Nigerian Educational System
The Nigerian educational system has undergone major structure changes over the last 30 years: Before and after the 1960 Nigerian independence the Educational System at the primary and secondary levels mirrored the British system, i.e. 6 years of primary education and 5 years secondary and 2 years of higher level / A Levels.
In 1973, the educational system was updated to the 6-3-3-4 (6 years primary, 3 years junior secondary, 3 years of senior secondary and 4 years tertiary education) similar to the American system.
In 1982 the first National Policy on education was developed and adopted. Since this period, the educational system has witnessed a lot of changes and modifications at various levels.
The following section gives a narrative of the educational system in Nigeria which also applies to Niger State. The scope of the educational transformation proposed in the State are the primary and secondary schools.
Primary education in Niger State usually begins at the age of six. However, children as young as three attend school independent of pre-school arrangements which is usually provided by private providers. Students usually spend six years in primary school and graduate with a school-leaving certificate.
Subjects taught at the primary level are Mathematics, English language, Islamic knowledge Studies, Bible Knowledge, Science and Hausa-Fulani.
On completion of primary school, primary school children are required to take a Common Entrance Examination to qualify for admission into Federal and State Government schools.
The Universal Basic Education (UBE) came as a replacement to Nigeria’s universal primary education scheme of the 6-3-3-4 system of primary education. The 9-3-4 system of education was designed in conformity with the Millennium Development Goals (MGDs) and the Education for All (EFA) policy initiative.
The specific objectives of the UBE as stipulated in the guidelines of the Federal Ministry of Education include:
- ‘’Developing in the entire citizenry a strong consciousness for education and a strong commitment to its vigorous promotion.
- The provision of free Universal Basic Education for every Nigerian child of school age.
- Reducing drastically the incidence of drop-out from the formal school system (through relevance, quality and efficiency).
- Catering to the learning needs of young persons who for one reason or another have had to interrupt their schooling through appropriate forms of complementary approaches to the provision and promotion of basic education, and
- Ensuring the acquisition of the appropriate level of literacy, numeracy, manipulative, communicative, and life skills as well as the ethical, moral and civic values needed for laying a solid foundation for life-long learning’ (FME, 2011).
Photograph by MRL Public Sector Consultants
The UBE was a response to the demands of the EFA goals, which projected education as a basic human right. In addition, the 1999 constitution also gave priority to education and spelt out the framework for achieving educational advancement. The constitution stipulates that:
Government shall strive to eradicate illiteracy; and to this end Government shall as and when practicable provide; free, compulsory and universal primary education; free secondary education; free university education; and free adult literacy programme (Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, section 18).
The UBE has been hailed as a more effective scheme to realize the EFA goals and move Nigeria away from the bottom rank in terms of the literacy rate of poor countries in the world. Furthermore, the UBE has a broader objective than the UPE.
Whilst not all children attend school, the UBE was intended to be compulsory, in order to give the government more direct control to address gender and regional disparity in education across the nation.
By making the first nine years of schooling for school aged children compulsory, both girls and boys and all social strata have equal opportunity to education irrespective of region or religious affiliations. The compulsory nature of the UBE program is also intended to enforce communal participation, including parental involvement, local commitment, and participation of all levels of government (Obanya, 2002).
According to Obanya (2002: 71), the UBE is intended to ensure “complete ownership” by bringing everybody together to realize education for all citizens. Furthermore, the UBE scheme made provision for the education of the most disadvantaged groups of children, including the poor, street children, girls, nomadic/ Amajair’s and those with disabilities. UBE also recognised the benefit of early childhood education as the guidelines stipulated initiatives for promoting and achieving early education.
Whilst, the launching of UBE generated immense interest, however, the caveat according to Obanya (2002:64), was that the country as a whole must ensure the sustainability of the program or it will “become a dream betrayed”.
Whilst, the UBE is considered a more aggressive approach to eradicating illiteracy than previous schemes in Nigeria, it also appears that some of the failures of the UPE still beleaguer the UBE scheme (Aluede, 2006).
These factors include lack of adequate planning needed to correspond to the level of targeted outcomes, inadequate supply of teachers, inaccurate projection of the population of enrolees, and inadequate financial resources supporting the system which are apparent in Niger State and many others.
