What are the Challenges of Implementing Continuous Assessment in Nigeria as a Whole?


The Nigerian National Policy on Education (Federal Republic of Nigeria, 2004) stated that educational assessment and evaluation will be liberalized by basing them in whole or in part on continuous assessment of the progress of the individual. The policy also prescribed the central guidelines that should be adopted by states and schools nationwide and suggested the type of continuous assessment instruments that could be used to achieve the ideals and objectives of continuous assessment. Continuous assessment (CA) was first introduced in primary and secondary schools in Nigeria in 1977, following the adoption of the National Policy on Education.

Before 1977, assessment of learners’ performance was purely based on one-shot examinations usually administered at the end of the term or school year. The introduction of continuous was to render assessment school based, improve evaluation of learners’ attainment by ensuring that assessment is cumulative, systematic, comprehensive and guidance oriented (Obioma, 1984). In spite of this, observations continued to show that there are problems of the effective implementation of continuous assessment in Nigeria (Okpala, Onocha and Oyedeji, 1993).

With the commencement of the implementation of the 9-years Basic Education Curriculum in September 2008 in Nigeria, the Nigerian National Council on Education has approved a new National framework for conducting continuous assessment in schools in Nigeria (NERDC, 2007). There is a plan also to improve the capacity of teachers on the effective implementation of the new Basic Education Curriculum (BED) and the new national framework on continuous assessment. The aim of this term paper is to examine the challenges of implementing continuous assessment in Nigeria as a whole.

Meaning of Continuous Assessment

Continuous assessment (CA) can be defined as a mechanism whereby the final grading of a student in cognitive, affective and psychomotor domains of all his or her performance during a given period of schooling. One of the distinctive features of the new policy on education is its emphasis on continuous assessment. The Federal Government Handbook on Continuous Assessment (1985) defines continuous assessment as “a method of finding out what the pupils/students gained from learning activities in terms of knowledge, thinking and reasoning, character development and industry. Abonyi, Okereke and Omebe (2005) also defined continuous assessment as a method of assessment in which the teacher periodically or intermittently ascertains what the learner has gained in terms of knowledge, thinking, reasoning, character learning activities using various instruments like tests, assignments, projects, observation, interviews and questionnaires.

This view is not complete because accurate record of the data so generated are further filled for the purpose of providing information to parents, guardians and other shareholders in education industry who can use it to facilitate further growth of the learner. Continuous assessment demands that the teacher takes into consideration information obtained from all source about the child. It is usually well focused by being closely related to what was actually taught. In fact, the feedback mechanism that forms part of it ensures that educational goals are attained.

It requires the use of tests, observation, interview, etc to get a general impression of who the child is and what can be done to assist him/her in areas of difficulty. In summary, continuous assessment has to be comprehensive, systematic, cumulative and guidance oriented.

Implementing Continuous Assessment within School

The National Policy recognizes that government is aware that the administration of continuous assessment within schools will pose certain significant problems to both the teachers and the educational system itself. The policy further advocated training programmes for teachers who will be central to the achievement of continuous assessment and other objectives of school evaluation programme. There is the need to design an operational plan so that uniformity in both standards and record keeping across and within schools will be maintained. Such model is necessary so as to facilitate the transfer of student’s records from school-to-school without much distortion to his/her previous records. It is expected that the students, teachers, guidance counsellor, principals and stakeholders in teaching-learning setting should be considered in the administration of continuous assessment.

Characteristics of a Good Continuous Assessment Records

The characteristics of good continuous assessment kept in schools include:

  • Different types of learner’s records are kept in the school. The records must be accurate description of each learner.
  • The record should protect the school against litigation in case the parent become unsatisfied with the report made on their wards.
  • It should be completed and comprehensive enough.
  • It should be simpler, organized under theme and presented in a language that is easily understood by every member of the teaching profession.
  • It should be easily retrieved for decision making, counselling and stored in locked-up steel cabinets to prevent destructions if there are no electronic storage facilities.


Implementation Problems of Continuous Assessment

Some of the implementation problems include:

1) Comparability of Standard: Comparability of standards arises from the differences in the quality of tests and other assessment instruments used in different schools. The ways and manner assessment instruments are developed and administered in various schools could present problems in scoring and grading of achievement in various school subjects.


