2.4 Examine the role of educational system reforms in Nigeria’s rapidly changing society
The rapid expansion of the education system, compounded by a shrinking economy, has constrained educational development in Nigeria. A reduction of expenditure on education has slowed the reform process and even maintaining the system, as it currently exists is challenging. The reform agenda is underpinned by the work of the National Educational Research and Development Council (NERDC), which was established in 1972 to encourage, promote and coordinate educational research programmes in Nigeria.
Today the most crucial strategy for sustainable education development in Nigeria is the Universal Basic Education Scheme launched in 1999. The Universal Basic Education Act passed in 2004 represents the most significant reform to basic education and aims to provide free compulsory education at primary-school level and for the first three years of secondary school, as well as to provide functional literacy for adult illiterates. The national adult literacy rate is 61 per cent for men and 40 per cent for women.
In the 1980s and 1990s the government implemented a series of far-reaching education reforms. These reforms have significantly altered the structure of secondary education. Before the changes went into effect, secondary school education closely resembled the British system consisting of GCE ‘O’ levels followed by two years of GCE ‘A’ level courses. This structure has been replaced by three years of junior secondary and three years of senior-secondary schooling. As a result, the GCE ‘O’ and ‘A’ Levels have largely been phased out, and replaced by the Junior School Certificate and Senior School Certificate.
In addition, the secondary school curriculum has also been changed. Junior secondary schools now offer both academic and pre-vocational streams. Graduates of junior secondary schools may progress to senior secondary school or to Technical/vocational College.
Curricula at all levels of education have also been reformed to put more of an emphasis on science and technology. At the primary and secondary levels, new courses, such as environmental studies and population studies, have been introduced for the first time. Universities have also introduced a general studies requirement to give students broad-based knowledge to compliment areas of specialization.
In September 2008 a nine-year curriculum from primary to junior secondary was introduced and was intended to ensure that by the time a child ends her basic education, she would have completed a comprehensive education that would include ICT, French language and civic education. The 6-3-3-4 school system is not being jettisoned; however an integrated curriculum covering the first nine years of school education would help to address what the Ministry of Education has described as a disconnect between primary and secondary education in Nigeria.
In October 2008 the Minister of State for Education announced that selected polytechnics and colleges of education would soon be upgraded to award university degrees. As a consequence, higher education and training qualifications would be considered as comparable regardless of whether they were achieved in a university or in a polytechnic/colleges of education. The purpose of this reform was to strengthen polytechnic education and create additional avenues for would be students in a country where hundreds of thousands of qualified school leavers were unable to secure a university place each year. Government limitations on the salary and career prospects of college graduates in the public sector have been removed.
Vocational enterprise institutions (VEIs) and innovation enterprise institutions (IEIs) are institutions recently approved by the Federal Government of Nigeria to provide a alternative route to higher education. They have been established due to the lack of capacity in higher education institutions to accommodate the multitude of secondary school leavers and the low participation of the private sector in skills training, They are private institutions that would offer vocational, technical or professional education and training at post-basic and tertiary levels to equip secondary school leavers and working adults with vocational skills and knowledge.