Although the UBE program has generated increased enrolment over the years, evidence has revealed that the country’s education system has declined over the last ten years and the system continues to suffer from low quality education as millions of children continue to be left out of school and many others remaining are subject to a severely dilapidated education environments.
The UBE scheme involves 6 years of primary School and 3 years of junior secondary school, culminating in 9 years of uninterrupted schooling, and transition from one class to another is automatic but assessed through continuous assessment.
The scheme is monitored by the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC), and has made it free and a right of every child in Nigeria. The UBEC Law Section 15 defines UBE as early childhood care and education.
The law stipulates 9-years formal schooling, adult literacy and non-formal education, skill acquisition programmes and the education of special groups such as nomads and migrants, the girl child and women, Al-majiri, street children and disabled individuals.
Unfortunately, the stated objectives of UBE have not been matched with sustained actions in terms of investment of resources to improve education in Nigeria. Education levels in the 21st century remain low and disappointing due to neglect and disruptions of the educational sector. As a result the country continues to maintain bottom-rank position in most international measures of socio-economic status. The major consequence of this neglect is that more children in Nigeria are now out of school (UNESCO, 2011).
Students spend six years in Secondary School that is 3 years of JSS (Junior Secondary School), and 3 years of SSS (Senior Secondary School). By Senior Secondary School Class 2 (SS2), students are taking the GCE O’ Levels exam, which is not mandatory, but most students take it to prepare for the Senior Secondary School Examinations. The Senior Secondary School Exam is taken in the last year of high school (SS3).
The Federal Republic of Nigeria is made up of thirty-six States and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). There are about two Federal Government Colleges in each state. These schools are funded and managed directly by the Federal Government through the Ministry of Education with the teachers and staff employed by the government.
Teachers at the Federal Government schools must possess a Bachelor’s degree in Education or in a particular subject area, such as, Mathematics, Physics etc. These schools were initially intended to be model schools carrying and maintaining the ideals of secondary education in Nigeria.
Admission to a Federal Government College is based on merit, determined by the National Common Entrance Examination taken by all final year elementary school pupils. Tuition and associated fees are considered very low in comparison to Federal Government Colleges and private schools.
State owned secondary schools are funded by each state government, such as Niger State and are not comparable to the Federal Government Colleges. Although education is supposed to be free in the majority of the state owned institutions, students are required to purchase books and uniforms. Teachers in state owned institutions usually have a National Certificate of Education (NCE) or a Bachelor’s Degree. These schools are often understaffed due to low state budgets, lack of incentives and the irregularities in payment of staff salaries.
Private secondary schools in Nigeria tend to be quite expensive with average annual fees averaging from two to four thousand dollars ($2000.00 - $4000.00) per term. These schools have smaller classes (approximately twenty to twenty five students per class), modern equipment and a school environment comparable to international school standards. Teachers in these institutions all possess at a minimum a Bachelor’s degree in a specific course area and are sent on workshops and various training programmes on a regular basis.
Photograph by MRL Public Sector Consultants
The 9-3-4 System
The introduction of 9-3-4 system of education in Nigeria, students are required to enter secondary school after spending a minimum of nine years of primary education and passed a prescribed national entrance examination. The students must spend a minimum period of six years in secondary school. During this period, students are expected to spend three years in Junior Secondary School and three year in Senior Secondary School.
The General Certificate of Education Examination (GCE) was replaced by the Senior Secondary Certificate Examination (SSCE). The SSCE is conducted at the end of the Secondary School studies in May/June. The GCE is conducted in October/November as a supplement for those students who did not get the required credits from their SSCE results.
The standards of the two examinations are basically the same. A body called the West African Examination Council (WAEC) conducts both the SSCE and GCE. A minimum of seven subjects and a maximum of nine are registered for the examination by each student with Mathematics and English Language taken as compulsory subjects.
A maximum of nine grades are assigned to each subject from: A1, A2, A3 or A1, B2, B3, B4, (Equivalent to Distinctions Grade); C4, C5, C6, or B4, B5, B6, (Equivalent to Credit Grade); P7, P8 or D7, D8, E (Just Pass Grade); F9 (Fail Grade). Credit grades and above is considered academically adequate for entry into any University in Nigeria. In some study programs, many of the universities may require higher grades to get admission.