2) Record Keeping and Continuity of Records: Continuous assessment cannot be meaningful except there is a meticulous keeping of accurate records for each students/pupils throughout the child’s period of schooling. Since these records are expected to be cumulative from class-to-class and from school-to-school, there is the need for some uniformity in the kinds of records kept and the format for keeping such records. A child with the same level of education can move from one school to another because of parents transfer from one place to the other. This will lead to the transferring the child’s records from the previous school to the new one.

3) Storage Facilities: In continuous assessment, associated with the problem of record keeping is the storage facility for safe keeping of records. Most primary and secondary are poorly equipped for such a function.

4) Unqualified Personnel: There are no qualified personnel to implement and operate continuous assessment. Many teachers do not possess the necessary skills in developing valid assessment instruments for the evaluation of behavioural outcomes in the three domains. Continuous assessment requires the overall ability of every child in terms of cognitive, affective and psychomotor.

5) Large Number of Students: For effective assessment, the teacher needs to spend time on each child by helping and observing. The teacher has to teach less number of students per class. By this, the teacher will teach, assess and provide feedback to the children individually. Presently the number of students per class can be more than fifty. This makes it too difficult for teachers to teach and evaluate effectively, even if they have the competency.

6) Misinterpretation of Guideline: Some principals and teachers think that assessments are limited to paper and pencil tests and examination. Teachers can summarize pupils score, class work and assignments to make up a grade for a given period. Teachers seem to be confused in the amount of material content that should be covered by each test. In other words, should a test cover only the materials taught after an assignment has been made or should the test content be extended to the earlier and related materials taught after the preceding tests. Harbor-Ibeaja and Nworgu (1986) reported that most teachers opined that each test should include the earlier and related materials taught before and after each preceding test. This is necessary because a test limited in content to the materials taught after the last test would not give the students an opportunity to use knowledge which has been acquired before the last test. Besides, that would not make for an effective transfer of knowledge on the part of the students coupled with the need for adequate vertical integration of the subject content by the teacher.

Problems of Assessing the Non-Cognitive Domain

Practicing teachers find it easier to assess the cognitive with paper and pencil tests rather than non-cognitive. The instruments like likert-scale, inventory, questionnaires, attitudinal scale and observational schedules needed to gather evaluation data on the affective and psychomotor domain are not really available in the Nigerian secondary schools and primary schools. It means that if these teachers must assess these aspects of the learner, they must develop those instruments themselves.


Challenges of Continuous Assessment

  1. As teachers assess their own students, one cannot guarantee that the standards are the same across schools. This is so because the assessment instruments may focus on different topics and grading system.
  2. It is poorly implemented because of the absence of proper monitoring programme.
  3. Teachers lack the expertise required in analyzing assessment information, particularly those dealing with analysis and processing.
  4. Pupils see continuous assessment as requiring extra work and they therefore tend to dislike it.
  5. Generally, classes have become too large for proper execution of continuous assessment.
  6. Because the scores obtained in different assessments have to be combined, a problem arises as these scores may not be based on the same scale.
  7. Teachers’ attitude towards continuous assessment is negative as they have to do extra work.
  8. There is shortage of assessment instruments and many teachers lack the skill of instrument construction and they would construct poor instruments.
  9. The need to accumulate all assessments requires that the records have to be available. Extra work of record keeping on the part of the teacher therefore becomes the norm rather than an exception. Other occurring challenges against the smooth implementation of continuous assessment in our schools include:
  10. Non-availability of continuous assessment guidelines in schools.
  11. Lack of induction training and refresher courses for teachers on continuous assessment.
  12. Truancy and irregular pupils’ attendance.
  13. Low morale on the part of teachers.
  14. Incompetence in the operation of continuous assessment.
  15. Lack of uniformity and standardization of continuous assessment practices.
  16. Teachers unethical behaviour in the award of continuous assessment marks.
  17. Parents ignorance on the usefulness of continuous assessment.


The challenges of implementing continuous assessment in Nigeria are enormous. If well implemented will go a long way to minimizing the tendency and temptation to ensure success by all means orchestrated by the single final examination. Adoption of an assessment procedure that will facilitate the appropriate guidance of the learner and at the same time enable the teacher assess his own instructional material will be worthwhile. It can also assess the totality of the learner in the teaching-learning setting. There is a need to have completely new assessment procedure that is significantly different from the conventional one-shot final examination procedure.


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