2.1 Comparative Education: Can you trace the evolution of education in Nigeria?


2.1 Trace the evolution of education in Nigeria


A study of educational system in Nigeria is important in that it is one of the most populous country in Africa and there is need to understand the steps that are being taken to access education to this large population.


As of mid 2008, Nigeria’s population was estimated at 138 million, split primarily between Muslims (50 percent) and Christians (40 percent). Muslims constitute the majority in the north of the country and Christians in the south. Nigeria comprises of more than 250 ethnic groups. However the following are the largest and politically influential: Hausa and Fulani 29%, Yoruba 21%, Igbo (Ibo) 18%, Ijaw 10%, Kanuri 4%, Ibibio 3.5% and Tiv 2.5%. Five major languages are used in Nigeria. They are Hausa, Yoruba, Igbo, Fulani that are declared as the national languages while English is the official language and is widely spoken. Language has created a problem with respect to education. The smaller languages are not written and therefore devising instructional materials in those languages is difficult. In schools the medium of instruction in the first three years is the local language and there after English is used.

Nigeria achieved independence from the United Kingdom in 1960. Nigeria is a federal republic with a presidential system. The constitution provides for a separation of powers between the three branches of government; a strong executive, an elected legislature and an independent judiciary. The country has been affected by military coups that were interspersed by civilian rule.  General elections held in February 1999 marked the end of 15 years of military rule and the beginning of civilian rule based on multi-party democracy.

Nigeria is located in Western Africa bordering the Gulf of Guinea, and between Benin and Cameroon to the east. The total land area is 923,768 sq km with land comprising of 910,768 sq km and water covers 13,000 sq km.

The country is endowed with natural resources such as natural gas, petroleum, tin, columbite, iron ore, coal, limestone, lead, Zinc and arable land. Oil accounts for 96 % of the countries foreign exchange earnings. The country produces 2.256 million barrels per day. Nigeria and western Cameroon has share similar colonial legacy. The western province of Cameroon was ruled as part of Nigeria until the cessation of the later before independence. This has been creating conflict between the two countries and has led to war due to the natural resources available such as oil.

Historical perspective

There were three fundamentally distinct education systems in Nigeria by 1990: the indigenous system, Quranic schools, and formal European-style education institutions.

Indigenous system

In the rural areas where the majority lived, children learned the skills of farming and other work, as well as the duties of adulthood, from participation in the community. Age-based schools in which mature men instructed groups of young boys in community responsibilities often supplemented this process. Apprentice systems were widespread throughout all occupations; the trainee provided service to the teacher over a period of years and eventually struck out on their own. Indigenous crafts and services from leatherwork to medicine were passed down in families and acquired through apprenticeship training as well. In 1990 indigenous education system included more than 50 percent of the school-age population and operated almost entirely in the private sector. There was virtually no regulation by the government unless training included the need for a license.

Islamic education

Islamic education was part of religious duty. Children learned up to one or two chapters of the Quran by rote from a local religious teacher, before they were five or six years old. Religious learning included the Arabic alphabet and the ability to read and copy texts in the language, along with those texts required for daily prayers. Any Islamic community provided such instruction in a mallam’s house, under a tree, or in a local mosque. This primary level was the most widespread. A smaller number of those young Muslims who wished, or who came from wealthier or more educated homes, went on to examine the meanings of the Arabic texts. Later, grammar, syntax, arithmetic, algebra, logic, rhetoric, jurisprudence, and theology were added; these subjects required specialist teachers at the advanced level. After this level, students traditionally went on to one of the famous Islamic centers of learning.

Throughout the colonial period, a series of formal Muslim schools were set up and run on European lines. These schools were established in almost all major Nigerian cities but were notable in Kano, where Islamic brotherhoods developed an impressive number of schools. They catered for the children of the devout and the rich, who wished to have their children educated in the new and European learning, but within a firmly religious context. Such schools were influential as a form of local private school that retained the predominance of religious values within a modernized school system.