The Federal Government policy on education is adhered to by all secondary schools in Nigeria. Six years of elementary school is followed by six years of secondary school. Senior Secondary school consists of the SS I, SS 2, and SS 3 which is equivalent to the 10th, 11th and 12th Grade. The Senior Secondary School Examination (SSCE) is taken at the end of the SS 3. The West African Examination Council (WAEC) administers both exams. Three to six months after a student has taken the SSCE examination, they are issued an Official transcript from their institution. This transcript is valid for one year, after which an Official transcript from the West African Examination Council is issued.
The National Examination Council is another examination body in Nigeria which administers the Senior Secondary School Examination (SSCE) in June/July. The body also administers the General Certificate of Education Examination (GCE) in December/January. Students often take both WAEC and NECO examinations in SSS 3.
Briefly, the government has majority control of university education. The Federal Government of Nigeria has adopted education as an instrument for national development.
In addition to the number of universities, there are 13 Federal and 14 State owned Polytechnic Colleges respectively. These were established to train technical, middle-level manpower.
English Language is the medium of instruction. The Academic Year is from October to September.
First year entry requirements into most universities in Nigeria include: Minimum of SSCE/GCE Ordinary Level Credits at maximum of two sittings; Minimum cut-off marks in Joint Admission and Matriculation Board Entrance Examination (JAMB) of 200 and above out of a maximum of 400 marks are required. Candidates with minimum of Merit Pass in National Certificate of Education (NCE), National Diploma (ND) and other Advanced Level Certificates minimum qualifications with minimum of 5 O/L Credits are given direct entry admission into the appropriate undergraduate degree programs.
Duration of undergraduate programs in Nigerian Universities depends largely on the program of study. For example: Social Sciences /Humanity related courses 4 Years (two semester sessions per year), Engineering/Technology related courses 5 Years (two semester sessions per year), Pharmacy 5 Years (two semester sessions per year), Medicine (Vet/ Human) 6 Years (and have longer sessions), Law 5 Years (two semester sessions per year).
Nigerian Universities are generally grouped into:
First Generation Universities
Five of these Universities were established between 1948 and 1965, following the recommendation of Ashby Commission set up by the British Colonial Government to study the needs for university education for Nigeria. These universities are fully funded by the Federal Government. They were established primarily to meet the manpower needs of Nigeria and set basic standards for university education in the country. These universities have continued to play their roles for manpower developments and provisions of standards, which have helped to guide the subsequent establishments of other generations and states universities in Nigeria. Examples include the University of Ibadan, Amadu Bello University, University of Nigeria, Nusuka, the University of Lagos and the Obafemi Owolowo University Ile Ife, University of Maiduguri.
Second Generation Universities
With the increasing population of qualified students for university education in Nigeria and the growing needs for scientific and technological developments, setting up more universities became imperative. Between 1970 and 1985, 12 additional universities were established and located in various parts of the country. Examples include, the University of Benin, University of Jos, University of Calabar, University of Illorin.
Third Generation UniversitiesThe need to establish universities to address special areas of Technological and Agricultural demand prompted the setting up of 10 additional universities between 1985 and 1999.
Pressures from qualified students from each state who could not readily get admissions to any of the Federal Universities continue to mount on States Governments. In order to address the situation, it became necessary for some State Governments to invest in the establishments of universities within their states.
Furthermore, in recognition of the need to encourage private participation in the provision of university education, the Federal Government established a law in 1993 allowing the private sector to establish universities following strict guidelines prescribed by the Government. Examples of private universities include Afe Babalola University Ado-Ekiti, American University of Nigeria, Babcock University,All Progressive Congress Priority for Education
The new government under the Presidential leadership of Muhammadu Buhari since May 2015 has made education one of the key priorities. The focus for education is:
- To increase in the budgetary allocation to education to 20%;
- To train, enhance, recognize and reward teachers;
- To implement laws on national skills standardisation, certification and apprenticeship programmes;
- To raise the quality and standards of universities to redress the outflow of students to foreign countries;
- To increase investment in vocational education;
- To introduce and strengthen strong entrepreneurial orientation at all levels within educational institutions;
- To develop curriculum that takes into account the needs of the employers of labour (The 21st Economic Summit of Nigeria, 2015).