the study in that the variables of interest were not subjected to manipulation. In selecting the participants for the study, four polytechnics in the southwestern part of the country were randomly chosen. They include: The Federal Polytechnic, Ado Ekiti, Ekiti State; The Polytechnic, Ibadan, Oyo State; Moshood Abiola Polytechnic, Abeokuta, Ogun State and Yaba College of Technology, Lagos State. One hundred and twenty-eight students (128) were drawn from the selected schools using systematic sampling of one out of every two students on the register.

The data collected for the study were basically secondary data sourced from institutional records of the selected schools. Individual files of the students chosen were checked to retrieve the needed information of their entry qualifications. In computing the values for the independent variables, the lower mark of the range was considered for each grade in both physics and mathematics. The year two 2011/2012s semester results of each of the selected students were also retrieved from the academic records in the Department of Architecture in the four institutions. Frequency tables and percentages were used to analyze the data. Pearson Product Moment Correlation was also used to test the hypotheses, using the following commonly used interpretations:

  • ±0.8 to ±1.0: highly dependable relationship;
  • ±0.6 to ±0.79: moderate relationship;
  • ±0.4 to ±0.59: fair relationship;
  • ±0.2 to ±0.39: slight relationship;
  • ±0.0 to ±0.19: negligible relationship (Mac’odo, 1997 ).

The correlation coefficient (r ) obtained was further subjected to student t -test to determine whether it was indicative of the real relationship between the variables or it may be attributed to chance.

4. Results and discussion

Table 1 reveals that 59% and 65.6% of the participants scored 55 and above in ‘O’ Level Physics and Mathematics respectively. These ones are believed to have been adequately equipped with knowledge that would prepare them very well for further studies in architecture. The reverse is, however, the case. As can be seen in Table 2 , out of 128 students in the study, 59 representing 46.1% completed their program within the stipulated period. Among these graduating participants, only 17 (28.8%) graduated with upper credit, while 39 (66.1%) and 3 (5.1%) had grades of lower credit and pass respectively (please, see Table 3 ).

Table 1. Grade distribution of ‘O’ level results of the participants.
Grade No. of participants
Physics Mathematics
A1 (75 and above) 1 (0.8)
B2 (70–74) 4 (3.1) 3 (2.3)
B3 (65–69) 17 (13.3) 23 (18.0)
C4 (60–64) 23 (18.0) 15 (11.7)
C5 (55–59) 32 (18.0) 42 (32.8)
C6 (50–54) 52 (40.1) 44 (34.4)
Total 128 (100) 128 (100)

Note : Figures in parentheses are column percentages.

Source : Authors' Field work (2012).

Table 2. Analysis of final national diploma examinations result.
Academic status Frequency Percentage
Graduating participants 59 46.1
Participants with outstanding course(s) 67 52.3
Participants on withdrawal list 2 1.6
Total 128 100

Source : Authors' Field work (2012).

Table 3. Class of diploma of graduating participants.
Class of diploma Frequency Percentage
Distinction (3.50–4.0)
Upper credit (3.00–3.49) 17 28.8
Lower credit (2.50–2.99) 39 66.1
Pass (2.00–2.49) 3 5.1
Total 59 100

Source : Authors' Field work (2012).

Table 4 shows a positive relationship between the students proficiency in Physics and academic performance with correlation coefficient of 0.459. However, based on the commonly used interpretations, this relationship could be considered a little bit weak. This is further supported by the coefficient of determination (r2 ) which indicates that ‘O’ level physics has little effect on the performance of students in the schools of architecture, accounting for just 21%.

Table 4. Pearson product moment correlation/Student t -test table testing the relationship between Students academic performance and ‘O’ level physics.
Variables Mean Standard variation R r2 Df P t'''-Cal t'''-Critical
Entry qualification (‘O’ level physics) 55.51 5.42 0.459 0.21 126 0.05 5.80 1.960
Academic performance 2.67 0.327

Source : Authors' Analysis (2012).

A further conversion of the r -value into t -value shows a calculated value of 5.80. This value when compared with the critical value of 1.960 at 95% confidence level is found to be significant. The relationship obtained cannot therefore be attributed to chance, and hence the first null hypothesis is accepted.

The same relationship was observed between the students proficiency in Mathematics and academic performance having correlation coefficient of 0.423 which, according to Table 5 , is statistically significant at 95% confidence level. This also implies that the basic knowledge of architecture students in mathematics contributes only 18% to their academic performance in the higher institutions. The second null hypothesis is, therefore, accepted. Thus, the students' basic knowledge in both physics and mathematics has insignificant contribution to their performance in architectural studies.

Table 5. Pearson product moment correlation/Student t -test table testing the relationship between Students academic performance and ‘O’ level mathematics.
Variables Mean Standard variation R r2 Df P t'''-Cal t'''-Critical
Entry qualification (‘O’ level mathematics) 56.17 6.04 0.423 0.18 126 0.05 5.24 1.960
Academic performance 2.67 0.327

Source : Authors' Analysis (2012).