Formal European system

Western-style education came to Nigeria with the missionaries in the mid-nineteenth century. Although Methodists founded the first mission school in 1843, it was the Anglican Church Missionary Society that pushed forward in the early 1850s to found a chain of missions and schools, followed quickly in the late 1850s by the Roman Catholics. In 1887 in what is now southern Nigeria, an education department was founded that began setting curricula requirements and administered grants to the mission societies. By 1914, when north and south were united into one colony, there were fifty-nine government and ninety-one mission primary schools in the south; the missions ran all eleven secondary schools, except for King’s College in Lagos. The missions got a foothold in the middle belt; a mission school for the sons of chiefs was opened in Zaria in 1907 but lasted only two years. In 1909 Hans Vischer, an ex-Anglican missionary was asked to organize the education system of the Protectorate Northern Nigeria. Schools were set up and grants given to missions in the middle belt. In 1914 there were 1,100 primary school pupils in the north, compared with 35,700 in the south; the north had no secondary schools, compared with eleven in the south. By the 1920s, the pressure for school places in the south led to increased numbers of independent schools financed by local efforts and to the sending of favorite sons overseas for more advanced training.

The  education  system  focused  strongly  on  examinations.  In  1916  Frederick  Lugard,  first governor of the unified colony, set up a school inspectorate. Discipline, buildings, and adequacy of teaching staff were to be inspected, but the most points given to a school’s performance went to the numbers and rankings of its examination results. This stress on examinations was still used in 1990 to judge educational results and to obtain qualifications for jobs in government and the private sector.

Progress in education was slow but steady throughout the colonial era until the end of World War II. By 1950 the country had developed a three-tiered system of primary, secondary, and higher education based on the British model of wide participation at the bottom, sorting into academic and vocational training at the secondary level, and higher education for a small elite destined for leadership. On the eve of independence in the late 1950s, Nigeria had gone through a decade of exceptional educational growth leading to a movement for universal primary education in the Western Region. In the north, primary school enrollments went from 66,000 in 1947 to 206,000 in 1957, in the west (mostly Yoruba areas) from 240,000 to 983,000 in the same period, and in the east from 320,000 to 1,209,000. Secondary level enrollments went from 10,000 for the country as a whole in 1947 to 36,000 in 1957; 90 percent of these, however, were in the south.


The formal School System

In 1982, Nigeria switched to the American system of six primary, three junior secondary, and three senior secondary school grades, but the rigid examination system remained. Education is free but not compulsory at any level. The formal education system is six years in primary schools, 3 years of junior secondary school, 3 years of senior secondary and 4 years of university education leading to a bachelors level degree in most fields.

Primary Education

Primary education begins at the age of six for the majority of Nigerians and lasts for six years. The curriculum for primary school typically includes subject areas like mathematics, English, social studies, home economics and agriculture. However, the curriculum has just recently been reviewed, and, from September 2008, the primary school curriculum includes ICT, French language  and  civic  education.  For  the  first  three  years  of  primary  school  the  medium  of instruction is that of the immediate environment. During this period English is taught as a subject. During the remaining years of primary school, English is progressively used as the medium of instruction. Until 2004, graduating students from primary school had to sit the Primary School-Leaving Certificate examination, this examination has been abolished and the Primary School Leaving Certificate is now awarded on the basis of continuous assessment.

Secondary Education

The secondary education cycle lasts for six years and is divided into two three-year cycles: junior secondary and senior secondary. Junior secondary school has two streams; pre-vocational and academic and the core curriculum includes: English, mathematics, French, integrated science, social studies and introduction to technology. Pre-vocational electives include agriculture, business studies, crafts and computer education. Non pre-vocational electives include creative arts, religious and moral education and Arabic. Students typically take between ten and thirteen subjects, including core subjects.

On the successful completion of the junior cycle students are awarded the Junior Secondary School Certificate (JSSC ) / Certificate of Basic Education, which is necessary to progress to the senior secondary school level. Following the junior secondary school cycle, students are streamed into secondary schools, technical colleges or schools and out of school vocational training centers or apprenticeships offering a range of terminal trade and craft awards.

The senior secondary cycle lasts for three years and each student takes eight subjects from a diversified curriculum that includes six core subjects: English; mathematics; one major Nigerian language; and one elective out of biology, chemistry, physics or integrated science; one elective out of English literature, history, geography or social studies, agricultural science or a vocational subject.

The Senior School Certificate (SSC) is issued by the West African Examination Council and/or the National Examination Council on successful completion of the senior secondary cycle. The SSC is one of the requirements for undergraduate admission into a Nigerian university. The second   requirement   for   entry   to   higher   education   is   the   Universities   Matriculation Examination  (UME),  which  was  first  conducted  in  1978  by  the  joint  admission  and matriculation board. Students taking the UME must register for English language and three subjects based on their particular major. A fifty percent total score is considered a pass for the UME examination. However, the different higher education institutions would specify different minimum requirements based on the nature of specific undergraduate programmes.

The Senior School Certificate replaced the West African General Certificate of Education Ordinary and Advanced levels (GCE ‘O’ and ‘A’ levels) in 1989. It should be noted that students may still take the GCE ‘O’ and ‘A’ level examinations, though these are not mandatory, and if successful this would guarantee direct entry to university without being required to take the University Matriculation Examination.

Secondary and Post Secondary Vocational Education and Training

Vocational education is provided at secondary level through science technical schools following junior school education.

Vocational and innovation enterprise institutions are vocational institutions, which have recently been established to offer part and full-time education leading to the award of certificates and national diplomas. Vocational enterprise institutions (VEIs) would admit candidates with a minimum of the Basic Education Certificate (JSC), and would cover multidisciplinary areas that would prepare learners for jobs in most industries. The Innovation Enterprise Institutions (IEIs) would  admit  students  with  a  minimum  of  five  credits  obtained  in  the  Senior  Secondary Certificate (SSC).

A two tier system of nationally certified courses is offered at science technical schools, leading to the award of National Technical/Business Certificate (known as Craft level Certificate pre 1995) and the Advanced National Technical/Business Certificate (known as the Advanced Craft level Certificate pre 1995) The National Technical/Business Certificate programme lasts three years after Junior School and the qualification is considered comparable to the Senior Secondary.  The  Advanced  Certificate  lasts  one  year  and  requires  the  National Technical/Business Certificate and two years relevant industrial experience for entry. This means that a student requires a minimum of six years to qualify as a master craftsperson from a science technical school.

The  awarding  body  for  the  National  and  Advanced  Technical/Business  Certificates  is  the National Business and Technical Examinations Board (NABTEB). The National Certificates are recognized by the joint admission and matriculation board (JAMB) as meeting minimum entry requirements for admission into tertiary institutions including the universities, polytechnics and colleges of education.

Non University-Sector Higher Education and Training

The provision of technical education takes place in institutions that are considered higher education in level, but non-university in status. Polytechnics, monotechnics (single-discipline training) and colleges of education all provide higher technical education and training. Entry into non-university  higher  education  institutions  is  based  on  performance  in  both  the  Senior Secondary Certificate and in the Monotechnics, Polytechnics and Colleges of Education (MPCE) and Examination conducted by the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB). In 2008, there were 320,000 candidates sitting the MPCE, numbers of candidates have increased significantly over recent years, reflecting the growth in interest in higher technical education and training and the recent decision by Government to allow polytechnics to award Bachelor of Technology degrees in the near future.

Polytechnics  and  institutes  of  technology  award  the  Ordinary  Higher  Diploma   on  the successful completion of a two-year programme.

The Higher National Diploma (HND) can be taken as a two-year programme following the completion of the Ordinary Higher Diploma and one year of relevant work experience.

The Professional Diploma is open to holders of the HND and takes at least eighteen months post-HND to complete. The Professional Diploma allows for progression to Masters level\ nationally.

Colleges, universities, specialized training institutes and professional bodies offer various certificates and diplomas that may be obtained after one, two or three years. The Nursing council of  Nigeria  awards  the  Diploma  of  Midwifery  after  one  year  of  theoretic  and  clinical postsecondary studies and the Registered Nurse Certificate after three years of postsecondary study.