All these findings are contrary to the postulation of the policy makers like National Board for Technical Education (1989) , Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (2012) , ARCON (2004) and such scholars as Adewale (1999) , Sutton (1999) , Salingaros (2006) and Jean-Michel (2005) ; who are of the opinion that students basic knowledge in these two subjects would enhance their performance in architectural studies. The contradiction could be linked to the misconception that sees architecture as being pure science. Though science-based knowledge in architecture is needed to be able to tackle design problems effectively, an architect is also expected to have a set of specific skills that facilitate the application of this knowledge. As put forward by McGinty (1979) , Oluigbo (2005) and Adeyemi (2006) , graphical communication skill such as drawing and a variety of other skills associated with model making, printing, photography and graphic arts is needed to effectively communicate his ideas to his clients and other members of construction team. Relying on this current admission policy can therefore lead to a greater number of secondary school leavers that did not have adequate experience in drawing skill gaining admission into the schools of architecture. Consequently, the students spend much time and energy to acquire these skills, thus starving themselves of the quality time required for the acquisition of other relevant knowledge. This will ultimately lead to poor performance.

Another possible explanation for the observed phenomenon is the method of assessment adopted by the examination bodies responsible for the issuance of the school certificate or admissions into tertiary institutions in Nigeria. These bodies employ essay and multiple choice questions (MCQs) to test the candidate’s knowledge in a particular subject. MCQs even constitute the main parts of the questions in most of the institutions. Admittedly, the MCQs are objective in nature, eliminating variations in marking due to subjective factors. They can as well be used to test a greater range of the syllabus than an essay type of question could do. They also take less time to mark and do not necessarily require an experienced tutor, which could be advantageous to a staff that is overburdened by the explosive student population. However, this type of questions has been fraught with many inadequacies. For example, MCQs are considered as a game of chance where an uneducated market woman has a theoretical chance of guessing correct answers and still scores higher than a person that is well groomed in the subject they are examined on. Apart from this, the MCQs are known to test usually only recall of facts and not necessarily cases involving higher level of thinking and analysis. Relying on this assessment mechanism thus has the tendency of encouraging rote or surface learning rather than indepth comprehension of the subject matter. It is also difficult to determine students command of language and analytical ability through MCQs. This mechanism cannot, therefore, be relied upon to test the oral and written skills of the candidates which are germane to the grooming of budding architects. All of the above problems could thus result in scores which do not reflect students ability.

The third and, perhaps, the most influencing factor responsible for the above scenario, is the poor handling of the various processes of the public examinations that are used for the selection of these students into the institutions of higher learning. The whole examination system has for long been dogged by cases of examination malpractice. For instance, out of the total number of 1,503,231 candidates that sat for 2012 edition of Unified Tertiary Matriculation, the results of 27,266 candidates were withheld for various cases of exam fraud. The story is not different from the examinations conducted by West African Examinations Council. Of the total figure of 428,342 candidates that took part in the November/December 2012 WASSCE examination, 42,289 candidates' results representing 11.04% were withheld in connection with cases of examination malpractice. It is even worse with the examinations handled by the sister body—National Examinations Council. Out of 75,623 candidates that sat for the November/December 2012 Secondary School Certificate examination, cases of examination irregularity involving 21,274 candidates were recorded across the country.

Obviously, any selection process that is based on this examination system stands the chance of injecting greater number of poor students into higher education system as it does not quite measure the students depth of understanding of the subjects. Such process would rather facilitate the enthronement of mediocre, half-baked, incompetent and corrupt workforce.

5. Conclusion and recommendations

The paper has examined the relationship between academic performance and the entry requirements into the Nigerian Polytechnics. It has established that there is low correlation between students academic performance and his basic knowledge of physics and mathematics, which was found to be contrary to the expectations of many scholars and architectural education policy-makers. It attributed this variance to lack of students' experience in drawing and other artistic skills which they ought to have gained during their secondary education. It also traced the contradiction to inefficient examination system which is characterized by cases of examination malpractice and inadequate assessment mechanism. According to the paper, any results obtained through this system could not reflect the true ability of the students. Thus, a school of architecture that bases its admission criteria on the system stands the chance of granting admission to poor students who will ultimately turn out to be half-baked graduates. In order to reverse this trend, therefore, there is urgent need to overhaul the countrys examination system. The Examination Ethics committee set up by the federal government should rise up to this challenge by coming out with stringent measures that tackle the problem headlong. Since people are the root causes of this evil, they are the key to making sure the system is honest, ethical, healthy and clean. Aggressive campaign should therefore be mounted, educating all the stakeholders about the dangers in engaging in the act and let them be informed of the dignity in having a clean examination system. Nigerian Union of Teachers and other concerned Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) should, in this regard, partner with the public and the government to rid the system of the cankerworm.

Of equal importance is the need to discourage the use of MCQs for these public examinations. As observed by the paper, the assessment mechanism lacks the ability to test the intended learning outcomes. And as such, the mechanism cannot be valid for summative assessment like the School Certificate Examinations under discussion. Research evidences support essay type of questions as the valid option for testing the intended learning outcomes set for students. More hands should therefore be employed to help in the marking to overcome the supposedly time constraint associated with the assessment method. Each marked script should also be audited by experienced examiners. This would minimize bias in marking.

The current admission policy should also be reviewed to include Fine Arts/Technical Drawing as one of the compulsory subjects as both admission requirements and UTME subjects. In the alternative, candidates that did not have basic knowledge of Fine Arts/Technical Drawing should be made to undergo one year pre-National Diploma program as it is being done in the US. This will equip them with the necessary skills required for the course.


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