The Institute of Medical Laboratory Technology (IMLT) awards the Associate Diploma of Medical Laboratory Technology and the Fellowship Diploma on a four plus one basis of post secondary education. The IMLT is a professional body that has cooperated with universities to offer examinations and qualifications to technologists. The exam has recently been discontinued in favour of a more academic Bachelors degree in Laboratory Technology. The award of Certificates, Diplomas and Advanced diplomas are intended to support progression to professional registration and employment in specific professional employments.

Higher Education and Training

The Nigerian system of higher education is binary in nature and is constituted of universities and a   non-university   sector   made   up   of   polytechnics,   monotechnics   and   colleges   of education. Accreditation processes have been introduced at higher education level to ensure certain  standards.  Higher  education  and  training  has  also  come under  increased centralized control through two national commissions, the National Board for Technical Education and the National Universities Commission. These agencies grant approval for all programmes run in Nigerian university and non-university higher education and training institutions. They grant approval for the establishment of all higher education and training institutions and ensure quality assurance of programmes within such institutions.

Either  federal  or  state  governments  can  establish  universities.  While  those  universities established  by  federal  government  have  higher  enrolments,  there  is  little  or  no  difference between federal or state administered universities. A council and a senate govern each university. The colleges or institutes that are affiliated with the Universities are autonomous.

In 1993 the Federal government passed legislation to allow for the establishment of private institutions of higher education. The National Universities Commission maintains a register of recognized universities in Nigeria.

Minimum Entry into the university requires five credits passes in the Senior School Certificate and a pass on the Universal Matriculation Examination. Applicants presenting acceptable results in the Nigerian GCE A levels are granted advanced entry to stage two of a four-year Bachelor degree. The numbers applying through this direct entry route are extremely low.

The Bachelor degree is typically four years in duration. In the case of many professional degrees, such as medicine and dentistry, duration may extend to six years for completion. All programmes leading to the award of a Bachelor degree are at Honours degree level. Programmes may be taken as single or combined honours and this would influence the amount of specialization in later years of the programme. A dissertation is a normal requirement for the successful completion of a Bachelor degree; however, there is not an expectation that the award holder will have undertaken independent research.

A Postgraduate Diploma (PGD) is awarded after the completion of one year of graduate study beyond the Bachelor degree. PGD programs are generally offered in education and public administration. Programmes leading to a Masters degree are generally one or two years in duration. The one-year programmes are coursework based and do not involve research work.

Study towards the Doctorate generally takes three years post Masters degree. Candidates presenting for the award are required to submit a thesis and take an oral examination.

Teacher Training

Colleges of education and universities provide teacher education. The National Commission governs colleges of education The Commission provides accreditation services for Colleges of education and maintains standards through periodic accreditation visits. The National Certificate in Education (NCE) is a professional teaching certificate awarded by a college of education. It is the minimum certificate that qualifies one to teach in junior secondary schools and technical colleges in Nigeria. The NCE takes three years to complete. Holders of the NCE will typically progress with advanced standing to a Bachelor Degree in Education in a university.

The Technical Teachers Certificate requires one additional year of study following the National

Certificate in Education.

The universities offer Bachelor of Education programmes, which qualify the holder to teach in secondary schools. Alternatively, a single-subject Bachelor degree plus a Postgraduate Diploma in Education would provide the same professional status. The Higher National Diploma (HND) awarded by the polytechnics can be used to teach vocational subjects in both secondary and technical                                                                                                                                schools.

Administration and Organization of Education System

The current administrative system is divided into the Federal Capital Territory and 36 states. The management of education in Nigeria is based on this federal system, so that while basic educational policy regarding structure, curriculum and school year is centrally determined, some powers over educational delivery are devolved to state and local government. In effect, education is administered by three branches of government: primary education is under the control of local governments, secondary schools fall under the jurisdiction of the state government except the unity schools that are administered by the federal governments. Both the federal and state government administers higher education.

The Federal Ministry of Education owns and runs twenty-five universities, thirteen polytechnics, fifteen technical colleges, twenty colleges of education and sixty-six secondary schools. The remaining  tertiary  institutions  are  owned  and  funded  by  state  governments,  while  other secondary schools are owned and funded by state governments, communities and private organizations.  The  administration  and  management  of  state  government-owned  secondary schools falls under the remit of state Ministries of Education. The administration of public primary schools falls under the local education authorities.




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